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 Spotlights provides a platform to tell our students' unique backgrounds, experiences, and stories. After reading and watching, I know that you will agree- our students are incredible.
Thanks for reading and watching! - Martin Marquez, Director of Academic and Support Services
Portia Cooper is a UA senior pursuing a BS in Computer Science and Mathematics (dual major). A local Tucsonan, Portia decided to attend the UA because of the scholarships and dual-enrollment opportunities. Portia started coding as a 12 year old taking part in the UA Girls Who Code program. Now, Portia is the lead facilitator for Girls Who Code! In addition to taking on challenging coursework and being involved in outreach, Portia has been doing research with Prof. Mihai Surdeanu and Prof. Eduardo Blanco. Her research focuses on "creating neural classifiers that are robust against hate speech that is laced with homoglyphs". Portia's research has resulted in recognition as part of the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing Program (AiC). Portia was selected as a 2023 Collegiate Award recipient for "Training Transformer Models to Recognize Hate Speech Masked by Homoglyphs."
Portia plans to pursue a PhD in Computer Science with aspirations to teach in the future. Portia's advice to students pursuing CS at UA : "start your programming assignments as soon as possible ....get to know your TAs" Outside of academics, Portia enjoys thrifting and hiking.
Watch the interview and learn about Portia's experience in CS at UA.
Transcript of Portia's responses can be found here.
Sophia Harms is a Department of Computer Science sophomore pursuing a BS in Computer Science. A local Tucsonan, Sophia always wanted to attend the University of Arizona because of the campus atmosphere. Sophia recalls an impactful visit as part of a University of Arizona Society of Women Engineers outreach event, noting "I got to sit in college courses for a day and ask other women about their experience in college." Sophia chose computer science as a major because of her fascination with computers and "the creativity behind the creation of the programs". Sophia plans on pursuing a career in video game development - to make programs, like games, that allow people to come together. Sophia enjoyed her first year and the opportunities to meet and connect with people on campus. Her first year led to an amazing opportunity -working as a Cloud Engineer Intern at Critical Path Institute! Sophia advises others to pursue internships because "it gives them an opportunity to apply the skills taught in the classroom to the real world." It can be difficult for first year students to get internships, as such, Sophia suggests students emphasize a willingness to learn and adapt to new situations. Sophia has also participated in our inaugural CS Buddy Mentor program as a mentee. Sophia's mentor, Brooke Adkins, helped with the process for getting the internship and gave guidance during the year. Sophia's advice to new/incoming students" "put yourself out there." During her free time, Sophia enjoys playing video games, painting, reading and baking.
Transcript of Sophia's responses can be found here.
Caroline Hyland is a Department of Computer Science Alumni (graduated this past May 2023). Caroline earned a BS in Computer Science and BA in Spanish with minors in Molecular and Cellular Biology and World Literature. Being a third generation Wildcat, Caroline decided to attend the University of Arizona, in part because of her family's history with the UA, being selected as a Flinn Scholar, and the campus environment and sense of community. Caroline discovered her passion for computer science while enrolled in a CS course in high school. While at UA, Caroline was busy! She has been a College of Science Ambassador, CS Undergraduate Teaching Assistant and Course Coordinator, and conducted research with Prof. Mihai Surdeanu, to name a few activities.
For the next year (starting August 2023), Caroline will be working as an English teaching assistant in Taiwan as a result of being awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship! After that experience, Caroline plans on returning to the UA in pursuit of a PhD in Computer Science. Caroline enjoys reading, needlepoint, hiking, traveling, listening to music and watching movies. She is also a black belt in Taekwondo! Caroline share this advice with incoming CS students: "get involved as early as you can and reach out to other students in the major."
Watch the interview and learn about Caroline's experience in CS at UA.
Transcript of Caroline's responses can be found here.
Elsie Bold is a Department of Computer Science senior undergraduate student graduating Spring 2023! Elsie will be earning a BS in Computer Science with a minor in Statistics and Data Science. Elsie decided, in part, to attend the University of Arizona because her sister lives in Tucson. Elsie's hometown of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, is a 21 hour flight from Tucson (wow!). Elsie chose computer science as a major because of her intrigue into programming languages. Being a single parent attending university in a foreign country "was really challenging for me to complete my degree while simultaneously taking care of my daughter". Her determination and belief in herself coupled with her intrigue in CS topics, has resulted in obtaining a position at the University of Arizona as a Cloud Engineer (way to go Elsie!). Elsie plans on working at UA and pursuing a graduate degree. During her free time, Elsie enjoys hiking, working out, and dancing.
Transcript of Elsie's responses can be found here.
Mahshad Habibpourparizi is a Department of Computer Science sophomore undergraduate student. Mahshad is pursuing the BS in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics. Being an international student from Iran, Mahshad decided to attend the University of Arizona because of opportunities to get involved in research and other activities in and out of the classroom. She started computer science early - having been taught by great instructors since middle school and seeing her code run "like magic". Mahshad is doing research with Prof. Todd Proebsting and plans to attend graduate school to continue academic work and expand her knowledge. Besides being a full time student and doing research, Mahshad is also a Teaching Assistant for MATH 100 and a CS Buddy Mentor noting "it feels really good to be able to help people". During her free time, Mahshad enjoys reading poetry (especially Persian poems), going to the gym and playing sports with friends, hiking, being out in nature, and being out and about (away from the desk). Mahshad has these great pieces of advice for incoming UA CS students : "be patient...there are resources at the University of Arizona...reach out to your advisor...ask for help".
Transcript of Mahshad's responses can be found here.
Connor Olive is a Department of Computer Science senior undergraduate student. Connor is pursuing the BA in Computer Science with a thematic minor. Connor considers Tucson his home even though he has moved around a bit. He choose to stay in Tucson and enroll at the University of Arizona to be close to family and because of the UA Study Abroad Programs. Computer Science was not Connor's first major - he initially started with physics. It was during the pandemic that Connor developed an interested with computers and "fell in love with programming and hacking." Connor created the Hack the Flag club at University of Arizona in Spring 2022. The club helps members learn the types of hacking techniques and participates in the National Cyber League (NCL). In their first competition in NCL Fall 2022, the UA club placed 10th nationally out of 470 universities and 214th out of 3,926 teams that competed (which includes security companies)! During his free time, Connor enjoys making music, learning instruments, hacking, shooting indie movies, making animations, and staying up way too late.
Transcript of Connor's responses can be found here.
Eric Yoon is a first year Department of Computer Science undergraduate student. Eric is pursuing the BS in Computer Science with a minor in Statistics and Data Science. Originally from Philadelphia, PA, Eric decided to attend the University of Arizona because of the large campus, class sizes, alumni network, and proximity to family (as well as the beautiful weather). Eric grew up around computers (his dad worked in the field for around 15 years) and found that CS was a great fit for his goals and interests. Eric recently started an internship with HealthTrio - a direct result of attending the CS Career Fair. During his free time, Eric enjoys basketball, watching college and professional sports, and spending time with friends and family. Eric is also Spikeball champ of his high school!
Transcript of Eric's responses can be found here.
Anthony Hsu is a senior pursuing dual majors: BS in Mathematics, Applied Emphasis and Computer Science. A native Tucsonan, Anthony attended and graduated from University High School. Anthony chose to attend the UA, in part because of his father (a ECE and MBA alum). Anthony's exposure to IBM Watson on Jeopardy piqued an interest in AI, computer science applications, and computer analytics. He learned more about CS during middle school and high school - teaching himself how to code in Python. Anthony is a CS TA - helping others succeed in CSC 110. Eventually, Anthony hopes to develop or use ML and AI to break down large amounts of data and explore findings. In this interview, Anthony discusses his experience with AZCyber Initiative, his research experience with Dr. Chi-Kwan Chan and provides insights/advice to UA students.
Amy Paul graduated from the UA Department of Computer Science with a BS in Computer Science and minor in Mathematics (Fall '21). Amy decided to continue her quest for knowledge by pursuing the MS in Computer Science. Born and raised in Champaign, Illinois, Amy decided to attend the University of Arizona, in part, because of her grandparents' proximity (during half of the year) to Tucson and scholarships earned. Amy is currently serving as the President for the Department of Computer Science Graduate Student Council (CSGSC). In this interview, Amy discusses her experience in the department, CSGSC initiatives, and the importance of getting involved. During her free time, Amy enjoys reading, singing, playing the oboe, and planning homemade escape rooms for friends.
Transcript of Amy's responses can be found here. Learn more about the Department of Computer Science Graduate Student Council, including how to get involved, officers, and events by visiting the CS Graduate Student Council page.
Rachel Whitaker is a junior pursuing dual degrees: BS in Computer Science with a minor in Korean Language and BSECE in Electrical and Computer Engineering with a minor in Mathematics. A native Tucsonan, Rachel attended and graduated from University High School. She is currently involved in the Engineering Ambassadors, Tau Beta Pi, and serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of WiCys (Women in Cybersecurity). When not doing academics/clubs, Rachel enjoys hiking, camping, skiing, and waterskiing. Rachel has hiked the Grand Canyon multiple times, has done a river trip through the length of the canyon and plans to do more hiking there. She also plans on doing a study abroad experience in South Korea next semester. Rachel answers questions about her experience at UA and the AZCyber Initiative.