CSpotlight: Scholarships and Success

Why did you choose to study computer science specifically at the University of Minnesota?

I’m proud to be part of this prestigious institution and am very grateful for the generous scholarship package I have been offered, which has really helped make going to college affordable for me and is a major reason for my strong inclination to choose UMN. Further I have been admitted to the Honours College, which is a brilliant opportunity to explore and expand my intellectual horizons, and was given an Undergraduate Research Scholarship as well. 

I find myself fascinated by the limitless possibilities that arise from the ever-evolving realm of artificial intelligence, and how it has gradually revolutionised every sphere of our existence. Coupled with the more humane science of Human Computer Interaction, at this university I’ve found access to a very modern curriculum where I have the freedom to really understand how computer science is intertwined into the modern world.

How did you become interested in computer science?

Looking around me, there isn’t a single object that would be present without the use of some sort of a computer. Whether it’s the food we eat, the cars we drive or the houses we live in, they all exist due to the technological tools we have at our disposal. As such, I believe that the key to actually understanding not only the world we live in today but also we will inherit tomorrow is to understand the technology that powers it, and ensuring that those who need it most can utilise it to its full potential. 

Congratulations on receiving the Global Excellence Scholarship! How has the scholarship impacted your academic career? 

Funding for international students is quite difficult to come by, and I’m very grateful to be a recipient of this generous scholarship from the university. It allowed me to fully make the most of my time in America since I do not have to worry about the high tuition rates. I’m able to put my full focus into furthering my education and making my family proud, while serving as a role model to my younger sister. 

Tell us more about the research projects you have been working on! How has the Undergraduate Research Grant helped you throughout these processes?

Working with Professor Maria Gini since I was a freshman, I was part of the Jukebot Research Group where we developed an AI-powered interactive chatbot that holds conversations and answers questions for a local radio station. It’s able to handle many questions about their music, local weather, and even request music to be played. We added a fun functionality to modify its personality as well. 

I’m also in a second, currently ongoing project through the Gini Research Lab too, working to develop an intelligent visual scanner for the visually impaired. We plan to utilise image stitching, text recognition, FDA APIs and much more in this project. 

Going forward, I hope to write my Honours thesis within the domains of Human Computer Interaction and AI, and look forward to taking the lessons I’ve learnt into that experience. 

How did you get involved with Boston Scientific? Tell us more about your software engineering work!

This past summer, I had the opportunity to work at Boston Scientific, on their Software DVT Team. My task there was to  streamline the time it took for them to generate an accurate traceability report - it was currently running at 3 weeks of time, electricity and manpower. Over the course of a few weeks, I was able to develop a tool for them that reduces the time for this down to just 15 minutes, and improves on the accuracy of the report as well, and uncover some vulnerabilities in their initial test lists.

Through efficient planning and support from those around me, I was actually able to complete the project over a month ahead of schedule. This extra time allowed me to implement a lot of features that we hadn’t initially considered, further improving the performance and capabilities of the tool. 

I learned all of the basic things that you’d expect from this role: how to work in a team environment, how industry standard software is built and documented, etc. What really took me by surprise though, was how rewarding it was. I was proud of the difference I was making, and how in my own little way, I was helping make the world a better place.

Tell us briefly about your internship experiences! How has your academic background prepared you for these internships?

I worked at the Vodafone UK HQ where I helped design and implement an algorithm for internal file system restructuring. I also had the opportunity to work on the Data Insight Team at Thames Water Utilities, the largest utilities company in the UK, where I helped build a decision support tool to identify hazard regions by using IoT-based sensors.

During the summer of my freshman year, I had a Software Engineering Virtual Internship with JPMorgan Chase, where I worked on Data Analysis and front end development. 

The same summer I also had a Data Analytics Virtual Internship with KPMG where I implemented data analysis algorithms to accurately identify high-value customers, and created smart dashboards with the retrieved information. 

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

Know your limits, but push yourself as hard as you can to reach them! Everyone at college is different, but we’re all working to grow and develop ourselves as individuals. It is possible to make no mistakes, but still lose. That is not failure, it’s just another part of life. As long as you gave it your best shot, do not be discouraged if things do not pan out as expected. Never be afraid to ask for help and I cannot emphasise this enough! As a TA myself, I’ve come across too many students who were unclear on basic topics simply because they were worried about looking silly in front of their peers. There is no such thing as a stupid question, so ask away all you want. Get involved in research as soon as you can - it’s a wonderful way to learn about working in a team, how to apply classroom learnings to actual software development, and make useful faculty connections. Also to make sure you take care of your mental and physical health. If you find yourself under stress, there are a wealth of resources on campus that I can personally attest to that help. You’re never alone in your struggles.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ll be attending the integrated Master’s program here at the U, but after that I’ll likely find a position in industry. I hope to be in a position where I can help bring technology into the hands of those who can benefit from it the most, without needing to weigh them down with the intricacies of its workings.