CSpotlight: A strong tradition in tech

Pursuing a degree in computer science was a simple choice for Narek Ohanyan. He comes from a family of engineers and started doing his own coding projects at age 11. Now, as the B.S. student enters his senior year, he is preparing to start graduate coursework after being admitted to the CS&E integrated program.

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

I applied to a good number of universities (somewhere around 20 applications), and I was accepted to about half of them (including Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin-Madison). The University of Minnesota stood out among all the options—I really liked the campus, and it was the best fit for me and my family financially.

How did you become interested in computer science?

My father is a software developer, and my family is composed entirely of engineers. When I was 11, my dad introduced me to Scratch (a visual programming language), but I thought it was too simplistic so I started taking an online Java course. I had a lot of fun and continued doing small coding projects which developed into a love for computers and technology. From there, computer science was a simple choice for me.

Congratulations on being a recipient of the 2020-21 Department of Computer Science & Engineering Scholarship! How has the scholarship impacted your academic career?

It helped a good amount! Every little bit matters to me, and the extra scholarship helped pay for about 10% of my tuition for the year. It certainly lowers the financial burden on myself and my family, and I’m very grateful to the department.

How did you decide to become a teaching assistant? What is your favorite part about being a TA?

I was looking for a part time job, so I simply decided to apply. Computational linear algebra was one of my favorite courses taken here at the U, so I was excited to TA for it. I ended up having a good time, so I TA'd for the class again the following semester as well. I hope to TA for a different class next semester to get even more experience.

My favorite part about being a TA is the feeling that comes when students stop by my office hours with questions and I'm able help them and they leave satisfied with the help they got!

Tell us more about getting your CompTIA A+ certification.

When I was in high school, my teacher recommended I take the dual-credit course for computer repair and maintenance. The course taught me many things, and I used that knowledge to take the CompTia A+ certification exam. I passed and earned the certification. I am hoping to get new certifications in the future, and I’m planning on getting the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification before I graduate.

What advice do you have for incoming computer science students?

Take the classes you find interesting, don’t overthink things, and find something you’re passionate about. Join clubs, or start your own! Find people you care about and who care about you, and keep them close—especially other students who are in the computer science program.

Know that it’s okay to struggle, and even more okay to ask for help. Do not be embarrassed if you do not to understand something right away. Lean on your support system of classmates and friends if tough assignments or exams get the better of you.

Lastly, appreciate yourself. Everyone brings a very unique set of passions and skills. Don’t worry about being the best; instead, try to be the best you that you can be.

What are your plans after graduation?

I was admitted into the computer science integrated M.S./B.S. program, so I will be completing my Master’s degree before graduation. I’m also hoping to get into artificial intelligence research here at the U. After I finish all these, who knows where the winds will take me!?