Prerna Juneja, DAC Ph.D. student in the Department of Computer Science

With a master’s degree in computer science from Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Delhi, Prerna Juneja joined Dell EMC where, for three years, she worked for the company’s flagship product VPLEX, a storage virtualization appliance that provides continuous availability and data mobility. She garnered four awards for her work there: the Dell Champion Award in 2018, and Excellence@Dell Bronze Award in 2018, 2017, and 2016.

Deciding to pursue a Ph.D. in computer science, Juneja said she chose Virginia Tech over other universities because of its faculty who work in cutting-edge interdisciplinary research in the area of human computer interaction. Her advisor is Tanushree Mitra.

Juneja’s research interests are broadly based in computational social science, natural language processing, and machine learning.

“Search engines are the primary gateways of information. Despite their importance in selecting, ranking, and recommending what information is considered most relevant for us, there is no guarantee that the information is credible. Thus, as a part of my research I empirically audit search systems for misinformation and investigate user attributes, user actions, and events that might have an effect in amplifying this misinformation,” Juneja said.

“Being a student at the Discovery Analytics Center has given me an opportunity to interact with other students pursuing similar interdisciplinary research,” said Juneja. “People here are very helpful, always ready to offer advice and encouragement when you really need it.”

Juneja said her current research on algorithmically curated misinformation is important since exposure to inaccurate search results, coupled with unwavering trust placed in search engines, can lead to a misinformed citizenry.

“I believe my research will inform the need for building search engines that retrieve and present results ranked according to both relevance and credibility,” she said.

Juneja received a scholarship to attend the  CRA-W Grad Cohort Workshop for women in April 2019.

In previous research, Juneja studied YouTube for misinformation and investigated whether personalization (based on age, gender, geolocation, or watch history) contributes to amplifying this misinformation. She also investigated whether content moderation practices on Reddit sub-communities align with principles of transparency outlined in the guidelines issued by Santa Clara principles on Transparency and Accountability in Content Moderation. For this project, Reddit moderators were interviewed to get their view about different facets of transparency and to determine why lack of transparency is a widespread phenomenon.

Passionate about both teaching and research, Juneja has set her sights on a career in academia. Her projected graduation date is 2022.