What it's like being a CS major, according to Zach Reynolds
Zachary Reynolds | Undergraduate | Computer Science
Zachary Reynolds will be an August graduate of the Computer and Information Science Department. During his time as an undergraduate, Mr. Reynolds has received recognition as a Top 100 student and was the 2016 receipient of the Gersting Award (which is presented to students who have proved exceptional in their studies). We recently caught up with Zach to ask him about his experience with our department:
What have you enjoyed most about being a CS major?
My favorite part about being a CS major has been helping with Computer Science Day. It was rewarding to lead high school students in learning computer programming and to see their enthusiasm in solving problems. Remembering that Computer Science Day was my own first exposure to the department years ago, I was excited to support them and be a part of their learning.
What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of at this point?
The accomplishment I am most proud of is being named champion of the spring 2013 Speech Night competition. I had never considered myself to be a good speaker, and I had never dreamed of talking to a large group this early in my career. My Speech Night experience has encouraged me to live by faith and strive for even greater things than I think are possible.
How has your time at IUPUI helped you reach your goals?
My time at IUPUI has not only provided me with an exceptional education, but it has also made me well-rounded in other areas. Serving in student leadership positions, broadening my understanding of other cultures, and being committed to other students’ learning has made me more marketable to future employers.
What experiences or opportunities at IUPUI did you become involved in or take advantage of?
I have taken advantage of several opportunities at IUPUI. During my first two semesters, I mentored students for N241. In this course students were introduced to web development through hands-on exercises and fun, interactive sessions with Professor Roberts. It was rewarding to help students learn and to see them transform their ideas for websites into finished products. Mentoring challenged me to come up with creative and simple ways to explain technical concepts to other people.
After my freshman year I participated in the IUPUI Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Institute. I collaborated with a team of Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science professors and undergraduate students to explore a new approach to designing structures. This was my first exposure to research, and it has encouraged me to take more responsibility for my own learning.
I served in various leadership roles within the Alpha Lambda Delta and Phi Eta Sigma (ALD/PES) honor societies. As Webmaster I launched a new website design for our IUPUI chapter and rolled out an online RSVP system for events that automated bookkeeping details. As Student Advisor I coached the next webmasters in their responsibilities and helped plan the organization’s activities. Through ALD/PES I have also volunteered in various service events, including Martin Luther King Day of Service, IUPUI United Way Day of Caring, and César Chávez Day of Service.
After my sophomore year I attended a study abroad trip to Ecuador and taught web design to high school students. The trip pushed me out of my comfort zone as I was immersed in a new culture and lived with a host family I didn’t know. The program encouraged me to remain flexible and adapt to new environments.
What has been your impression of the Department of Computer & Information Science?
The Computer Science Department at IUPUI has personally encouraged me to get involved from my first semester in opportunities to grow myself and other people. Until I became involved, I saw academic mentoring and research only for people with more experience than I had. I am glad I didn’t wait, and I encourage others to get involved as early as possible.
The Computer Science faculty members have not only been clear and effective in their teaching, but they have motivated me to apply the course concepts on my own outside of the classroom. They have helped me appreciate the subject matter by relating it to their own research.
What has been your favorite class?
My favorite class was probably Artificial Intelligence with Dr. Mukhopadhyay. For one of the assignments, I created a computer program to solve the 8-puzzle problem using different search algorithms. It was neat to be able to implement the concepts we had learned in class in simple, real-world applications.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation I will continue for one more year at IUPUI to earn my master’s degree in Computer Science in May 2017. This summer I will be performing research with Dr. Hill and Dr. Raje to improve the accuracy of tools that analyze computer programs. I expect this research to evolve into my master’s thesis. Working with my professors has motivated me to stay curious and discover solutions on my own.