There are two things I love the most about computer science: the ability to connect it with whatever your passion is, and the type of problem solving involved.
During my undergrad, it was the problem solving that got me excited. I loved working on coding assignments, building something from nothing. Picturing the individual steps I would take along with the big picture. Thinking about the best way to arrange the classes and functions for readability and efficiency. Seeing the final result in action! (I also enjoyed working on algorithms and math problems. Oh, how satisfying it is to reach the correct answer!)
I remember one of my first year midterms really clearly. I think it was scheduled on a weekend. I happened to meet our professor as we were walking to the classroom from the parking garage, so I helped carry the papers. The midterm was in an unnecessarily large lecture hall, but it was well lit, unlike some of the dim and depressing rooms elsewhere on campus.
The midterm was for the second course in Java where we learned about making GUI’s and model-view-controllers, a bit about networking, and recursion. I kid you not, I remember actually having fun finishing that test. Each question was about understanding the material and provided a little problem to solve – it wasn’t one of those “how much can you memorize?” tests. When the prof asked me how I liked it, I told him it was like solving a puzzle, and thus I had enjoyed it.
I still enjoy this kind of problem solving, but thanks to the flexibility of grad school, I am now able to connect computer science to something it turns out I care about a lot: education and learning. Though it took me a whole uninspired Masters to realize this was what I wanted to do, I now have a PhD topic of educational games and augmented reality. Knowing that you can make a difference in any area of life with computing is not what got me into computer science, but it’s what is keeping me excited about it today.
Gail is a PhD student in computer science at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada, and researches augmented reality and educational games. She is an executive member of Carleton’s Women in Science and Engineering and is passionate about computer science education. She has a second degree black belt in Taekwondo and is an avid photographer. You can find out more about her on her portfolio website and blog.