Coder With a Cause

Chatterjee takes the reins as freshman leader

Photo by Jillian Morn

Rhea Chatterjee was nervous and excited. The Georgia Tech freshman loved her new home in Atlanta but was nervous about surviving the rigors of Tech. So she met with her advisor, Troy Peace, to help gain some reassurance.

“I could feel her passion and enthusiasm about getting started,” said Peace, the College’s director of community. “She walked out of my office that day as president of Humani-Tech, a student organization that was inactive at the time.”

Chatterjee’s nerves quickly faded. Instead, the service-oriented computer scientist infused Humani-Tech, an organization focused on using technology for social good, with energy and critical mass. In three short months, Chatterjee recruited more than 20 new members for Humani-Tech and is building relationships with many metro Atlanta nonprofits.

In short, Chatterjee is leaving a lasting impact on the College before even completing her first final exam.

What she already has accomplished isn’t surprising, when you consider her roots. She attended Athens Academy, one of Georgia’s top private prep schools, for her entire K-12 education.

Just like at Georgia Tech, Chatterjee set a precedent for service at Athens Academy. She helped found the school’s Cancer Awareness and Relay for Life Club during her sophomore year and served as its president the following two years. She enjoyed leading service-oriented projects, like making “boredom buster bags” for kids undergoing cancer treatments in the hospital.

“The upperclassmen connected with the younger kids while creating hand-tied pillowcases to include in the bags,” Chatterjee said. “We were the first club on campus to involve 3-year-olds through 12th graders in a school-wide service project.”

Chatterjee rarely had much time to catch her breath. She also served as editor-in-chief of Athens Academy’s student newspaper for three years, played violin for the Athens Youth Symphony and the academy’s orchestra, and was a dynamite tennis player with a state championship in her senior year. Come graduation time, Chatterjee was Athens Academy’s valedictorian and accumulated countless other academic honors. 

Rhea and her brother Victor display her state championship trophy. 

She completed multiple internships around Athens (including at a certain school with a canine mascot that shall remain nameless) throughout high school. But it was an internship at a technology-based startup incubator that opened Chatterjee’s eyes to an exciting new career path. Tasked with raising the incubator’s visibility, Chatterjee spoke with countless entrepreneurs for a blog series that inspired her to learn more about technology.

“The aspects of creativity and wide range of applications in CS appealed to me,” Chatterjee said. “I used Codecademy to learn some CSS and HTML and attended a Ruby on Rails workshop for women during the summer. Both experiences encouraged me to major in CS.”

Chatterjee was intent on leaving Georgia to do it—until she visited a friend at Georgia Tech and fell in love with all things Yellow Jacket. The rest is history.

She’s since taken Humani-Tech by swarm. The organization recently led “coding unplugged” games to introduce young girls to the fundamentals of programming at the Girls Scouts of Greater Atlanta’s STEM Expo. While the organization is populated mostly with freshmen, Chatterjee is focused on expanding membership to incorporate students with more experience and diversified skillsets. 

“I foresee Humani-Tech as an accessible community that provides technical and mentoring services to non-profits and other groups within and beyond the College of Computing and Georgia Tech,” Chatterjee said.

Peace says Chatterjee is poised to become another of the College’s “rock stars.”

“Rhea is as awesome as she is courageous,” Peace said. “The future of the College of Computing is in very capable hands.”