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CSpotlight: Double Majoring in Computer Science

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

In high school I took language classes through the College in the Schools (CIS) program and spent time on the University of Minnesota campus with friends that went here full-time. It’s convenient to be right in the city, with opportunities to have internships in many different industries while also being so close to where you’re living. On top of that, being close to my family was definitely a plus! I transferred here from out of state, realizing that what Minnesota had to offer was better than any other school I could go to. I also had family who had previously attended the University and they only had good things to say about it. 

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

I became interested in computer science through my other major, statistics. I had to take a required introductory level computer science course for the major, and realized it was something that was interesting to me. I ended up enrolling in a couple more computer science courses for fun, and one thing led to another and I was on the track to minor in it already! Since I had the room in my schedule, I decided to take a giant step and attempt to add it on as my second major.

Getting into my senior year, I realized that I wanted to incorporate both of my majors in my future job. Data science really stood out to me since it is the perfect intersection of my skills in both areas. I am also interested in artificial intelligence and machine learning. I am currently taking an introductory course in artificial intelligence and I really enjoy it. There are many things that interest me within the field and I have a lot more to learn. 

Tell us more about your internship experiences.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to work with Optum - A UnitedHealthcare Company in Minnetonka, Minnesota, as a data engineer/data scientist. Even though it was a remote position, I was able to learn a lot from the company and my coworkers. I was so grateful to be placed on a team that was similar to my interests post-grad. I was able to gain a lot more industry-level skills and knowledge that I’ve been able to use in my classes this year.

This internship also solidified my liking for data science, and I was sure I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. I was also able to connect and network with many other students, and have been able to keep in touch with some of them. Although some people might dislike remote positions, they are becoming more and more popular recently and it prepared me well for troubleshooting at home. This upcoming summer, I am interning at Accenture in Minneapolis in their technology development program. I’m hoping that I can gain more skills and knowledge by working in this new industry of technology consulting. 

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

Yes! I am a part of TBLP (Tom Burnett Leadership Program). I was actually nominated to interview for this club by my advisor. I decided to try out and interview for it because I know it is really important to build soft skills as well as technical skills no matter what field you work in. I am so grateful to have been accepted into the program. This program focuses a lot on leadership and I enjoy hearing and learning from the perspectives of others. I struggle a lot with public speaking and leadership, so this club forces me to challenge myself to think and talk about things that you wouldn’t normally talk about with people. It’s helped me in my leadership roles such as being a TA for statistics, as I’m able to be more confident and more helpful to my students. 

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

Being both Hispanic and a female, I really want to focus on creating an inclusive environment for underrepresented minorities. It can be hard when you feel like there are very few people that can relate to you or that you don’t fit in. I want to be one of those people that others can feel like they can talk to. I think the most important thing anyone can contribute to the computer science community is different perspectives. A lot of computer scientists will realize that on many occasions there are different ways to code something, and that applies to real life as well, there are lots of different perspectives on things. 

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

My biggest piece of advice is to not give up when things get hard. There are going to be many assignments or exams where you feel like giving up, and you might even question your choice in the major. Just know you’re going to get through it. It is beneficial to utilize office hours, your peers, and online resources! And remember, it is OK to fail. Even the smartest people in the world have failed before; it’s what you learn and take away from the situation that matters. 

What are your plans after graduation?

I recently got accepted into the M.S. in Data Science program here at the University of Minnesota so I will still be a Gopher for a couple more years! I will also be completing my minor in Data Science in Multi-Messenger Astrophysics during my masters. But before I start my masters, I am interning at Accenture, Minneapolis this summer as a technology summer analyst.