Girls Need More Moms as STEM Role Models

A mother shares how her persistence, patience, and tenacity inspired her daughter

3 min read
Photo of a woman and a young girl in front of a laptop and monitor.

Bhuvan Mittal (left) reviewing her dissertation slides while her daughter is working on the laboratory's optical electronic equipment.

Pritha Khurana

Men dominate computer science and a lot of other tech fields—which can discourage girls, as they do not see a lot of female role models. Here is some advice that I hope will inspire anybody.


Dreaming inspires the heart, motivating us to overcome the adamantine hurdles that inevitably arise. Seeing my mother’s hard work and success as a physician, I dreamed of being an engineer when I was in high school. I was inspired by the success of my family members who are well-recognized and decorated for their research in the field of medicine.

In the early 1940s, my grandmother was the first woman in the entire Indian state of Jind, India, to earn an undergraduate degree. My parents were awarded the B.C. Roy Award, the highest honor doctors can receive in India, from the country’s president. My father also received the Padma Shri Award, which recognizes citizens’ contributions in various fields including arts, education, science, and others.

After completing my engineering bachelor’s degree at Thapar University in Patiala, India, I started working as a software developer. Despite my 60-hour workweeks, I made it a priority to pursue a postgraduate diploma in finance and information technology, to grow in my career.

I chased an even bigger dream—to become a corporate leader—so I pursued a full-time MBA from Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. Thereafter, I worked in supply-chain management and project management, leveraging my business school–acquired knowledge. Although my lack of career progression baffled me for nearly a decade, I kept going.


Always looking for opportunities, I applied to several doctoral programs in the United States. I jumped at the opportunity of earning a Ph.D. in computer science last year from the University of North Texas, in Denton.

Before joining the university’s doctoral program, I was conducting research at its Multimedia Information Group laboratory. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and subsequently exploded worldwide, I was already working on solving medical image diagnosis problems using artificial intelligence at the lab. I saw the necessity and potential benefits of research on COVID-19 using artificial intelligence on lung imaging.


For my long hours of concentrated work on groundbreaking science I have received several accolades, awards, and recognitions internationally. I recently won the Best Presentation award for research on using artificial intelligence to assess the severity of COVID-19 in patients to help with diagnosis at the 2021 International Conference on Digital Image Processing and at the 2021 International Conference on Biomedical Imaging, Signal Processing.

I presented and published my work in peer-reviewed journals and conference papers about COVID-19, addressing disease diagnosis, triage, localization, and severity quantification with superior generalizability using machine learning analyses on lung imaging. My pioneering research was carried out at UNT’s Multimedia Information Group laboratory. It employed supervised deep-learning approaches in automated image analysis.

The research is instrumental not just for COVID-19 but for all diseases that manifest in lung imaging. My work can help physicians more efficiently and accurately diagnose the coronavirus and assess its severity.

I completed my Ph.D. in record time—three years—with a perfect 4.0 grade.


Sometimes sheer luck can bring about isolated instances of success, but hard work always prevails to bring about sustained success. Consistent hard work, persistence, forbearance, patience, satisfaction, tenacity, self-faith, self-confidence, and faith in God compose my secret sauce to success.

Such qualities mold our character and help remove hurdles. Three years ago, my 10-year-old daughter was an average student. After seeing me happily working so hard, she became inspired and surprised me. She suddenly became awesome in academics, winning several awards including the school President’s Award, as well as medals in extracurricular activities and a win in the school’s spelling bee.

My tenacity, persistent hard work, graduate studies, and faith in myself fueled my success in becoming a proud single parent and homeowner. I invited several female middle- and high-school students to my graduation celebration in December.

My successful work and research in computer vision and deep-neural networks in school and most recently at CVS Health, where I work as a data scientist, has made a difference and has boosted local, corporate, and national economic growth.

My advice to young people is that if there is something you love and always wanted to do, then go ahead, try it. Do it with your heart and soul. Persevere and reach your dreams.

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