Course of Study: CS & Math major, minor in Political Science
Hometown: Auburn, CA, but grew up overseas
Main Interests: Using CS and math for data-driven approaches to social justice issues.
What project or experience (in computing) are you most proud of?
Last summer, I worked at the Voting Rights Data Institute through Tufts and MIT on the applications of geometry and computation to U.S. redistricting. Two other L&C students were there too — Anna Schall and Sherlock Ortiz. We got to work with PhD students and leading scholars on various projects aiming to combat gerrymandering. Specifically, I helped develop a new “compactness” measure to determine how gerrymandered a district is, and worked on creating a tool for community advocates to be able to determine if racially polarized voting has occurred in their district. Our focus was empowering people without computational backgrounds to have tools at their disposal to organize, and to provide data-driven research methods for scholars in math and computer science to testify as expert witnesses in gerrymandering cases.
What’s some advice you have for other computationally minded students?
The goal does not have to be getting a job at a big tech company. Sure, they offer you free food, a volleyball court, and water shuttles between the East Bay and SF. They carry with them a mysticism and a reputation that many people admire. As students at a liberal arts college, though, we learn to talk about the ways institutions and corporations influence the lives of individuals across the U.S. There’s many exciting opportunities to do socially meaningful and conscious work with your computational skills. Lots of non-profits, cities, and research groups are looking for people with math and computer science skills to fill the new roles of data analysts — to make informed decisions about the way mechanisms should run. If you’re interested in an area of the social sciences or humanities in addition to computer science — there’s a place for you. If you’re haven’t really thought about applying CS skills outside of the tech world, know that there’s jobs out there to do social good.
What’s your favorite thing about CS (or math) at LC?
The classes are small and the people are awesome. Being around people who challenge the way I think about the discipline and having the opportunity to study other things as well has been super rewarding. I got to study abroad in Greece and only take Classics courses for an entire semester without falling behind. It’s turned out to be really important for me to seek out those opportunities on campus and beyond to figure out what I want to do when I graduate.
What has been your favorite course at LC?
Discrete Math. I was undecided in my major until I took Discrete with Liz freshman year. After spending so many hours in the math lounge and in office hours, I realized that the community in the math and CS departments in BoDine is unlike others on this campus. Discrete introduced me to the elegance and rigor of math that I could carry over as I think critically in other disciplines — like CS and in my writing.
What’s your favorite programming language?
I will always choose Python, now, if given a choice. It’s great for dealing with datasets — check out numpy or pandas. That being said, I’m sort of opposed to the premise of this question. If you are comfortable problem solving in any language, those skills are transferrable. I also think there is real value in learning a language like C or Java as your introduction to computer science. It is easy to get away with a lot in Python.