Student Spotlights: getting to know our CS students
There is no question that the Department of Computer Science is home to amazing faculty, staff, and students. I wanted to provide an opportunity for those inside and outside the department to learn about our students. The Student Spotlight provides a platform to tell our students unique backgrounds, experiences, and stories. After reading, I know that you will agree- our students are incredible.
Thanks for reading! - Martin Marquez, Director of Academic and Support Services
My name is Hamzah Firman and I am a Junior at the University of Arizona. I originally started off as an Architecture major and after my first semester I decided to change my major to Computer Science. One of my good friends recommended the major because it’s challenging and rewarding at the same time. From there I continued to do my research and I came across a video where CEO’s of top companies were talking about how technology changed their lives, and I knew that Computer Science was the route I wanted to go.
While I was taking CSC 110, I was really struggling with the content and fortunately I had a mentor that worked with me 1:1 to really help me understand the concepts I was struggling with. This guidance really helped to establish my confidence in not only my computer science courses but in my career aspirations. I started my career development during my sophomore year and really formed through my connection with my mentor; he has provided resources, and really guided me through the internship search process. Three things I recommend: I would say to practice a lot, to not be afraid to get rejected or fail in an interview, and to constantly reflect on your experiences; this helps you to understand areas of improvement.
One piece of advice that I would give someone first starting off in computer science is to be patient. Take it one step at a time and really take the time to understand concepts. Lastly, don’t compare yourself to anybody else and to stay focused on those resources that will help you personally improve. At the end of the day, have fun!
Hung Le Ba
Kiara Hernandez is a Senior majoring in Computer Science and minoring in ECE from Douglas, Arizona.
In your experience taking CS courses, are there any in particular that are your favorite or the most fun?
I definitely like the courses that involve more programming; in particular CSC 335 where you learn more about MVC systems, etc. and I really enjoyed the group work aspect because of the feeling of working in the field. I really enjoyed working on a fun project and working on a project that required other individual’s contribution.
Why did you decide to pursue computer science?
Coming out of high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do and nothing really caught my eye, but I did know that I wanted to help or to make something that would leave some sort of mark. I took Computer Science as a leap because I took a few computer courses in high school, but didn’t feel fully committed at the time. I decided to go with it and ended up really liking it so it’s a blessing in disguise.
In your time as a University student, what kind of student organizations have you participated in?
I’ve been an officer in WICS for a few semesters and I really enjoy the community that it gave me in a male dominated field and it helped to feel welcome. I also participated as a CS Ambassador for a couple semesters. One semester I attended the Gave Dev Club and participated in a Game Jam. My favorite club is WICS because the purpose really resonates with me.
If you could give advice to an incoming student about what to expect, resources, etc.
Expect to be intellectually challenged. The courses aren’t easy and it’s definitely a new field / way of learning but it gets easier as you learn more and get used to it. Get involved with the department as fast as you can. Go see your advisors, going to the tutoring center was invaluable my freshman and sophomore year (that’s also where I met a lot of my close friends).
Can you talk a little bit about your internship experience with GoDaddy?
I worked with GoDaddy my sophomore year and I learned about the opportunity through Grace Hopper. My friend, Meredith Larabee, invited me to a GoDaddy party where I was able to network and mention that I was a sophomore that knows python. I later got an email from them about an opportunity for sophomore’s that know python, so I applied and went through online interviewing. While I was there, I primarily worked on front-end development even though I had no web development experience. GoDaddy was really patient with me and they taught me a lot and we used a lot of pair programming. I never felt like I was left behind even though I was inexperienced at the time, I learned a lot and later saw in CSC 335 and 337.
What is feedback / advice you would give to a freshman looking to land a future internship?
Coming in as a freshman with no computer science experience, I was gathering information from everyone I could. I would recommend going to resume review sessions, Career Fairs to learn more about what they do and how to talk to recruiters in general. In general, constantly searching for advice; going to advisors, tutors, T.A.’s etc.
Korre Henry is a junior pursuing a BS in Computer Science at the University of Arizona. Originally from Los Angeles, Korre moved to Arizona as a freshman attending Mountain View High School in Marana, AZ. Korre is a current CS tutor and member of the CS Ambassadors.
Why did you pick Computer Science as your major?
Well towards the end of junior year, the question of "what do you wanna do after highschool" and I had to ponder on it. Initially I was going to get a business degree because I heard it made a lot of money. But then one of my mentors had informed me that I should pick something that I am actually good at and could see myself being comfortable with doing for a long period of time. At the time though, I was a Sound Engineer for my church and so I thought that I could get a degree in that. And i quickly found out that the job growth expectancy is pretty average. So then I stumbled upon computer science, I took a leap of faith. The funny thing about it is that, in my mind I had simply convinced myself that "whether it's hard or not, people say it's pretty cool so I'm sure ill be fine".
Tell us about your internship experience this past summer.
You are currently a tutor in the CS Tutor Center. Why did you want to be a CS tutor and how has this experience benefitted you?
I wanted to be a CS tutor because I wanted to help people quite simply. I am fascinated by the way in which people understand things. I am a true believer in the philosophy that "concepts are not hard, but rather people make them hard". I mean think about it, everything sounds hard until you actually understand it. The notion that some things are just hard to understand is the most satirically contradicting thing that I have ever imagined. But in short, many students and people in general feel that computer science is hard, and I want to show them that it's actually quite easy when you think about it.
What memorable experiences have you had in the department? (great opportunity to discuss your first time being involved with HackAZ).
My first hackathon was with HackArizona and at the time I was not very confident in my coding abilities. I had only taken CSC 110 and felt that I wasn't even confident in python at the time. Fortunately a friend of mine told me to come with them and I just thought I would sit around and watch them code. But the moment I arrived at the event, I quickly realized that the CS community was bigger than I had originally conceived. I was not aware that all these companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Qualtex, etc. were so open armed when it came to helping out a fellow programmer in lieu. The excitement of the crowd got me so worked up that I decided to ditch my friend and work on my own project. I took on the Drone Hack, hosted by Jacobs Corp. The challenge was to use social engineering to crack the network password to a 1 of the 5 drones that were in a net cage. Once we cracked the password then we needed to find a way to fly it via a device that was not the original controller. I feel like hackathons are where you tend to learn the most because I recall learning so many unnecessary algorithms, concepts, or even unrelated computer science topics just to find a way to crack into the network. Ironically I had known nothing at the time in regards to networking but ended up learning how to spoof and intercept packets from a network that was protected via WPA 2 encryption. Which was unnecessary because I ended up cracking the password using an unrelated web scraping tool that I made.
Then I made my own SDK that interacted with the drone, and I trained it how to fly, do turns, flips, backroll, land and even take off. The connection I built that drone over the course of 48 hours and no sleep was insane! It was like my own child. I believe that it was that night, when I realized I love this and that I want to produce CS as a career because it's something that I could do without getting paid for. As a byproduct of that experience, I was exposed to concepts that I would later be taught in CSC 120 and reinforced in 210.
What advice would you give a student in the department?
If i had any advice to give to any CS students, it might be just to never give up. Note that there were many things in your life that seemed challenging or even unbearable but hear you are now. So when it's crunchtime don't wind down, crank it up a notch! I suggest treating this major like a pool of resources. Not everyone needs to be a Software Engineer at some big firm, you should shape your experiences in this major around what you want to gain from it. Note that not everyone CS major needs to join evey club or go to every hackathon to be a "true cs major". Point is, do what interests you, and be sure to plan your road ahead. So for example if you really want to do stuff with AI and robotics i would not recommend going to a bunch of un-related AI and robotics hack a thons or clubs if it's not something that really interests you at the time. And lastly, be open minded, you never know you are interested or dispassionate about a topic until you immerse yourself in it. So don't be afraid to try out unfamiliar CS related topics.
What are your career goals?
When I graduate I want to become a Software Engineer at either Microsoft, Google, Tesla or Facebook. But after I have tenure as a Software engineer, I aspire to push back on the code and dive deeper into the more logistical or administrative side of innovation. I do not envision myself coding forever. I see myself as another Tech Lead over a big project that's changing the world, CTO, or a CS and Business analyst.
How do you hope to change the world/leave your mark?
Simply put, I am not sure what problem I have the passion to solve at the moment. Naturally I feel most satisfied when I know that my work has helped someone that needed it the most. So I suppose I would continue to search for what I feel passionate about and then jump along that team. In time I would want to be in charge of implementing that change or "vision" for how to help people one day so I think to be revered as someone who was the person overseeing the change or solution to a problem; I think that would be where I would want to make my mark.
Arianna Boatner is a junior pursuing a BS in Computer Science. Arriana is a native Tucsonan and attended Pima Community College before transferring to the University of Arizona.
I was at Pima Community College the first year and I still did not know what I wanted to do.
I really liked math, was not interested in any of the general education courses, and even considered other career options such as business, being a dental hygienist, going to public health, but none really stood out to me. When I heard about programming it was like a light bulb in my brain went off and it sounded very interesting. I decided to take an intro to programming course at Pima to see if I would like it and at the same time decided to contact the UA CS advisors to see what classes I needed to take to get a BS degree, in the case that I really did end up liking programming. After the first week of being in the programming course I realized I really enjoyed it and it was very exciting to be able to challenge myself and learn something out of my comfort zone. It was really awesome to learn how to program and writing my first program was really exciting and rewarding. I completed 2 programming courses at Pima before transferring to the UofA.
The first semester at the UA was a little rough. I went from going to a 13 student classroom to a 200+ student classroom. Adjusting to the times of the classes was difficult, because at the UA classes usually are 3 times a week for 50 minutes whereas at Pima it was twice a week 2 hours. Trying to find the right resources early on the semester was a challenge. I did not know about the tutoring center until about a quarter into the semester and if I would have known about this since the first day, it would have been an easier transition. Knowing where things were located was another challenge. I definitely got lost a lot, even though I am from Tucson, I really had never walked around UA before. However, being part of Arizona’s science engineering and math scholars (ASEMS) really helped me feel like I belonged to a community. I was with other transfer students and I was provided with a mentor, who was also a transfer student. Knowing that with my struggles I was not alone in it, I felt like the imposter syndrome for sure the first semester at UA. Being in ASEMS also helped me better study and prepare for her exams, especially in CS.
What advice would you give to incoming transfer students?
My advice is to make sure you are talking to advisors especially at the UA like maybe a semester or two semester before you decide to transfer over so you have a smooth transition and you are not going to take any classes that will not transfer or just making sure you are on the right track. Also try to navigate around campus before you start classes and maybe during the summer because there's less traffic, less people so it is easier to get around. Also finding your resources early on asking them about tutoring, how do office hours work and and maybe try to find other students who maybe transferring too so you have that sense of belonging and you won't feel alone. Sometimes you will encounter failures but that is okay and don’t be afraid to reach out for help if you ever need it. That is why everyone is here to help you out.
What has been the most beneficial resource? If you were to give yourself advice on when you first started taking Computer Science classes, what would this be?
Transitioning over from Pima into the UA, I think the biggest resource that really helped me out was the tutoring. Before, I really did not know where to go for help and some of these problems were so specific that you can't figure out the right reason and you cannot refer to a text book to answer your questions. If I had to give myself some feedback it would be to figure out what your question is. With time I learned that the tutors don't read my code and understand right away, so you have to figure out beforehand where the issue is going wrong. I think this is something I would advise myself to start thinking about early on rather than towards the end of the semester.
How has your time spent at the UA and taking CS courses help you get into your internship and how is that forming post graduation plans?
I took 210 over the summer and It was one of my favorite classes. I really like the instructor, Rick Mercer’s teaching and we learned about GUIs and then also we created our own test cases and that class really helped me in my internship. Also after talking to a few companies at the career fair I noticed that a lot of them really were looking for those students who have taken 210 and 245, when you take those classes in your major you have open doors and any internship is possible. CSC 210 was one of the most beneficial classes I took because I started learning about test cases. That really helped me get an internship and be comfortable with it and that is when I started getting more projects in my internship and they were related to testing. Also taking 335 where I learned about object oriented programming really helped me. In some of my interviews with companies while looking for summer internships they asked some object oriented questions.
What company are you doing your internship with and what roles and responsibilities do you have at your current internship?
The company I am currently doing my Internship with is Gyros Protein Technologies and the roles that I have been doing is testers. For example, I am working on a project which I am just finishing up; there is an instrument that required a new pcm board to be installed because the nano board they were using on the instrument was outdated. So I had to use an old document that contained test cases and that were very big, to create new regression test cases. So I ended up making 305 test cases and then there are 4 different users so you have to make sure which users have access to that respective test case and if they pass or fail for each user.
Where do you see yourself after graduation? Has this internship sparked your interest to pursue a career in?
I have actually been with this company since my senior year in high school. I got really lucky that they opened this internship spot for me. With that being said, I want to try maybe moving out of state because I have been here in Tucson my whole life. I want to see what CS is like in other industries and areas. So I am kind of in the scientific industry but I want to be open minded and try it out. I have an internship lined up with Capitol Group in Irving, CA. I think after graduation if that goes well I am hoping to get a job with them or maybe move somewhere out of state or out of the city and try working in finance.
How has Imposter syndrome played a role in your personal experience?
In my first semester just talking to other students; when I had lab they would give us a work sheets where we had to solve a few problems and if I didn’t know the answer immedietaly I just felt so stupid and if other classmates knew it right away, I would kind of just shut down. I think with the imposter syndrome and me shutting down made me realize that not everyone is going to be at the same level as you. For me personally, I am pretty slow at learning things so it takes me a few tries and acknowledging that that is okay that not everyone is at your same pace helped me overcome the syndrome. Some people can learn things right away and other people take a longer time. Don't be ashamed that you face imposter syndrome. Be vocal about it and express yourself, there might me other students facing the syndrome and talking to each other helps get through. No question is a stupid question, never hesistae to ask for help! Also, never compare yourself to other people or their experiences. Always focus on yourself and your experience to put less stress on your objectives.
Any additional tips or advice for students?
Don't give up, don't compare yourself to other people and always think of the end goal. I know for me when I was in the pre-major, just thinking about getting into the major and how rewarding that would be and once I got into the major, I wanted to cry. Then I had to think about graduation and how my hard work has paid off, because I think CS is one of those careers that you get what you put in. It is challenging but it is rewarding. I think this is all I have to say!
Taylor Goldberg is an incoming freshman pursuing a BS in Computer Science student Taylor is from Queek Creek, AZ and attended Casteel High School before attending the University of Arizona.
Why did you pick Computer Science as your major?
I chose Computer Science as my major so I could follow in my mother’s footsteps. She is a Computer Science major herself and because of her, I have been heavily inspired to improve women empowerment in the tech. industry. Likewise, I have a had a fascinating admiration for technology since I was a little girl. My eyes light up every single time I see a new gadget, and I turn into a kid on Christmas morning... a kid more anxious than ever to open their toys!
What are you looking forward to this upcoming semester?
I‘m looking forward to expanding my opportunities. Computer Science offers endless possibilities and I am eager to explore the unknown that lives in the technology industry today!
I chose the University of Arizona because it provides an excellent education for entrepreneurs and innovation.
Taylor responded: I chose Computer Science as my major so I could follow in my mother’s footsteps. She is a Computer Science major herself and because of her, I have been heavily inspired to improve women empowerment in the tech. industry. Likewise, I have a had a fascinating admiration for technology...
Aaron Valenzuela is a BS in Computer Science student and recently joined our UA Tutoring Center team. Aaron is a native Tucsonan and attended Pima Community College before transferring to the University of Arizona.
Why did you select computer science? How did faculty at Pima influence your decision?
As a child, I was always on the family computer until one of my siblings had to kick me off of it. I mostly played cheap flash games but I was also aware of the immense amount of vastly different information that was swirling around on the internet that allowed me to learn about almost anything I wanted to. I remember thinking at a young age that a computer wasn’t a complete inanimate object and that they had to have some kind of human feelings because of how much computers are capable of doing. I really enjoyed spending my time on a keyboard so I decided at an early age that I wanted to do something involving computers. The hardware side wasn’t very appealing to me so I decided to try the software side since i’m more familiar with programs already and I wanted to learn how computers worked behind the scenes. Computer science answered many of the “how?” questions that I’ve always asked myself growing up playing on my computer. How does the computer know to end the game when I lose all my lives? How does this game know exactly where I left off since the last time I opened it? I started school at Pima Community College where I got my AGEC-S and completed my general classes so that I was able to transfer to the University of Arizona and pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science. During my time at Pima I took my first programming class that I really struggled in. I was very disappointed because it was something I’ve always dreamed of doing and I began to question if I was even competent enough to pursue this type of career. But I was not ready to give up just yet! I took a Discrete Math class at Pima and although it was a difficult subject, I had a phenomenal professor that urged me not to give up. I decided to not switch majors and give programming another attempt at the University of Arizona once I transferred in 2018. I enjoyed everything about my intro classes and I am so glad I decided to stick with computer science. I’m happy that things turned out the way they did and I couldn’t imagine myself doing something else.
What advice would you give to incoming transfer students?
My advice to transfer students is to make as many friends as you can in your classes. Talk to as many people as you can in those classes and get all of their numbers because it's extremely difficult to do this all on your own. I lean a little more on the introverted side so I wish I had broken out of my shell more when I first started because my peers have helped me multiple times when I was stuck on homework and had no idea how to move to the next step. TAs and professors won’t always be available all the time, and as your classes get more specific and complicated there are less TAs available to ask for help so I wouldn’t always rely on them for aid. It is also very good practice to help others when they need it as well because it improves your understanding of programming concepts and it helps to familiarize yourself more with the material.
What area/sub-area in CS are you most interested/excited about?
I am really interested in developing games and AIs. To this day, every time i'm playing a video game I tell myself: “I wonder how they programmed that? That must have taken so long to figure out.” I’ve made a couple of games for school but my ultimate goal is to put a game out on the PlayStore or AppStore. They’re so difficult to write sometimes but the end result is always worth it. Artificial Intelligence also has a strong presence in gaming which is why I’m interested in learning more about them in order to improve my game developing skills. AIs like Siri or Alexa seem so complex and it would be so fascinating to see how they work.
What are your career goals?
I really enjoy teaching people about what I do because i’m a firm believer that anyone can learn how to program if given the right tools. Everyone absorbs material differently and it's important to keep that in mind when teaching students anything. After gaining some experience in my field I would like to eventually enter a teaching position and provide the right tools to aspiring programmers that want to learn about computer science. Another one of my main goals is to utilize my skills and my career to help the LGBTQIA+ community in some way. As a member of this community I think it’s important to play my part in helping the LGBTQIA+ community, especially LGBTQIA+ youth who are struggling with a high suicide rate and homelessness.
What has been a meaningful experience that you have had in the CS department?
The way CS students stick together and help each other out was an amazing experience. This type of support amongst my peers didn’t really exist when I was taking my general courses. During most of my CS classes, if someone sitting at the table wasn’t understanding the concept being discussed during a lecture, the rest of the table would always step in to help them out. I think every CS student understands that our material in class can be very tough sometimes so they're always more than willing to provide guidance. Piazza has helped me get through countless issues and bugs that I was having while completing my programming assignments. Almost everyone you meet is willing to help and it’s a nice little community that I will miss being a part of when I graduate.
Jade Marmorstein is a senior BS in Computer Science student. Jade is also minoring in 1) Japanese Language, 2)Chinese Studies, and 3)Business Administration. Jade attended HS in Minnesota and decided to attend the University of Arizona because of Tucson’s weather, culture and people. Jade is highly involved in the UA Game Development (GameDev) Club, serving as president of the club.
In an interview with Martin Marquez, Jade shared her experience in the CS department:
Question: What excites you about the field/sub-fields in CS?
I think what I love most about CS is that feeling of satisfaction when your code actually works. You can toil for hours, even days or weeks pulling your hair out in frustration and tears as everything breaks and you fix bug after bug - but that rush of satisfaction when you finally hit "run" and it all works just makes it all so worth it. There's something that feels powerful about being able to make the computer do what you want, and when you can go "I told the computer to do a thing and the computer did the thing!" it feels amazing!
Question:What is GameDev Club and why should someone join?
Game Dev Club is a club for all things game development. We're a community for promoting and teaching game development, and we enable students to learn the tools to develop their own projects and skills outside of class. It's a great way to meet and get to know other people with common interests, show off your projects and see what others are working on, and get/give help on learning new tools. We are recognized as the largest CS club on campus, but that doesn't mean we're just a bunch of programmers! Game development encompasses a wide variety of disciplines, and in addition to programming and the technical side of things we've had meetings covering topics like art, audio, animation, design, community management, genre analysis, and more. If it has anything to do with game development, it's welcome! We also welcome all experience levels, so whether you've been making games for years, or have never made a game in your life, there is a place for you!
Our club activities include weekly meetings during the school year, game nights and workshops, and our biggest event is a game jam once every semester. The game jam is a weekend-long hackathon like event where people form teams and create a game over the course of the weekend.
Question: What advice would you give to someone interested in game development?
My advice is: Make games! The best way to learn is to do it!
My other advice is: SCOPE! Do not set out to make Dark Souls or Sword Art Online. You may have a big grand idea for a game but the reality is big grand games require a big grand amount of time and resources that as a busy CS student you almost certainly don't have. Start small, create a game that is manageable and be flexible with your vision if something is more challenging than you thought or not working out like you thought it would. If you try to learn everything at once it can get overwhelming. Be patient with yourself, and take the time to find and consult resources like tutorials, documentation for game engines, or asking more experienced peers.
CS can also get extremely busy and you may feel you never have the time to devote to personal projects or learning on your own. That's okay! Events like hackathons or game jams are a great way to set aside a small chunk of time - a single weekend, usually - since you can plan ahead to attend such an event, and devote that time to creating something and learning as much as possible! Usually games made in 48 hours are hardly ever complete, but that's okay - I guarantee you will learn a lot, and even if it's not 100% complete it's still a project you can put on your resume/portfolio and that can be a good talking point in interviews with potential employers.
As for actual game dev tools, here are just a few (free!) game engines I personally like and recommend:
Unity - very versatile and can be used for 2D and 3D and just about any game, and has a decent editor interface. But it can be a little intimidating at first and take a while to learn. However there's lots of great tutorials and resources out there to help.
Love2D - Great for folks who already have some basic programming knowledge, this is a framework for making games with the lua programming language. It's just writing code in a text editor - I personally like to use ZeroBrane, an IDE specifically for Lua.
RenPy - this is an engine specifically for making visual novel games. Great for creating more narrative/story-based games and has a python-based language that is easy to learn with little to no prior programming experience.
Question: Why is it important to have a creative outlet? How does the CS field help you with that?
Someone once asked me a similar question about what motivates me to create. I told them I'm a dreamer, I love to get lost in my imagination and dream about creating new worlds, and then bring those worlds to life. Art can be both an escape from reality and a beautiful reflection of it. Humans are surrounded by art all the time - whether it's visual art, or the music you listen to, or even food someone else cooked. I think being able to create something that is uniquely your own and you can fashion into whatever you want it to be is something really special and powerful, and can be a profound way of sharing expressions of yourself and your world with others as well. I think CS is a really powerful way to create. Of course, CS is a STEM field and most people think of it as very technical and math or science-heavy and not really a form of art - but I think the ability to code opens up completely new and innovative possibilities for creativity and art.
Tell us about your comics.
I've been making comics since middle school, for about 8 years now. Most of my original projects are currently on indefinite hiatus and most were fan comics (mostly about Pokémon haha). I do hope to get back to them at some point though, but in the meantime I have two main projects happening. Both are short stories kind of building on the lore for a much larger comic I hope to publish in the future:
"Creatures of the Night" - a short horror/action comic about vampire assassins. The plot follows Drach, a veteran assassin who is put in charge of two surprise apprentices and must learn to work with them on his latest mission. I hope to have the comic finished by the end of this summer, and I update the pages to both ComicFury and Deviantart. (I also made a visual novel adaptation of it at the last game jam! I also hope to finish that this summer since the art is unfinished and there are still a few bugs, but the full story is playable on itch.io).
"Sing for Me, My Doll" - my entry for Webtoons short story contest, which ends June 30th so I'm really behind and working fast to finish it! The story is a short horror/fantasy/drama about a lonely sorceress who decides to create a living doll to be her perfect companion...but something goes horribly wrong. You can read it on Webtoons, and since it's for the contest and audience engagement is part of the judging would love if anyone wanted to give it a read and like/comment/share it, haha.
And I have lots more comics planned in the future once these are done!
Chelsey Bergmann is a Junior at the University pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science with a minor in Spanish. Chelsey is originally from Wisconsin and has really enjoyed participating in HackArizona where she and her team created an AI named Annette to improve the job seeking and recruiting process using Java and JavaFX. Chelsey is currently working as an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the development of an app that uses guided imagery to help those with feelings of loneliness or depression as a result of COVID-19 or other distressing situations.
In an interview with Arthur Jordan, Chelsey shared her experience in the CS department:
Graham Walker is originally from Eugene, Oregon. Graham attended Pima Community College before transferring to the UA. Graham has been a CS department tutor (Spring 2019) and is currently serving as a tutor coordinator (since Fall 2019). Graham anticipates completing the BS in Computer Science this upcoming Fall 2020 semester.
In an interview with Martin Marquez, Graham shared his experience in the CS department:
Tell me about the impact CS tutors have on CS students. What do you enjoy about being a tutor? Tutor coordinator?
A CS tutors main goal is to guide students to a place where they can feel confident in their abilities to solve problems. From my own experience, coding can feel very overwhelming in the beginning. Especially if you've had no prior exposure. It can feel as though you're fighting with the language rather than confidently solving the given problem. I think having peers to talk to is generally an important thing to have access to not only for the technical aspects but also feeling like you're part of a group. That group--and the shared experience that comes with it--can be a terrific lifeline and feeling supported is a powerful thing. It's my hope that the tutors help students not only feel comfortable with their CS skills but also comfortable within the department in a more general sense.
What excites you about the field/sub-fields in CS?
One of my favorite courses that I've taken at the U of A has been Cloud Computing. We spent the semester setting up servers, building simple websites, handling cookies and user authentication, and using databases for some simple back end experience. Everything in that course felt very applicable to the real world, and of course it is. Every time you hop on the internet you're interacting with these tools and systems. The prevalence of these systems is also what excites me about the field in a more general sense. That is, there are many options and roads to travel down that you can apply a CS education towards. From game design to the big tech corporations to education and academia, there is bound to be a field that will not only interest you but will also allow you to use your degree in the "real world". And these skills are very much in demand.
What memorable experience have you had in the department?
One of my more memorable experiences was being a part of the academic program review for the CS department. I worked with faculty and a grad student to get a picture of the state of the department. This covered everything from class sizes and departmental growth to gauging the sense of community within the department. The process pulled the curtain back and gave me a more well-rounded glimpse of some of the things the department needs to work on but also what is amazing about it in the first place. While bureaucracy can move like a sloth, it is heartening to know that problems are being addressed and the things that are working well are being leaned into.
Why is it important to get involved in student organizations, research, service, etc. in the department and/or on campus?
I think it's very important to get involved in the department in some capacity. The main reason being a sense of ownership and belonging. If you plug in and engage with the department and your peers you will inevitably feel more comfortable. You might do it for pragmatic reasons like networking and building soft skills but the real payoff is feeling like you've made a home for yourself. This is purely anecdotal, but it's my view that sometimes our more human side can get lost in our pursuit of technical skills. I would argue that working on "people skills" is just as valuable as the CS education itself as they will benefit almost every facet of your life, personal and professional. There are also many different ways of getting involved. You might find a student position (tutor or TA, etc.), join a club, become a mentor, or just simply talk and engage with your peers. If people get involved I think they'll feel a great sense of fulfillment in supporting others as well as feeling supported themselves.
Adrian Bao is a Tucson native and attended Pima Community College before transferring to the UA. Adrian will be doing a virtual internship with Amazon this summer and plans on graduating Fall 2020 with a BS in Computer Science.
In an interview with Martin Marquez , Adrian shared his experience in the CS department:
What excites you about the field/sub-fields in CS?
Response: One of the things I wasn't aware of when I initially became interested in Computer Science was the vast number of specialties or emphasis you can choose from when going into industry. It's amazing that a degree in Computer Science can allow individuals to work in a wide variety of fields such as Frontend, Security, Embedded Systems, AI, the list goes on! I was excited at the opportunity to explore the different sub-fields through the courses provided at the UofA and I discovered my desired emphasis through a combination of coursework for Cloud Computing (CSC346) as well as my internship at CyVerse. The projects I got to work on and the technologies I got to use in both of those experiences were fascinating and I always continued to explore beyond the scope of the original projects. Additionally, I was looking for a specialty where I can make an impact with the software I would work on. Given that cloud & edge computing are booming right now, I realized that my contributions in the cloud-based industry would help make a significant impact on the users. It took a while to figure it all out but through some trial and error these past couple years, I am excited I have finally found my specialty within CS.
What memorable experience have you had in the department?
Response: HackArizona 6.0 this past January was so much fun. It amazes me that a student-led event like that can bring so many people together from various Universities and provide opportunities to connect with fellow technology-enthusiasts and employers for an entire weekend. This was my second year attending HackArizona, however, it was the first time I had a team intent on building something cool over the weekend. We went in light-hearted, coding for the fun of it and enjoying the weekend but we realized on the second day that what we had planned out as a project was actually pretty cool and might garner some attention. Too many Red Bulls, pizzas, and a 23-hour coding sprint later, we submitted our project on Sunday with only an hour to spare before demoing it to sponsors. Sponsorship demos was one of my favorite moments of the entire weekend. Not only did we get to meet fellow students and learn about the awesome stuff they built but when speaking with the sponsors and seeing the excitement on their faces when demoing our project, our team was encouraged and motivated at the positive feedback we were receiving. It just goes to show that attending the event with an open mind can lead to completing an exciting project that receives recognition. The entire HackArizona experience is incredibly rewarding, regardless of what you choose to participate in. I salute the Computer Science students that organize the event because they provide us, as participants, opportunities to connect with employers and gain experience working on a project to professionally demo to sponsors interested in your development. I am glad I got to participate in HackArizona and highly recommend it to any Computer Science student.
Tell us about your internships with CyVerse, Garmin. Why are internships important?
Response: I transferred to the University without any technical experience on my resume, which worried me a little bit. In my first meeting with Arthur Jordan, he recommended I start looking for opportunities as soon as I can stating that internships provide valuable experiences that help expand your interpersonal, collaborative, and technical skill sets. I took his advice and immediately started hunting for internship opportunities on Handshake, which is where I found CyVerse. As this was my first internship, imposter syndrome jumped in and I was intimidated thinking I wasn't prepared for this type of job. However, from day one, they made it clear that an internship is a learning experience and that they would provide any support I needed throughout the duration of the internship. I was excited at the opportunity to work on cloud-based software and with every passing day, I realized that CyVerse helped me discover my passion within Computer Science. Given that they are located on-campus, I have been fortunate enough to remain with the company since I started back in January of 2019, working during the Fall and Spring semesters. During the summers, they have been supportive of me exploring experiences at larger companies such as Garmin (Summer 2019) and now Amazon (Summer 2020), which interestingly enough, were both obtained by applying on Handshake! While working at Garmin, I had the opportunity to observe what it's like to work on an international team with a highly active production pipeline. Additionally, this is where I learned a crucial point, never be afraid to ask for help. As an intern, you might feel insignificant or afraid to bother the full-time engineers with your intern work, but that is totally not the case. They were in your shoes once and value your contributions as an intern. Reaching out to your team, however large it is, can show them you invite collaboration and open to discussion with others. The standard path of just getting a degree and graduating can get you quite far, however, exploring internships early on can really make an impact on your technical and interpersonal skills and gain the attention of recruiters. Not only does it give you an inside look at what it's like to work for a specific company but it also helps you gain priceless skills through a wide variety of experiences. I view internships as a bridge between a college degree and industry. They help you establish a strong foundation, build connections, and prepare you for industry as a Software Engineer or Program Manager.
What surprised you most when you transferred to the UA?
Response: I transferred from Pima Community College where the standard class size for a Computer Science course was roughly 20 or 30 students, max. Coming into the University and taking CSC120 blew my mind with how many students were in the class. I came from an environment where it was easy to just walk up to the professor and ask them a question about some bug in your code but I quickly realized that was not the case at the University. Fortunately, office hours, the TA's and Tutor's were all great resources early on that helped me get acclimated to the University. Another thing that surprised me when I transferred was the number of opportunities available to students to connect with employers or learn about internships/jobs. STEM-oriented Career Fairs, Handshake, HackArizona and even the weekly job listings added to the Computer Science Newsletter all provided opportunities that I didn't quite have at the Community College level. I am grateful for the resources provided by the department that helped make my transition to the University much easier.
John Kounelis is graduating this spring with a BS in Computer Science and minor in math. John will be returning to San Diego, where he grew up, working as a software engineer for BAE Systems.
In an interview with Martin Marquez, John shared his experience in the CS department:
Response: Just within my lifetime, I've seen how computer science has helped completely transform the way the world operates and how people
interact. Whether it's for better or for worse, it's certainly
exciting to be a participant in the field and at the cutting-edge of
solving the problems of the digital age.
2) What memorable experience have you had in the department?
how many hours we dumped into getting it all to work, but it was a lot
3) What advice would you give fellow transfer students?
in the advising office, get involved in research, or whatever you can
do. It's the best way to get connected with your department and other
students and can lead to more opportunities down the road.
4) How can a student develop a connection with their peers?
involved! Also, if you hang around the Gould-Simpson Atrium enough you
can easily befriend the "locals."
5) What do you enjoy about being a UGTA? Course coordinator?
on something they were struggling with (particularly if it is
something I struggled with when I took the class). An added bonus of
being a Course Coordinator is that students tend to look to you for
advice with other things (what other CS classes to take, advice on
getting an internship, etc), which I enjoy because I get to help them
with things beyond the classroom.
6) How did doing an internship help you get your job with BAE Systems?
meeting with the college hire manager who offered me a full-time
position. Like many companies, BAE Systems sees internships as an
interview process in and of themselves because they get to see how you
operate while working in their environment.
7) What are you looking forward to the most in your new job?
and learning not only more technical skills, but the skills necessary
to succeed in industry.
Matthew Romero will be graduating this spring. Matthew will be earning, with honors, the BS in Computer Science with a mathematics minor. Originally from Winslow, Arizona, Matthew developed an interest in computer science at a young age. After graduation, Matthew will be moving to the bay area as part of Google’s Engineering Residency Program.
When asked about the interview process for Google's residency program, Matthew answered:
Response: The whole interview process consisted of 7 rounds beginning in September 2019 and ending with an offer in December. Throughout the entire process, I was a nervous wreck. After each interview I would feel terrible, thinking that I just blew my chances. I was assuming the worst over the entire 3 months, which was really unhealthy for my mental health. Despite this, I felt like I needed to prove to myself that I could see it to the end. I wanted to make both myself and my family proud. So, I would tell myself that as long as I try my hardest, there is no reason to be disappointed. I knew that even if rejection did come, it wouldn't be the end of the world, or mean that I am less of a programmer. By taking a more stoic approach, I was able to cope with feelings of uncertainty. I am sure that many of us have experienced just how competitive the industry is nowadays. With that said, it is important to remember that failure does not define you or "place" you in a certain tier of programmers. I failed at many other interviews during all stages of my college career and would go through periods of stress and frustration as a result. Just remember to shake it off in a healthy way and continue to push towards your personal end goal.
Omar R. Gebril is a senior computer science student. Omar is from Cairo, Egypt and became interested in computer science as a result of participating in a robotics engineering camp.
When asked to recount a memorable experience in CS, Omar answered:
Response: The whole journey from start to end is a memorable experience of its own. I mean, the most unforgettable to me personally is the countless number of long nights spent programming and pacing around my room trying to get my code right before the deadlines. I assure you the word “countless” is an understatement. However; the all-time most epic experience ever related to our department is definitely going to the HACKATHON! Even if you’re not trying to submit projects, it’s so much more than worth it to go talk to the sponsors’ representatives and meet people. Trust me, if they’re at a hackathon, they have to be interesting.
Nick Rizzo is a first year pre-computer science student. Nick is originally from Indiana and decided to attend the University of Arizona because of many reasons including great weather, scholarship opportunities, helpful advising, and job prospects.
When asked to provide advice for incoming CS students, Nick answered:
Response: Do more than what is required, CS is a very big field and there is always something more to learn. When you aren't doing classwork, work on learning another language, another library, or another technology. Employers love to see that you know how to use the technologies they use, it will make your github account look really good, and it will make you better at coding in general.
From Arthur Jordan: It has been a pleasure working with Angel throughout his time here in the Computer Science department. I first met Angel in my role as an Undergraduate Academic Advisor where I was able to help him navigate University policies and procedures and he has made it a point to be actively engaged in the department through various roles. Angel has continuously demonstrated persistence, resilience and perseverance despite various personal and academic challenges; meanwhile, he has given back to his computer science peers through section leading and his time as an undergraduate TA. Angel is constantly reflecting on his experiences to better himself and this is very clear in his personality and his self-confidence; I am excited to see the impact that Angel will have in his role at Google.
Question: Tell me a little about yourself and how you started off in Computer Science.
Response: My name is Angel Aguayo and I am a Computer Science major and I was also a Mathematics major up until last semester, but I changed my Mathematics major to a minor when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to complete the requirements in the same timeframe as my Computer Science requirements. My interest in Computer Science started at a really young age because I was always interested in computers but my family neither had computers or internet growing up. During elementary school I would join as many clubs as possible that involved technology; the most significant club was in 5th grade where we did the Techno Squad and worked with different recording software, PowerPoint, etc. This got me really excited about technology in general and come high school there was an introductory programming course in QBasic, which my friend and I instantly hopped on. As a Senior in high school I didn’t know what I wanted to study in college, but I had been involved in band since the 5th grade so I thought I would go ahead and study music. Upon entering college, I auditioned to play flute and I got accepted but it didn’t feel like the path I wanted to pursue; I ended up meeting with the Advisors a couple weeks before the start of the semester and changed my major to Computer Science.
Question: What has been the biggest challenge as a Computer Science student?
Response: I really enjoyed CSC 110 and 120 and determined that Computer Science was the perfect major for me to pursue alongside math, but at the end of my sophomore year I was hit with an episode of depression that put me behind in my math courses. At that time, I was in CSC 335 and 345 and lost motivation halfway through the semester and was attending fewer and fewer classes. One of the biggest obstacles I’ve experienced is a lack of motivation in general; at the beginning it was really hard to tough it through and try different things to figure it out. I was not used to failure and it severely hindered my growth, but I feel that it was a learning experience in the way that I finally realized the benefits of going to office hours. This realization gave me confidence and motivation to be more involved with the department and helped me to secure internship opportunities.
Question: What has your Career Development looked like as a Computer Science student?
Response: At the beginning of my sophomore year I started to think more about my future and started attending the various career fairs on campus where I could interact with individuals in the industry. This led me to speak with representatives at State Farm, which is how I was able to secure my first internship with them. During this time, I also spoke with Microsoft and applied for the Microsoft Employer Program where I went through a series of phone interviews, in-person interviews, ‘whiteboard’ interviews, etc. Eventually I was brought on-site to interview, which went terribly because after each ‘round’ I left feeling that I did not perform well. After being rejected by Microsoft I received an offer with State Farm to intern over the summer and found it to be a very wonderful experience for a first internship. After my time at State Farm I wanted to aim bigger and secure an internship with Microsoft for the following summer. During the fall career fair, I was able to land interviews with Sandia National Laboratories, Google, Microsoft, and Hexagon Mining; I ended up securing two competing offers with Sandia and Hexagon Mining. Through a series of unfortunate events I was not able to participate in either experience but was able to secure an internship with N P Photonics. At the conclusion of my Junior year I started looking ahead to finding full-time employment where I secured interviews with Raytheon, NSA, Google, and Microsoft. While I was going through the Google and Microsoft application process, I took a lot of time to practice questions through LeetCode and went into my interviews more prepared. I remember working with my biology lab partner on a lab report and getting an email from Microsoft extending a full-time offer and I couldn’t be happier. I didn’t accept the offer right away because I was finishing up my final rounds of interviews with Google and needed an extension; after about two weeks I was in the atrium waiting for a class to start and I got a phone call from my Google recruiter extending an offer. In the end, I accepted the offer with Google despite Microsoft being my ‘dream company’ because my gut was telling me to go with their offer. It was an incredibly humbling experience to reflect on my journey and starting off with no access to a computer or internet and struggling with courses and mental health, which would eventually lead to success in the way of solidifying an offer with Google.
Kapua is a first year pre-computer science student. Kapua was born and raised in Tucson and graduated from Amphitheater High School. Kapua recently accepted a paid internship experience with Axon for this summer.
When asked to provide a study tip/advice to her peers, Kapua answered:
Response: My best study tip for peers in Computer Science is to start projects early, we can listen to all the lectures and workshops, but our skills develop during assignments, the application of the tools given to us is what makes us learn. To the peers I have in general, find that mode in which you study best, and exploit it as much as possible. For me, it's in a busy environment (like the union, mall or a cultural center) with instrumental upbeat music."
Junior pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Computer Science and a minor in Information Science, Technology, and the Arts (ISTA).
What suggestions do you have for students doing online coursework?
Response: Creating a consistent weekly schedule can help manage one’s time and help with keeping up with all the lectures and homeworks being put out. I think one thing I constantly struggle with is creating unreasonable tasks for myself. I’ll plan to wake up at 7am to crank out a few assignments, but I’m totally a night person and I usually end up sleeping through the 20 alarms set. That being said, creating a reasonable schedule that works around the times that you feel most productive is definitely key. Also, take lots of notes!