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Why I Majored in Computer Science

Berto Gonzalez ’20

My journey to find computer science was not quite typical. I entered college with a couple of plans in mind, each of them kind of fuzzy. The one thing I thought I could be sure of was PPE: philosophy, politics and economics. This cross-field major appealed to my indecision quite well. For the beginning of college, however, I wanted to give science a shot, so I began with neuroscience. I did some research on the relationship between stress and memory, and took the first semester of classes. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me, so I left for PPE.

That first summer, I interned in Washington, D.C., but also found it wasn’t my thing. Upon my return, I heard all about the cool companies and projects my computer science friends had worked with/on over the summer, and I was awestruck. These people, my age, were helping to shape the way that most citizens of the 21st century interact with each other, share their lives, get around, the list goes on and on…

I was inspired, so I started taking some CS classes. To be honest, they were tough, especially for someone like me, who was coming from the humanities without a ton of background in math. As time went on, however, my dedication to this craft and the benefits of working with the amazing professors and students of the 5Cs paid off. I learned how the devices that make our modern lives possible work, where they came from, and where they might be going. I landed an internship at Facebook, returned for a second year, and I’ll be returning full time next August.

To me, that’s exactly what computer science is: dedication. Dedication to learning, dedication to a life-changing idea, dedication to doing what I love and doing it ethically.

I think this story highlights a couple great aspects of Pomona. Thanks to the liberal arts focus of this college, and its size, I’ve had a rich college experience. I’ve been able to explore several different fields and arts that interest me, to have real experience in these fields that helps me decide where I want my life to go, to be inspired by my fellow students with every new year.

Sean MacPherson ’21

During my first three years of high school, I stayed far away from computer science classes. I thought of computer science [majors] as geniuses staring at small computer screens coding the inner workings of magical items like my laptop. I told myself that computer science wasn’t for me.

In my senior year of high school, I conjured up an urge to start learning about web development. I built my first project, a basic website that found soccer fields nearby, and became drawn to computer science by the prospects of being able to create a product that aligned with my interests in a short of amount of time. I learned as I went, and building the website proved to be such a rewarding experience that I was intrigued enough to give computer science a solid chance.

After taking an intro class during my first semester of college, I was instantly hooked. I learned that computer science was so much more than my younger high school self thought it was. I found it was less about having a natural knack for the subject and more about committing myself to constant learning.

Since transferring to Pomona my sophomore year, I have discovered an amazing community of professors and students to share my passion for the subject with. I have met driven, excited Pomona CS majors applying computer science to their own unique areas of interest. Linguistics, theatre, cognitive a major and it’s highly probable that a Pomona student is finding a way to apply computer science to it. I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a variety of rewarding projects outside of the classroom, such as helping to organize the 5C Hackathon and working with a professor on training models to capture the underlying topics in research papers. My time thus far as a computer science major has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my college career and I feel like I have just scratched the surface. I am so excited by where it will take me.

Mui Tanprasert ’21

Falling in love with computer science (CS) was a gradual process for me. I wrote my first python program when I was 13; it was something simple, not super interesting. Over the next few years, I began coding in C/C++ for programming competitions and getting involved with software research and development projects. When I was 15, I came to the U.S. for the first time to present an applied neural network project I did with my sister at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. I was excited, fascinated and intrigued by the cool people and equally cool projects that I saw there. That was the first time I thought maybe CS was something I could do for the rest of my life.

I came to Pomona as an intended CS major, but I was ready to explore. CS classes were not offered at my high school, so I had my first actual CS class in my first semester here and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have taken four more CS classes since and am taking two now. Some of them I struggle with more than others, but because the professors are always willing to help me take the most out of the class, I come out of every class feeling a little wiser. As much as I have enjoyed classes in other disciplines, I never felt quite as in-sync with any of them the way I did with CS. After finishing CS introductory sequence, I realized that I simply love to code and declared myself a CS major.

My favorite aspect of CS is its capability to turn my instructions into actions with incredible precision, reliability and efficiency. Thus, all practical fields in CS interest me. Outside of class, I worked in a governmental artificial intelligence (AI) research lab in my home country last summer, and am currently working on two research projects, one in natural language processing and the other in human-computer interaction. This is also my fourth semester working as a teaching assistant, and mentoring fellow CS students has been an absolutely rewarding experience. Majoring in CS at Pomona opens so many doors for me to dig deep into what I am passionate about. I am thankful for all that has brought me here and excited to see where the doors I enter will take me.

Ilana Shapiro ’22

I’ve always loved to solve puzzles and the logical and creative thinking that goes into them. I didn’t realize for a long time that this is the sort of thing computer scientists do every day, but when I took my first computer science class in my junior year of high school, I was hooked. It’s so satisfying, after putting hours of time and effort into a particularly difficult program, to finally see it work! However, in addition to computer science, I’m a serious flute player and love music. I intend to complete a double major in computer science and [music with a concentration in] flute performance. I came to Pomona because I felt, as a superb liberal arts school, it was uniquely poised to offer me the best of both of these worlds.

Pomona has not disappointed! I have felt incredibly supported by both departments during my time here, and the quality of learning has been extremely high. Pomona has made me feel prepared for a career in computer science, whether I choose to pursue a Ph.D. or move directly into industry after graduation. I constantly feel the need to push myself in my classes as I continue to be inspired by my professors and what I’m learning. Last summer I completed my first computer science internship, where I worked on iOS apps, and I have Pomona to thank for being able to go into that experience confident and well-equipped.

The instruction and access to professors is excellent, and the small class sizes here are amazing. I’m taken aback when friends at well-known larger schools tell me that their same computer science classes have 2000 people compared to my class of 20. Pomona also is truly a community of interdisciplinary learners, which I feel is vital to a computer scientist. I’m so grateful to Pomona for the vast opportunities it has given me and the spectacular people I’ve met here, and I’m so excited for what’s to come!