I think overall it was a really positive experience.
I think what I enjoyed most about computer science is that it really bridges theory and
practice. So some of the classes that I took were a lot more theory-based. For example,
my algorithms course and my data structures course, they were extremely concentrated on abstract
problem-solving. But then I also had classes that used those algorithms for more practical
purposes, like data analysis on real data sets, and coming up with conclusions, conducting
my own experiments . . . So I really liked that computer science is the perfect – more
than a lot of other majors, is a connect between the practical industry applications
and the theoretical basis of it. Because of the process varied attitude between departments, I think that within computer science, you see different disciplines. And the interaction
across displines, whether it be theory or systems applications, or simply embedded research,
like this one, I believe that there are many ways to contribute to this larger branch of
computer science. I think that Duke Computer Science has done a very excellent job of trying
to fuse all of these components together. So when I tried to apply to someone to do
independent study with, they are all willing to offer this opportunity. I know this is
absolutely not normal from other schools – so it is really hard to approach some professors
in some schools. But in Duke, they are really approachable, they are willing to help us,
they are willing to advise us. Actually, I spent a whole year with Professor Munagala.
We did work together, he advised me, provided valuable insights and evaulation from this
project. As you progress along the computer science curriculum, I do get the sense that
the department is focusing a lot more on how they can show students computer science in
the real world. So whether that means you’re like (doing) a Bass Connections project, where you can
do research and see that ok, this is where my code goes, and this is what it’s doing.
Do things like Data Plus, do a new initiative called Code Plus, where basically students
just come and learn how to code, write good code, write real code over the summer. Even
through the support of other student engagment activities, like Hack Duke, where you can
create real applications that do real things! I think that the support of the computer science
department through teaching students how computer sicence works, not only in a classroom, but
in the wider world – I think is really special and I think they’re definitely moving in the
right direction with how they’re expanding that. They give you the tools and the building
blocks to be a good computer scientist, and a good mathematician, but then they help you
and they make it for you to figure out what you want to do with that. They make it really
easy, so there’s a ton of research opportunities with the professors and things like Bass Connections
where you can do more / very influential things. The computer science department does a very
good job of making you realize that computer science is a super power you have, and that
you can then use that in a variety of different disciplines. Every class is designed to inch
you closer to a more complete skill set, where you can be an asset on any project, any team
– regardless of what it is being applied to. And we found that here with the gerrymandering
project: that the skills I learned in 101, 201 and all the following courses – all of
those came into my ability to be able to work on this project. I think because the department
is so excited about project work, and about building your education, to make it accessible
and make you able to do these kinds of projects, I think that’s why we were able to do this
work in the first place.

What do you think about Duke Computer Science?
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