CSpotlight: Making a Global Difference

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

So when I decided to do my Ph.D. in computer science, my research focus was on networking. And when I did my research on universities in the United States, I couldn't believe the work that was being done at the networking research lab at the University of Minnesota. Additionally, the professor that really inspired me was Professor Zhi-Li Zhang. I realize that the University of Minnesota was a perfect fit for me. And considering there's also a huge community of Liberians in Minnesota, it was easy to adapt to the area. 

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

I became interested in computer science when I was in elementary school in Liberia. I was able to take a computer class. That was basically my first time seeing or even touching a computer. I was amazed at the things it was capable of doing. That was when my interest in computer science started. 

Tell us more about your internship experiences.

I did an internship at a company in California last summer and it was really amazing. For the first time, I got thrown into the outside world to go and apply everything that I've been learning in school. I realized that it's faster out there. While at the University, we work at a much different pace. But when you're out there, you enjoy conducting research in a team and everybody has to keep up with each other's pace. It was amazing what I learned from my supervisor there. 
I hope that I get to experience more internships like that during my time at the University of Minnesota.

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

I'm part of the University Senate Committee on Information Technology. I was inspired to apply and join that group because I wanted to understand two things. Firstly, the information technology system we have at the university, and secondly, if it is enough to handle the amount of work that students do, and if so, how can it be improved? Those questions were the main motivation for me to join the University Senate Committee on Information Technology.

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

My lab-mates and I are currently working on cutting-edge research. We intend to contribute to the university community through our research. Several years down the line, I want to be able to say that we contributed to this amazing research and it was done at the University of Minnesota. The primary goal right now is to continue keeping the University of Minnesota on the map.

Have you been involved with any research on campus?

I'm currently doing research on 5G security. I'm trying to identify security risks on security vulnerabilities and security threats that currently exist in the 5G network. Particularly, risks that enable hackers to steal user information, among other information. I'm trying to identify these vulnerabilities and attempt to mitigate these risks.

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

The U of M's Department of Computer Science & Engineering is really wonderful. They provide everything you need to make your stay as a student very easy and enjoyable. If you are coming into this field, you must come with an open mind. The world of computer science is changing on a daily basis. Don't think that you know everything. Try to collaborate with your fellow students and that's how you will get through this program and benefit from it. 

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation, I'm planning on going back to Liberia to teach at the University there. I'm also planning on running an IT consultancy firm to try to solve the IT infrastructure crisis in Liberia.

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

As an international student, I highly recommend this group called the Hospitality Center. When I just got to the University of Minnesota, it was very helpful for me and I hope that other international students can learn about it. They offer you a lot of experiences that you would never have the opportunity to do outside of the group. If you are an international student planning on coming to the University of Minnesota or you're already at the University and you haven't heard about your Hospitality Center, I would advise that you look them up. They will make your time at the University of Minnesota much more comfortable.