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CSpotlight: Business and Computer Science

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in computer science specifically at the University of Minnesota?

My cousin attended and introduced me to the University of Minnesota. She had a great time when she attended the University. I began my higher education journey at Seattle Central College, but after learning about the UMN’s strong computer science program and the exceptional faculty members, I decided to transfer and continue my studies as a junior at the U of M. Then, after graduating last December, I continued my studies in the Integrated Master’s program.

How did you become interested in computer science? What are your specific interests within the field?

In high school, I came across this article titled “Teaching Machines to Predict the Future” from MIT news. I was deeply motivated by this article. I began dedicating a significant portion of my free time watching YouTube programming videos. I would code along with them to understand the basic concepts of computer science. That would evolve into working on personal projects.

During my undergrad, I took classes in databases, operating systems, and cryptography. That not only deepened my understanding of computer science, but also sparked my interest in the field of cybersecurity. The idea of leveraging data patterns and varying reliable and informative outcomes coupled with the complexity and challenges of safeguarding sensitive information and networks was captivating. It really solidified my desire to delve deeper into the fields of machine learning and cybersecurity.

I really like the operating system class. That course really took my knowledge to the next level. That course explored networking, how computers talk to each other and basic computer security concepts. Bringing that back to my interests, it really inspired my desire to learn more about cybersecurity and machine learning. There’s also a Fundamentals of Machine Learning class taught by Professor Catherine Qi Zhao. She was amazing. She really goes over all the math behind algorithms and the bare bones of it all. 

Tell us more about your internship experiences.

I had the opportunity to intern at Code42 as a software engineer. I was tasked to further enhance the search engine of our test automation framework which is used to verify and validate our product. The advanced search feature required me to touch on a combination like front-end code for the user interface and the back-end code that handled the processing of the search request. This includes defining the logic of filtering, sorting, and retrieving the results of the necessary data from the extensive test database. The knowledge and skills obtained in my classroom studies of databases and algorithms greatly assist me in making this feature come alive.

Following my summer internship, I was given the opportunity to continue working part time at Code42. I was able to deepen my understanding of what it means to be a professional software engineer hone in on my technical skills. I learned a lot about the business side of software companies. It was an amazing experience. I feel that my experience working at a smaller company has been highly beneficial. I was able to wear a lot of different hats and take on a diverse range of roles. It was an invaluable opportunity to acquire those skills and experiences in a short branch of time.

Are you involved in any student groups? What inspired you to get involved? 

I have been in some technical, computer science-based groups. But computer science can be demanding and then you will run into roadblocks at times. You need to care for your mental health. Because of this, I joined the baking club. It was a great way to reduce stress. It's allowed me to focus on the actual task itself and create a sense of accomplishment. It's a way for me to relax and unwind from those classes, enjoy baked goods, and socialize with fellow students from various backgrounds. 

What do you hope to contribute to the computer science community at the University?

I would recommend networking with people. Spread the word of what you've learned from your experience in internships and in the industry. I would also say to gain experience with teamwork. Chances are, if you're working in an industry, you’ll be working in a team to solve a problem. But mainly to help others. Helping people with their resumes, mentoring others, demonstrating how to solve software problems, just how top-tier coworkers would act. 

Have you been involved with any research on campus?

During my junior year, I had the opportunity to do research with Professor Maria Gini. Our project aimed to aid the visually impaired by using computer vision software with text analysis to retrieve information from cylindrical surfaces such as medicine bottles. On cylindrical surfaces, extracting text from a curved image can be challenging, so we approached this by developing an image stitching algorithm. So then when users upload images, the text can be extracted and processed. The drug name, dosages, directions, warnings, active ingredients, would be sent back to the users.

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

Fully embrace the art of making mistakes. Making mistakes is an important part of the learning process in computer science. When working with new technologies and trying out new ideas, it's natural to encounter obstacles and make mistakes. However, it's important to remember that these mistakes could be valuable learning opportunities by understanding where and how this mistake can gain deeper understanding of the subject matter and develop problem solving skills. This can be especially important for those pursuing development and research positions as they will often be working on cutting-edge technologies and projects that will not be well understood yet. Additionally, being comfortable with making mistakes allows individuals to take more risks, try new things without fear of failure. It's important for computer science professionals to be creative and innovative in order to solve challenging problems. Individuals need to push the boundaries of what is currently possible and make meaningful contributions to the field.

What are your plans after graduation?

Upon completing my master's degree, I intend to pursue a career in software engineering, machine learning engineering, or even in related development fields. I'm proactively seeking opportunities to gain a comprehensive understanding of the business operation of tech companies. My hope is to acquire the necessary experience to eventually establish my own business in the future, which would incorporate both machine learning and cybersecurity aspects to provide solutions for the dynamic and rapidly-changing technology industry. I love the idea of helping people become able to secure their data. I previously read some websites that said data is actually, at this point, more expensive than oil. I want to help people understand and protect their data by using machine learning.

Are there any additional experiences you did that you would like to highlight in the article?

I mentored at CoderDojo, a platform that offers opportunities for both students and professionals to volunteer and teach computer programming to young learners.  If you have a background in Python, teach Python. If you have a background in creating websites, programming raspberry pies, and building computers, teach the kids that. It is a great way to give back to the computer science community and inspire the next generation of coders. The best way to reinforce your understanding of a topic is to teach it to someone else.