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CSpotlight: Making an Impact in Computer Science

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

The University of Minnesota has a strong computer science program and strong research faculty. More importantly, the scholarships I was being offered made a huge impact on my decision. This really made college more affordable, and as a result, made attending this prestigious institution a reality for me. I was especially impressed with what the Department was doing in artificial intelligence.

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

In high school, I was fascinated by the technological advances being made in the world. I was really interested in the technology we use on a daily basis and seeing the strides in such a short period of time. I was inspired by this and it really motivated me to make an impact in a similar way using technology. As a freshman in college, I took my first computer science class in my first semester and I enjoyed it immensely. It was obvious at that point that I made the right choice. 

As far as a specific interest within the field, I was fascinated by automation, computer vision and natural language processing. I believe these fields carry huge potential to make an impact in a meaningful way by solving problems humans face on a regular basis.

Congratulations on earning the Maximillian Lando Scholarship! How will this scholarship impact your academic and extracurricular work?

As an international student, tuition can be quite expensive. Having this scholarship will allow me to worry less about funding my education and focus more on my studies and working on my senior thesis. It will also allow me to pursue my hobbies outside of the classroom. I believe having a balanced schedule that allows you to pursue outside interests helps lessen the burden that can come from academics. 

Tell us more about your work as a Software Engineer Intern at Siemens. What were some of your takeaways from working in the field?

This summer I had the opportunity to work at Siemens with their smart grid software. As part of their data modeling team, I was tasked with reducing the amount of time required for bi-weekly manual testing through test automation. Manually performing these tests required a lot of time and resources, so by reducing the amount of time I was creating a meaningful impact for the team, which was really fulfilling for me. 

This was my first time working in the software industry. I learned a lot about how to efficiently communicate with team members. One of the biggest things I took away from the experience was that everyone is learning and there is no shame in asking for help. I asked a lot of questions to my coworkers and if I had not asked, I would not have grown. Having that experience under my belt, I have learned how to be a better programmer and a better learner while taking in new information on the job. It was an incredible experience for me.

Have you been involved with any research on campus?

Coming into college, my goal was to work on research. I worked on a research project during my freshman year with professor Kate Adamala in the biology department. In this role, I created a software program that models the transcription and translation processes on a DNA sequence. This is being further extended to make it publicly available to other cellular biology researchers across the country. They can use the same program in their experiments to make it more efficient and accurate. 

One of the aspects that I enjoyed the most was using the concepts I learned in class to the world of biology. It showed me how much potential my major had and it inspired me to continue studying computer science. I worked on this project as part of my Undergraduate Research Scholarship (URS). 

Additionally, I am part of the honors program and I would like to base my senior thesis in computer science, especially automation, computer vision and natural language processing. As part of the honors program, I take honors classes which tend to have smaller class sizes. It also comes with some extra work and extra learning within the field.

Do you have any takeaways from being a teaching assistant (TA)?

During my sophomore year, I worked as a TA for 1133, Introduction to Programming. It is the first class that someone interested in computer science would take. When I was in the course, I had a lot of skepticism about whether or not this field was right for me and now looking back it is one of my favorite classes that I have taken in college. It definitely solidified my interest in pursuing this major. To teach this class to others like me was such a fulfilling experience for me. The class had such a positive impact on me and I strived to provide a similar environment to the next group of students as well. 

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

I came to college with no programming experience at all. Seeing peers that already had a handle on the basics made me really anxious and I contemplated if I really belonged in this major. It was overwhelming because in the software world, there are always new technologies coming out and there is always something new to learn. It took me a few courses and experiences to gain the confidence I needed. While the imposter syndrome is real, eventually you will gain the experience you need to feel confident and learn new things more quickly.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan on working in the software industry and using the information I learned from my courses to make an impact in the real world. I am also exploring the option to pursue a master’s degree before entering the workforce.