Computer science students programmed for success

July 10, 2015

The 2014-2015 academic year saw Clark University computer science students make their debut at the annual Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC), described in their Fact Sheet as "the premiere global programming competition conducted by and for the world's universities." The four-decades-old event "fosters creativity, teamwork, and innovation in building new software programs, and enables students to test their ability to perform under pressure."

Two Clark teams (Bingkung Fang '15 and Tiancheng Jiang '15; and Samuel Kovaka '16, Hoang Nguyen '16 and Sarjan Shrestha '16) participated in the Preliminary Contest of the Northeast North America Region of ICPC, held in October 2014 at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. Both groups performed well, and the Kovaka-Nguyen-Shrestha team advanced to the Regional Final, held the following month at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y.

The Clark students comprised one of 11 teams representing universities that included Harvard University, MIT and Brown. The large number of top universities in the region, along with the inclusion of first-year graduate students as participants, made the competition especially challenging.

Clark computer science professors and competition team faculty advisers Li Han and John Magee note that the students worked very hard in their preparations and spent many weekend afternoons in practice sessions.

On April 17 and 18, Kovaka, Nguyen and Shrestha went on to win the annual Consortium of Computing Science in Colleges – Northeast Conference programming competition that took place at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. This was the second year Clark students participated in and won that contest, out of fields of 20-30 teams representing universities throughout the Northeast.

The conference also provided opportunities for students to present their computer science projects. Displaying their work in poster sessions were:

  • Courtney Pharr '17: Assessing Movement in DBS Parkinson's Patients
  • Omar Waheed '15 and Rehan Rasool '15: Paper Drums (Using Color Detection to Play Sounds)
  • Abhijit Singh '16, Josh Cogswell '16 and Hoang Nguyen: WooConnect (additional contributors: Cyrus Fenderson '16, Ronak Shah '18)
  • Sam Kovaka and Rehan Rasool: Scheduling Interface Generated and Managed by Undergrads for Numerous Departments (SIGMUND)

Earlier in April, six computer science students attended the New England Undergraduate Computing Symposium at Boston University, an annual event celebrating diversity and excellence in undergraduate computing. Five students exhibited posters about their programming work:

  • Cyrus Fenderson: WooConnect
  • Ana Luiza Motta Gomes '16: Sickle Cell Identification in Red Blood Cell Images
  • Viktoria Grindle '15: The Virtual Fingerprint
  • Jian Bin (Brandon) Guo '15: Academic Aide: Free Online Math Question Database for Academic Improvement (LEEP Project with Lukas Leung '16)
  • Sarjan Shrestha: Music through Vision

Grindle was chosen to give an oral presentation about her work, and Fenderson received a judges' award on behalf of his project team for WooConnect. Also in attendance was Trish Dao Le '16.

Support to all student participants in the form of practice sessions and internal contests was provided by two computer science clubs at Clark, the ACM Student Chapter and the Clark Competitive Computing Club, advised respectively by Magee and Han.

Over the past year, four computer science students, Grindle, Guo, Lukas Leung and Elena Zhizhimontova '14, had professional papers co-authored with Magee presented at conferences or published in conference proceedings. Pharr's work with Professor Helena Mentis of the University of Maryland Baltimore County was included in a paper delivered at the American Medical Informatics Association Workshop on Interactive Systems in Healthcare.

Attending professional conferences gives students valuable opportunities to network with others in the field, gain experience presenting and fielding questions about their work, hear from industry representatives and learn about career opportunities.

"It's great to see students getting their projects to the level that they can publish and present them at conferences," says Magee. "These kinds of experiences really stand out in a student's career."

Several graduating seniors have taken positions with companies that include Google (Alex Williams '15), Silicon Labs (Rehan Rasool), Meditech (Nicholas Iwamoto '15) and Intrepid Pursuits (Sarah Lieto '15 and Tiancheng Jiang '15).

Other current students are pursuing summer internships and research opportunities at: Facebook (Sarjan Shrestha and Hoang Nguyen), Amazon (Binh Tang '16 and Son Le '16), Fedex IT department (Lukas Leung), Axis Point (Zhuoming Tan '16), Demandware (Ronak Shah), Quantrix (Cyrus Fenderson), Clark University IT department (Juan Park '17), Clark University, research with Professor John Magee, also in collaboration with research group at Boston University (Jiri Roznovjak '18, Samuel Schlesinger '18), Juniper Networks (Joshua Cogswell), Quantum Networks (Christian Rentsman '18) and Cold Spring Harbor Lab (Sam Kovaka).