Computer Science: Student Testimonials

Kuan (Frank) Song

Specialist: Computer Science, Software Engineering
 

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)? 

I was always quite passionate about programming since high school - it was fascinating to write a few lines of code and automating some mundane tasks to save some time. Entering this field at the angle of task automation, I believe it has a lot of rooms for development and an ideal industry to make a career out of.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

The CS program starts off years 1 and 2 with a generalist curriculum, where students are taking basic programming courses, as well as necessary math/statistics courses to establish the necessary maturity and knowledge base for much more specialized courses in the later years. For the specialist program, there are a few streams to choose from, depending on the desired career path down the road. I chose the Software Engineering specialist program because I was genuinely interested in the academia methods and teachings, in comparison to industry practices.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1. Start off strong. In order to enter a specific CS program (i.e. SE specialist), the admission is based off cGPA of the prerequisite courses in the first year. In that regards, it is quite important to establish a strong foundation in the first year.
2. "Stay hungry, stay foolish." Throughout my three years at the university so far, there were plenty of opportunities to investigate various possibilities in the industry. For example, I discovered my interest in databases via a third-year course, and luckily I was able to use the knowledge extensively while on my coop term. Further down the road, I was hired as a DBA for Office of the VP, which is indeed more "hunger" for the "foolish".
3. Classroom knowledge comes to life by application. Many students do not consider how classroom knowledge relates to the use cases in the industry, which is quite unfortunate because application is a part of the academic learning. How? "Stay hungry, stay foolish."

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

Perhaps pursue a developer career. Hopefully with a few years of experiences down that path, I could form some opinions and views of the industry, and perhaps that could fuel into research interests for graduate school.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

I followed advice 1) in the first year, giving my utmost best to gain admission in the program. There were occasions where I scored dramatically low on a test, but I did not overreact (i.e. dropping the course) but instead, got myself back on track and worked harder than ever to finish the course strong. Going into third year, because the curriculum for each course is tailored for very specific topics, sometimes it tends to be a hit-or-miss whether the course is a close fit to my areas of interest (s). But for the most part, I enjoy the courses quite much and these genuine interests become my motivation for learning.

Veronica

Specialist: Computer Science

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I have always enjoyed problem solving and board games as a child. For as long as I can remember, having a career in a quantitative discipline has been my goal. I chose this program because its courses and opportunities would help me stand out among other students entering the workforce upon graduation. I knew this specialist program would make me a well-rounded candidate for a career as a software developer, especially with theoretical courses in mathematics and statistics. Whenever I had any questions, the UTSC academic advisers and admissions office were very helpful and supportive of my decisions.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

Being part of this program has helped me develop problem-solving skills, think in both logical and creative ways, and learn time management strategies. This program allows students to work closely with professors through teaching assistant placements and research opportunities. Another highlight of this program is that the class projects you create can help you showcase your knowledge and gain interviews with future employers.
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
1) Take your education outside of the classroom. Apply the skills gained in your studies to the real-world. At UTSC, there are plenty of clubs, volunteer positions, and work opportunities that will allow you to use the knowledge you have gained as a student.
2) Learn how to work independently. Get to know yourself: how you learn best, what your strengths and weaknesses are, which kind of career you want. Starting from first year, give yourself opportunities to attend workshops, talk to academic advisers, and research potential careers.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

Computer science makes you a good candidate for further studies in applied mathematics, artificial intelligence, and computational biology. Graduates also have a variety of career options; upon graduation, I plan to pursue a career in software development. Furthermore, computer science education is a popular choice for further study as technology departments are growing in all educational institutions.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

In first year, my program focused on the basics of computer science and mathematics, providing a strong foundation for upper year courses. This is also the time to experience UTSC by getting involved on campus, making new friends, and talking to professors. In second year, I took more specialized courses such as software design, theory of computation, and systems programming. During this time, I also began researching my career options and found a work study placement at the university. Third year is the time to decide on your specialization within computer science, such as software engineering, comprehensive stream, or information systems.

 

Majors: Computer Science and Mathematics

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
I would like to mention that although it states in the calendar that you cannot choose programs from the same department like I did, there is a twist to that. You need to speak with the program supervisor if you want this option. That's another thing-don't just limit your course and program selection to the calendar. It is only meant as a guide. Talk to your program supervisor, your instructor and/or TA, university staff and students in the AACC, Registrar, student organizations and clubs like AMACSS, BioSA and your peers because there's so many ways you can complete your graduation than what's written in the calendar. There's also Degree Explorer and other tools that you can use. Now, the reason I chose these two majors as my programs of study or my Subject POSts is because I used to be very good at Math in High School. Compared to my other grades, math was always at the top. It was no problem taking all the math courses from Grade 9 and 10 math to Grade 11 Functions, Grade 12 Advanced Functions and Calculus, and Grade 12 Data Management. Even Physics, Chemistry and Biology were good.  Actually, I was an all-rounder but my grades in Math were the highest and were consistent. I always wondered why my math grades were the highest, but never found an answer. Anyway, apart from the grades, Math was something that felt like butter (smooth and easy). It didn't feel like a course at all but more like a game that was fun and challenging and I loved winning. It was something that got my blood pumping and I enjoyed all those problems and techniques of solving them that I used them in real life too and I became a good problem solver (claimed by my teachers). It still remains as my favorite passion that I'm glad to be pursuing. Now, I had never pursued computer science in high school neither had I any interest or knowledge in the field apart from a few courses like Information Technology, Business and Accounting. What made me choose this in University was because I realized, and also because my family and friends thought so too that my brain functions like a computer. It was always there but I had never recognized it until they started pointing it out to me and then I noticed it. I'm always very good with technology be it something I had never ever seen or operated before. I used to be able to operate it like a pro just after trying my hands for the first time that even baffled me when I thought about it. I used to always be a pen and paper person but after I learned typing (which was also fun), I used to type every word I hear/see on my imaginary keyboard. And when there was a technical problem, I used to always be able to fix it as if I was a technician. I understood then that I had this weird connection with technology and electronics that I needed to uncover and what more than to study Computer Science. I didn't have a career in mind like my fellow computer science students but I was vaguely intrigued by this field which made me select this program. It's good if you have a career in mind but I say you don't have to. Just find what you're most passionate about or interested in and pursue that. If you're good at it, chances are you'll do well in it and also have a successful career.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
My programs are very intensive. That's another thing- if you're choosing a program in this Department, then make sure you are motivated enough because it is challenging. So make sure you are ready for the challenges because they are not easy. I think this is the hardest department of UTSC but if you're hard working and are really passionate about computer science or mathematics or statistics, then you will do well. As it is, technology is upgraded every year. So make sure you are keeping up with the changes and gaining some hands on experience is also helpful. The old saying works very well here-"Practice makes a man perfect". Mathematics and Computer Science are all about practice. If you don't practice, it's hard to master the concepts to the degree required and desired. It's a field that's very application based and for that you need to be in good practice. Apart from that, we are fortunate to have some of the best instructors and TAs who are so knowledgeable and helpful that you won't have a question unanswered. I have also approached a different instructor sometimes and have gotten the answer to my questions. So, there are so many people you could go to for help. There's also the Math Stats Learning Centre (MSLC) in AC312 and IC404 if you need more help and tutoring.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
Make sure you are taking these programs for the right reasons because they are very challenging. You need to be very passionate about Computer Science or Mathematics or Statistics to overcome all the challenges. There's a lot of independent work, so having good study and work habits is necessary as well as good time-management and basic technical skills (if you're taking Computer Science). Lastly, practice! Do not expect to master something without practice especially in these programs. Try as many problems as you can until you're a pro-trust me, you need it.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation?
 
I want to pursue graduate studies in computer science and at the same time gain valuable experience in the field and also learn something new like a new program or technique.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
In my first year, I had tried some A level Math and Computer Science courses as well as some biology and psychology courses as a backup. However, I did well in my Math and Computer Science courses plus I was interested in them, so I chose them as my majors. Second year was filled with all the second year requirements of the program and the same for third and fourth years. I also completed my breadth requirements by the end of my third year by taking two introductory language courses. Make sure you take all the A-levels first and then the B and C levels because they are the foundations for future courses and try to complete them in the year they correspond like A levels in first year, B levels-second year etc. so you can complete them on time.

Fauzan Kadri

Majors: Computer Science and Mathematics

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

I've always loved to create things. With the world evolving and relying more on computers to accomplish certain tasks, I want to make the most difference while I still love what I do. I've always been fascinated by logical challenges. By studying Computer Science and Mathematics, it showed me that the more I know, the more I realize I don't know. With new technologies coming out rapidly, this gives me more opportunities to explore more challenges, and at the same time, make the use of those technologies for the better.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 

After 4 years of studying Computer Science and Mathematics, I've learned that the most important aspect of studying these programs is to never be afraid when you don't know something. When I see a question or a theorem that I don't understand, this is an opportunity for me to learn and to evaluate myself on how well I understand the material. Also, by learning various tools and techniques, it allowed me to take my education outside of the school. I've learned that I can use my education as a tool to develop software's that can benefit myself and others.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

You can never stop learning. School only teaches you the fundamental knowledge and some interesting topics. This can help you achieve certain goals in life but to be really well rounded, you should take the extra step and broaden your horizon. There are many resources at school and online to educate you on topics of your interest. Many professor's like to discuss topics that are of a student's interests. Also, network with others in your program. Many students are looking for interesting projects to work on and are happy to discuss it with others. Try to work on a project that will utilize the tools you learned in school. This will help you get a deeper understanding of the material and you'll possibly learn something new. In some cases, these projects become successful and are your key to getting a job.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

My first goal is to secure a job and pay off my loans. The ideal position for me to work is in computer security because of the challenges involved and the ongoing learning you get out of it. After some time, I plan to come back to school and study Statistics.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

First year courses: When taking these courses, you'll know if you have an interest in these programs. Professors will teach you fundamental tools and techniques and ask you to use them on your assignments. The assignments tend to be basic but require time to complete them. About half of the midterm/final exam is based on the material you've applied on your assignments. Second year courses: Now that you know the fundamentals, you'll be working on interesting projects. In my second year, we developed an Android application. You may find yourself developing something of a similar interest. You'll also be going into more details on the theory on the materials you've learned in your first year. You'll also be expected to work in groups for some projects. Third year courses: Everything you've learned prior to your third year will be applied in this year. Third year has to do with the real world and real applications. You'll learn how software's are developed in corporations and apply the same process to develop a software for a real client. You'll study some research questions that researchers are currently working on. This is the year to branch into the field in which you want to work in after you graduate. Fourth year courses: This year specializes you in the fields that you are interested. Some examples of fields that you can specialise in are network protocols, computer security, entrepreneurship, and high level software development. To get a job in these fields, you must really understand them well. This year will teach you the core understanding on these topics and how you can use the knowledge in the real world, either on your own or within a company. If you master any of these topics, you'll open yourself a gate to high paying jobs

Taylor Cassidy Paulite

Majors: Chemistry
Minors: Psychology and Computer Science

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?

A whole bunch of factors in my academic and social career contributed to me choosing this specific program. As a high school student, I always felt like I've succeeded in science. Thus, pursuing anything “Chemistry” felt just perfect to me. So when I started my first year at the university, I intended on double majoring in Biochemistry and Human Biology with the intent on being a dermatologist. As the first year of university started, I joined clubs and took psychology as my breath requirement. After many months, I did not enjoy Biology as much as I thought I would - with the skipping of classes and dreading reading the textbook, I looked up the course requirements for switching into just a Chemistry program and it felt perfect. So after a year in Biology, I decided to quit Biochemistry and to switch to just Chemistry. Alongside that termination in first year, I found out that I enjoyed Psychology as well. Psychology gave me tools to answer modern day psychology questions such as "how does your childhood affect your personality" or "how does financial stability affect someone's perspective on life and achievement". Through the journey of learning these tools, I have felt like pursuing a minor in this field is worthwhile. After my second year in university, I left the full-time student life to be a full-time worker as part of my co-op program. Through the year off I have learned a lot about myself, such as my great independent, leadership and creative skills and about workplaces. What I learned about modern workplaces is that one key is extremely crucial, knowing how to work a computer. After learning coding on Codecademy and having friends in the field, I decided to give a minor in computer science a try. And to this day, I have no regrets.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

This program combination is very challenging in a sense that no courses overlap, you learn many new things every day. Although challenging, it is rewarding. Depending on how you are as a student, you can either hate or love this program combination. In my case, I love it. I am used to hard work and changing environments, thus making this program very smooth and easy going for myself. Therefore, if you plan on taking this program combination, be prepared to learn new things every day and to learn a lot more about the world in comparison to taking just a specialist in one field.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

Tips and or advice that I can provide to students that are starting or considering this program is that being a well-rounded student is very critical in the workplace. Although the science field is very prestigious, it does not have many employment opportunities in comparison to business or computer science. It is great for research but not for industry based careers. Therefore add in a practical minor, which is what I did, a computer science minor. Also, add in something you love, which for me was psychology and chemistry. Right now, I see limited jobs in my field but I know through my well-roundedness I believe I can create or find a job that mixes together all of my skills. Therefore, all in all, my advice is to make sure you choose a practical part of your degree, choose a part of your degree you are in love with and make sure you stay a well-rounded student with this program.

What will you do with your degree after graduation?

What I plan on doing with my degree is to seek my options, since my program is in different fields I plan on trying a job in chemistry, then business related that combines both the mentality of psychology and computer skills in computer science. Therefore, I plan on going straight to industry based work rather than research. I believe that I am better suited to learn more in the world in different fields and would love to do that through working at different companies.

What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?

My academic journey has been quite a bumpy ride. My first year, I had a lot of confidence, thinking I can get a 4.0 GPA and join a lot of clubs. But through the hardship, I had to change my majors for my degree mentally, around 50 times. The sometimes tedious mandatory classes have taught me the critical skills that I needed, but initially dreaded, since I was given so much freedom as a university student. However, after a summer semester, work-study job, great extra-curricular activities and my love for powerlifting and consistent workout, my second year was the best year. I learned to manage all my classes in a timely manner as well learning to apply my knowledge from my classes to the outside context. It also taught me that GPA is very important but it should not run your life, therefore if you do make a mistake causing a small dip in your GPA, don't sweat it and learn from your mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes, therefore don't cry that you make one, you're human. After my second year, I went straight to a yearlong co-op job, which made me miss my academics. A full time job is a lot less challenging than university content and rather repetitive and relies more on efficiency than creativity. This allowed me to forget about my academics and focused more on interdependent skills. Through all this learning from the inside of the textbook and out, both the life of a full-time student and full-time co-op student has helped me with both the critical thinking skills at school and efficiency skills at work that will prepare me for the real world after graduation and the end goal to graduate.                                                               

Rene Piperi

Specialist: Physics and Astrophysics
Minor: Computer Science

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
I've always been interested in the sciences. Ever since I can remember, I have always felt intrigued by a lot of things related to science, especially discoveries that constantly change how we look at things. Physics itself was kind of the core behind these discoveries, and the chemistry side of it didn't interest me too much, so I just had to pick physics. The main factor to finalize my decision was specifically dark matter and energy; two really interesting things which probably still have much to explore about. The minor in computer science I felt I absolutely needed because I am just really drawn in by computers. Just the fact that you can make something entirely new, all your own, is a great feeling. It allows you to really put your thoughts into it, and I chose it to compliment my physics specialist, as a way of later possibly making software specifically for a part in physics and astrophysics.

Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?

The physics and astrophysics program is definitely not as easy as I thought it would have been at first. Despite that, I am still very glad I made the decision to choose this. It has allowed me to think beyond more than just the class. A lot of courses I had taken were essentially - take this formula and reapply it. Physics itself does more, it makes you think. You yourself need to decide how to approach the problem, and go from there (and a lot of times, one attempt won't be enough). My computer science minor on the other hand feels a little easier to handle. The assignments tend to be straight forward, though the path you take to solving those can either simplify, or really complicate the problem. At the end of the day, it's just about really practicing until you get used to smart decisions.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?

1) Connections, connections, and connections. Talk to people. No, really, it sounds like a simple thing, but really talk to people. Building a social network is really important. This applies to a lot of programs, but when you get to upper years and would like to do research, you really need to have a wide range of things to look at. Talk to your professors, get to know what their interests are for potential research in upper years. Later you might apply for a TA position, and if the professor knows you and trusts you, well it should be obvious you'd be a better choice for them.
 
2) Time management. This is especially important. Managing your time is extremely crucial. You will have a lot of work ahead of you, more so if you decide to also take the computer science minor. I've had assignments overlap, and without proper time management, I really do not think it would have been possible to finish them properly and on time. You need to take into account many things, even time to relax. Don't just cram everything in last minute and make a mess of your work. Make sure you also plan far ahead where possible. Start thinking about research if you have a specific area of interest in the program and are interested later on. The sooner you plan ahead, the more time you have to improve upon things where necessary.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)

After graduation, there are currently no immediate plans for a masters degree. I do plan on doing one down the road, but not immediately after. I currently have a job at a bank with my computer background, though I may do it for a couple years before coming back and finishing my masters (and possibly PhD after that).
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
My academic journey has felt a lot like a roller coaster. The first year was really not all that hard to deal with. For the most part, it really felt like review of high school with some new material, but simple overall. The second year was by far the most tough. This was only because the new material taught wasn't really something I was used to. A lot of information to take in made it feel a little overwhelming. In the third, things have felt a little like the second, though my study habits are improved due to the second year, so it really doesn't feel as bad.