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Computer Science

Name: Chandler Furman

Year: 2014

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Major: Computer Science & Economics

Computer Science at Hopkins

            The decision to be a computer science major wasn’t a difficult one for me to make. I was first introduced to programming when I took AP Compsci as a junior in high school, and I loved it from the beginning. I’ve always enjoyed problem solving, and Java was the first class in which I was learning skills that I could apply towards real-world problems. Plus, I got to do it all on my computer. When colleges asked for my intended major on their applications, Computer Science was an easy choice.

It wasn’t until I came to Hopkins when I realized just how many areas of study there are within the field of computer science. As a freshman CS major, I took a 1-credit course called M&M’s. Here, I learned about topics such as language processing, systems, and computer-integrated surgery. I had no idea that computer scientists could write programs to translate languages they had never seen before. I learned that computers were playing an increasingly significant role in surgery, because a machine can move with much more precision than a human hand. My advisor even taught a segment about the work he did to set up wireless networks to stream TV in real time. But while this course introduced me to a few topics in computer science, it was by no means exhaustive.

Whatever you choose to study, a Computer Science background will never hurt. I have friends that are using their programming backgrounds to deal with large data sets in fields such as Biology and Physics. The field of medicine is increasingly looking for programmers to help doctors store massive amounts of data, in the hopes that they can learn about diseases by efficiently analyzing data from the past. In my case, I hope to apply my computer science degree towards business applications by writing software for firms. You will be hard-pressed to find a field that couldn’t use the help of a computer scientist.

If you’re looking things to do as a CS major outside of the classroom, Hopkins has plenty of clubs for you to consider. We have clubs ranging from robotics to IEEE, as well as several clubs for engineers in general. I’ll go ahead and give a shout-out to a couple that are especially big on campus – the first of these is the Bootup Baltimore project. Members of this club visit inner-city Baltimore to teach underprivileged youth how to use computers. Another prominent club is the Johns Hopkins chapter of the Association for Computational Machinery (JHU ACM). The ACM holds meetings each week where students can go to learn about topics in computer science, and organizes off-campus activities for its members. The ACM also has its own office in the New Engineering Building, where students can go to study, play with their gadgets, or just relax. All of these clubs are a great way to get involved in the Hopkins community while serving as an outlet for your interest in computers.

Hopkins is a great place to be for incoming computer science majors. JHU is known for its wealth of undergraduate research opportunities, including in the field of computer science. Since the department is fairly small at Hopkins, it is easy to approach professors about research and hopefully get a position. Or, if you can’t find a position within the CS department, you can always take your programming skills and use them in a research position in another field. Most exciting is the recent news of a new building for the computer science building. It is expected to open in Fall, 2014 (the semester after I graduate L), but should be a great milestone for the computer science department at Hopkins. The Hopkins CS department at Hopkins is fantastic, and I can only see it getting better in the near future.

When you first think of “Computer Science Schools,” you probably don’t initially think of Hopkins – I know that I didn’t when I was looking at colleges. But if you decide that CS is something you’re interested in, I would urge you to consider applying here. We have a great program with some stellar faculty, and coming to Hopkins will open plenty of doors for you, both during your time here and after graduation. If you love this school half as much as I do, you won’t regret your decision to come here. Best of luck in your upcoming college applications!

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Click here to access more information about the Computer Science Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective as well as the Computer Science questions thread.
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Computer Science

Name: Matthew Ziegelbaum

Year: Class of 2009

Hometown:
Great Neck, NY

Major: Computer Science

Computer science is a really exciting field that compared to others at Hopkins is a relatively young field. It was born in the 1920s and has been expanding immensely since the 1950s. Since its expansion, it has been instrumental for almost every facet of the sciences and engineering.

Much like the field itself, I discovered my passion for computer science before I actually had a computer. In fourth grade, I learned to program a robot using a very basic programming language called LOGO. I saw a screen of code that I wrote make a Lego robot draw shapes on paper. I immediately became enthralled with programming. Even though I didn’t have a computer of my own, I satiated my curiosity by reading programming manuals. Ten years later, computer science was the obvious choice. When I was looking at colleges, the quality of the computer science department was paramount.

Hopkins may not initially be an obvious choice for Computer Science. Consider computer science at Hopkins to be one of its best kept secrets. Because it isn’t obvious, at a time when computer science is thriving, Comp Sci at Hopkins has remained a small department with only 90 undergraduate students. As a small department, Comp Sci has been a great community of other undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. The professors know all the students in the department, and since my advisor is only responsible for four other students, he’s always available to me.

Despite being small in number, the department still manages to provide an incredible variety in courses and opportunities. In addition to my theoretical courses, such as Automata and Computation Theory, Declarative Methods, and Natural Language Processing, I have also taken courses in which you can apply this theory: Microkernel Architecture and Design, Object Oriented Software Engineering, and Computer Networks. I’ve also had the opportunity to take courses through the Information Security Institute (ISI), a graduate program home to Avi Rubin, the computer scientist who broke into the iPhone, electronic voting machines, and Mobile SpeedPass. Through ISI, I took Rights in the Digital Age, and Security and Privacy taught by Dr. Rubin, for which my team built a secure social network for super-secretive celebrities. In fact, as a Comp Sci major, you’ll get the opportunity to participate in a variety of group projects to utilize the basic skills you learn. This semester, I’m taking Video Game Design, in which I work with another programmer, a student from MICA, and a writing seminars major to put together all the components of a video game, from story lines and music to programming the game itself.

The CS department is also home to the Johns Hopkins chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery. The JHUACM is a student organization dedicated to furthering the knowledge and advancement of computers and information technology. The international ACM, our parent organization, is the oldest computing society in the world. I’m proud to say that I have been the chair of the JHUACM for the last two years. In our office in the New Engineering Building (room 319), we have servers and workstations that are available exclusively for our members and for student groups. You become a member by attending three meetings, and after gaining membership, you’re granted swipe access to our office, accounts on all of our computers, free web hosting, an email address, and access to tens of terabytes of data. All for life. The ACM also hosts weekly meetings, where students, professors, and companies come together to give tech talks, present research, or just have fun.

A degree in CS opens the door to research and careers in pretty much any field you can imagine. We help physicists crunch numbers and civil engineers build simulators, and of course, (most importantly!) we make the Internet fun. Over my four years, I have explored the various uses for computer science through internships. My sophomore year I worked at the Kennedy Krieger Institute. I programmed a game that was used in research on Turner’s Syndrome. Since my sophomore year, I have been interning at Google, working on Google Spreadsheets. As an intern, I have written code that is incorporated into a product for millions of users.  Check out these Official Google Doc Blog entries for information about it:

…and ate free food while I was at it. ;)

Being a Comp Sci major at Hopkins has been incredibly rewarding, from the fascinating things I’ve learned, to the amazing opportunities I have had.  I cannot imagine being happier elsewhere. Every aspect of the Comp Sci program here has been fantastic.

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Click here to access more information about the Computer Science Undergraduate Program of Study.
To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective as well as the Computer Science questions thread.
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Computer Science

Name: Brendan O’Connor

Year: Class of 2008

Hometown: Billings, MT

Major: Computer Science

COMPUTER SCIENCE – AWESOMENESS, REDEFINED

Hi there! My name is Brendan O’Connor. I’m here to write about why my major, Computer Science, is the best thing since we invented a robot to slice our bread for us.

Unlike most of the other writers for most of the other majors, I’m not actually an undergraduate, anymore. I did the five-year concurrent program in Computer Science, meaning that I started on my Master’s degree (also in CS) before I finished my undergraduate degree. I therefore graduated in May 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree, and I’ll graduate again this May with a Master’s.

So what’s Computer Science all about? Well, at Hopkins, CS is a rigorously grounded education in both theory and applications of computer science– meaning that even as technology changes (which it does, and will; the field in which I’m writing my Master’s thesis literally didn’t exist when I started at Hopkins), Hopkins students are prepared to change with it. On the other hand, we differentiate ourselves from other CS programs by having lots of interesting work going on in the “real” world all the time– so you don’t get the sense that you can never do anything that people will use.

The other big difference at Hopkins is, of course, our focus on research. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in several different research groups during my time at Hopkins– and you can make a valuable contribution as a CS major, even during your freshman year, so get started early! I spent a semester during my freshman year with the Hopkins Robocup team “The Smokin’ Jays”– they make autonomous robots that play soccer against other robots. My Junior year, I joined an interdisciplinary research team, centered on the Department of Biomedical Engineering, working to make a tuberculosis detection device– so you don’t have to be confined even to the (huge) limits of what CS can do. Later that same year, I began three semesters with the Hopkins InterNetworking Research Group, working with tiny distributed computers that can be scattered across land or sea. Now I pursue my own research on social networking, identity, and reputation online!

JHU CS has many more research areas besides just those in which I’ve worked; from storage to surgical robots, vision to language, voting to graphics, and even traditional pursuits of computer scientists for generations, such as computer languages, we have great work going on all the time, and professors are always looking for more people willing to pursue the next questions.

In addition, if you’re interesting in studying the darker arts of Computer Science, we have the world-renowned Information Security Institute, and any student can take their courses (once you’ve completed the basics). I’ve been able to work with live virus code and break the security systems that guard the Internet– and that was just one course! They host many research groups as well as teaching courses in the department, and it’s a wonderful place to explore if you’re so inclined.

CS here offers many opportunities outside the classroom or lab as well. The local chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery is a student group always undertaking one (crazed) project or another, and when you’re ready for it, Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the Computer Science honor society, provides a meeting ground for the best and brightest in the field. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have three internships during my summers at Hopkins– and unlike some other departments, they don’t hire us to fetch coffee! I’ve spent three summers in the Bay Area with VeriSign, Sun, and Six Apart, and those opportunities have provided me a level of additional context for my academic pursuits. Most students seem to get at least one internship while they’re here, though it’s not a requirement of the program.

Once they graduate, Hopkins students go on to great things. A little-known fact: one of our alumni invented ping, without which we’d never know if our websites were up. Our graduates go on to every company in the country, and we have large groups of alumni at Sun, Bloomberg, Microsoft, and Google. Personally, I’m opting to go to a smaller company to pursue applied research, and so I’ve accepted an offer to join SET Corporation in Arlington, VA.

So come to Hopkins! If you’d like to contact me, my email address is bfo (surely you can figure out a symbol to go here) ussjoin (a different symbol) com, and my website is http://ussjoin.com; my blog is at http://blog.ussjoin.com. Have fun with the rest of your school search!

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Click here to access more information about the Computer Science Undergraduate Program of Study.

To further your exploration of this academic program and ask any question you may have of current students, be sure to visit the Hopkins Forums’ Academics: The Insider Perspective as well as the Computer Science questions thread.

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