CSpotlight: Computer Science and Machine Learning

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

I had an idea that I was interested in computer science since I was a small child. We had this one coding course in fourth grade and I thought it was kind of cool. I chose the University of Minnesota mainly because they provide resources to international students and I wanted to come to the United States because half of my family is in the U.S. My sister went to the U of M as well. I had choices between the University and a few other schools and Minnesota just had better financial help and better communal resources.

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

I learned BASIC in fourth grade and wanted to try it out. In high school, I took more coding classes and between that and chemistry, I liked computer science more. In computer science, I particularly like machine learning a lot. Almost all of my courses that I take now are oriented towards machine learning and robotics. For the future, I want to delve a bit more into sustainability and machine learning. I want to try to bring that into the field as much as possible.

Congratulations on earning the Hopper Dean scholarship! How will this scholarship impact your academic and extracurricular work?

For the past year, I spent more time trying to work and earn so that I could pay off rent and other things. It’s a pretty big scholarship and it helps me feel not so concerned about having to work more hours. It really gives me more of a peace of mind and gives me more time to continue hobbies that I dropped due to lack of time.

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

I’m in the Association of Multicultural Scientists group. I mainly joined them because I was not sure if I wanted to go into the industry or grad school, and it’s a student group of mainly other international grad students at the University. I thought it would be a great place to talk about it and learn from their experiences and how things are. Getting into it made me realize that grad school is probably what I would do later on. It’s also very nice to have a community of people that you can talk to and ask for advice.

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

I hope that I can bring upon more awareness about diversity and inclusion. I do think computer science is a field that is much more male-dominated and sometimes that gets pretty hard. My lab has people of various backgrounds, and this is what I think of when I mention diversity in computer science. It’s the kind of supportive environment I strive to build when in classes or clubs. I also want to help empower women and non-binary students in computer science, which I work on through my club and teaching assistantship.

Have you been involved with any research on campus?

Right now I’m working with professor Karthik Desingh and the Robotics: Perception and Manipulation (RPM) Lab. I have my own project involving interactive segmentation for targeting the grasping of objects. I’ve made posters about it and presented it at the Summer Undergraduate Research Expo (SURE), as well as at a graduate mingle.

I also applied for a summer school cohort in Canada, which was for sustainability and machine learning. It taught a lot of things about different machine learning techniques and where they are applicable - what we need in order to move toward sustainability and when you should not consider machine learning for something because it’s not an end-all be-all. I worked on a short crop yield optimization project and presented it to the cohort at the end of the event. Overall, it was a very enlightening experience.

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

My biggest advice to freshmen coming into college is, first and foremost, focus on yourself. Focus on collecting yourself and focus on what makes you happy. Don’t stress out so much about career experiences or feel like you’re not worth it if you don’t do well in a course. There are plenty of opportunities available on campus. I think coming into college, especially in computer science, there is a lot of pressure on when to apply for internships and when to take certain courses. Instead, I encourage you to take the time to explore your opportunities. Step out of your comfort zone, try out new activities, and try a class that seems completely unrelated to your career. College is about building yourself, and everyone has different ways to do so. Find the way that makes you happy.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m very interested in going to grad school. I was not very interested in industry and I never took the time for internship applications because I focused more on getting more research work. I know for a fact that I want to keep doing research for my career. Although I do not know where that will lead me, I know that graduate school will allow me to continue learning while also providing opportunities for growth.

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

I had a lot of outreach experiences regarding computer science and research. There was one hosted by our club where we were trying to promote women in science and representation. Kind of building this idea that, “Hey, a scientist can also look like me and we’re doing awesome work!” There were also a couple of times when high school students came to our lab and we showed them our robots and our work process. They got to ask us questions about involvement and getting started in research. I appreciate the efforts taken in this community to encourage people to consider research as an option for themselves.