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CSpotlight: Exploring your own field of study

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

I moved to the United States about five years ago and I came to Minnesota because I have family here. I had a hard time adjusting to the weather, but I've come to like it now. I knew that I wanted to go to a big university with a diverse student population. That is when I found out about the University of Minnesota. I heard good things about the University of Minnesota’s STEM programs, especially computer science. Additionally, there are so many internship opportunities in and around the Twin Cities.

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

I became interested in computer science during elementary school, which was in India. We had computer classes that covered the basics of computer fundamentals, hardware, software, ethics, the internet, and concepts like that. I was amazed by how technology impacts daily life and the potential applications of computer science. I found the subject interesting. Learning to code shortly after really sparked my interest in computer science. After moving to the US, I had even more opportunities to explore the subject. During high school I took Advanced Placement computer science. Along with school work, I would code for fun. All of these little experiences piled up and made me realize that I wanted to seriously pursue computer science. Honestly, I didn't know much about how big this field is until I joined the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Minnesota. I discovered new subfields like human-computer interaction, data mining, machine learning, and more. It was a bit overwhelming and it took me a while to find my specific interest within computer science. I found it really helpful taking diverse technical electives just to explore and gradually figure out my passion.

Tell us more about your internship experiences.

So my internship experience began in high school. I had an IT internship at Medtronic where I worked with the Enterprise Architecture team. It was an incredible opportunity for me to get my foot in the door and get insight into how these types of companies operate. I developed valuable technical and professional skills and formed lasting connections with my co-workers. Last summer I had the opportunity to work as a tech analyst at Accenture. I was able to learn a lot about the company and industry as I went in the internship not knowing much about the technical consulting industry. 

This summer, I will be interning at Target as a software engineer, which aligns closely with my career goals. I'm really excited about this opportunity. I'm eager to contribute to the team and company using the skills that came through my previous internships. And I'm also looking forward to learning new skills and meeting people who are also passionate about technology and software engineering.

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

I have been involved in the Science and Engineering Student Board (SESB) since my first year. This was during the pandemic when everything was online and I was looking for ways to meet people and get involved at the University of Minnesota outside of academics. That's when I discovered the SESB and joined its First Year Initiative which is a committee just for new students. It was a great opportunity to meet other first year students and have fun while doing it. SESB  has other committees such as academic affairs, mental health, sustainability and more, and I ended up joining the Diversity & Inclusion committee as it closely aligned with my values and goals. That motivated me to run for the Diversity & Inclusion director position during my sophomore year. Now, I'm one of the communications directors.

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

I would say that the University of Minnesota has a great CS program which provides students with a lot of opportunities and resources to excel in this field. I believe that students should not worry too much about academics, although that's easier said than done. But, I recommend that students focus on other activities that make them unique and stand out. This could be a hobby, interest, or anything that brings you happiness. This is also a tool that really helps to prevent burnout by maintaining a healthy balance between academics and extracurriculars. Personally, if I could go back in time, I would spend more time on my hobbies, such as baking and learning more about nature photography. 

My second piece of advice is to gain practical experience through side projects. This is a great way to figure out what specific fields you are not as comfortable with. For example, I was interested in website development, so I reached out to a local business to help design their website. Now I would encourage students to take advantage of the many professional development platforms such as Handshake, LinkedIn and the Maroon and Gold Network to discover opportunities.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate, my plan is to work as a software engineer. After gaining a few years of experience in the industry, I hope to come back to the U of M to pursue my masters in software engineering.