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Graduate Peers' Schedules

Winter 2016
Peer Advisor Availability

Writing Peer
Kyle Crocco

Mon: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Tue: 10 a.m.-noon
Wed: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Thu: 10 a.m.-noon

Funding Peer
Stephanie Griffin
Mon: 10 a.m.-noon
Wed: noon-2 p.m.

Diversity Peer
Ana Romero

Mon: noon-2 p.m.
Wed: 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To assure you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email and make an appointment.

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Entries in computer science (2)

Tuesday
Jan192016

Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Computer Science Student Chris Sweeney

Chris Sweeney, a fifth-year Computer Science Ph.D. candidate focusing on Computer Vision, sat down and shared the unique journey of his path to and throughout graduate school.

Despite his many academic accomplishments (including receiving top honors at the Association for Computing Machinery Multimedia Open-Source Software Competition in Australia last October), Chris maintains a well-rounded life. When he’s not in the Four Eyes Lab, he can be found performing with the local Santa Barbara Improv Group, swimming, or volunteering his time in local and international communities.

Where did you grow up? Tell us a little about your family, childhood, and early education.

Chris SweeneyI grew up in Northern Virginia, near D.C.  I attended Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, where I began my love of computer science. I went to college at the University of Virginia, where I received a B.S. in Math and Computer Science. As an undergrad, I always knew what I wanted to study, and I’ve been following that path since then.

Tell us a little about your research and how you came to choose the topic.

I’m working in data visualization and computer vision. Specifically, I’m looking at 3D geometry from images for programs like CAD. This came by way of undergraduate research I participated in: large-scale image processing. As a Ph.D. student, I’m working on making large-scale Structure from Motion more accessible by developing 3D modeling software and sharing it on my software’s website. Some examples of models I’ve made with my software are below:

ColosseumA screenshot of a reconstructed model of the Colosseum in Rome, using Chris’s 3D modeling software. Credit: Chris Sweeney

DubrovnikA screenshot of a reconstructed model of Dubrovnik, a medieval city – better known as King’s Landing from Game of Thrones. Credit: Chris Sweeney

To create these 3D models, I have a script that crawls Flickr for landmarks (i.e., the most heavily photographed places in the world), then I take the images and run them through my software to recover full 3D models of the scenes.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

It’s been very rewarding. I’ve had several travel opportunities and internships. I’ve had three internships for Google Goggles, and from September 2014 through April 2015, I was a visiting student at ETH Zurich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology] in Switzerland. I’ve also enjoyed meeting cool people from these experiences.

What do you wish you had known before you started grad school?

Funding can be a real struggle!

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

Chris, center, accepting the top prize for Open-Source Software at the 2015 ACM Multimedia Conference in Brisbane, Australia. Photo courtesy of Chris SweeneyI’m having a hard time choosing between two big accomplishments: winning my Open-Source award, and my time as a visiting student to ETH Zurich. The Open-Source Software competition is sponsored by the Association of Computing Machinery, and my Theia Open Source Library for 3D Modeling won first place this past fall. I’m proud of this award, as it’s a validation of both my own hard work and the general community’s commitment and contributions to open source.

Secondly, being a visiting student to ETH Zurich was incredible. Professionally, it was really neat to be invited to the top labs there. Personally, it was a challenge to be in a country whose language was German. Although the working language of the labs was English, I had to improve my German language skills to get by day-to-day.

What has been a source of motivation or drive for you in your graduate studies?

I’m very self-motivated, which has helped me accomplish a lot during school. It also helps that I’m in an industry that’s currently seeing a boom, and many digital imaging ideas are now becoming tangible products.

What do you do to relax? Any hobbies, favorite places to go, favorite things to do?

Chris and his girlfriend enjoying the local fauna on a trip to Australia. Photo courtesy of Chris SweeneySome of my favorite hobbies include wine tasting along the Central Coast, playing soccer, and woodworking. So far, I’ve made desks and tables. I also like to travel, which is a benefit of grad school and the industry, since there are so many international and regional conferences.

Have you taken any other interesting international trips?

In college, I participated in Alternative Spring Breaks in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. These were week-long service trips in which we volunteered with local elementary schools. More recently, I traveled to Tamale, Ghana, with Community Water Solutions [now Saha Global]. Our team built a water purification center in town and taught local women how to run the facility and about sustainable leadership. We encouraged the women to charge a nominal fee for their work, which helped improve their economic standing.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I come from a big family – I’m one of five kids. I feel that families aren’t usually that big anymore, especially on the West Coast. People are usually surprised to hear how many siblings I have.

What do you hope to be doing 5 or 10 years out of graduate school?

For a while, I’d hoped to stay in academia, ultimately as a tenured professor. However, recently I’ve felt a growing potential toward working for a tech company. I could see myself doing R&D work, for the right company. I’m starting my postdoc work in January at the University of Washington, so I’ll see where that takes me down the road.

Do you have any advice for current grad students?

Be open to talking about any problems you may be facing – whether it’s financial, research, or life in general. It’s important to communicate openly with your advisors, colleagues, and other faculty members.

Thursday
May232013

Graduate Student in the Spotlight: Bryce Boe

Bryce Boe, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in Computer Science, took some time to talk to the GradPost about how he came to be interested in Computer Science Education, his involvement in starting the UCSB subreddit (/r/UCSantaBarbara), and what else keeps him busy as he finishes up his graduate degree.

Tell us a little about your background

I grew up in Poway, a city in North Inland San Diego. I came to UCSB in Fall 2004 to begin a Bachelor's in Computer Science having very little idea what Computer Science actually meant. As an undergraduate I worked part time at a local company, WorldViz, and during the summer prior to starting graduate school I had an internship at Google.

Tell us a little about your research and how you came to choose the topic

The short version of this story is that after failing with my first attempt at research I took a TAship for funding. I discovered rather quickly that I had a penchant for teaching Computer Science, and shortly thereafter became responsible for training the Computer Science department's teaching assistants. Following my second failure with "traditional" Computer Science research, Professor Diana Franklin asked me if I was interested in Computer Science Education research; I was, and she became my advisor.

The growth in Computer Science popularity at the college level, and the movement to place it in K-12 presents new challenges in assisting both students and instructors. Automated tools can assist in both realms to provide students with timely feedback and significantly aid instructors in assessment. My research involves developing such tools, and evaluating the tradeoffs of using them.

One of the tools I developed will assist with the assessment of a fourth grade computational thinking curriculum we are piloting in select local elementary schools in the fall. We are collaborating with the Education department for both the development and evaluation of the curriculum. At the university level, a few UCSB Computer Science classes use another tool I developed that provides automated feedback to students. There is a vast amount of knowledge to be learned about student submission and resubmission behavior with respect to how and when feedback is provided.

What has graduate student life been like for you?

I'm not going to sugarcoat this response at all. Graduate student life has been quite the roller coaster for me. I really had no idea what a Ph.D. entailed when I signed up for it, and as I previously mentioned I had a few failures along the way. Between the failures, and the inability to separate work-life from home-life, the idea of quitting was always on my mind. My immense desire to teach is the only reason I remained, and now, less than a year from finishing, quitting is no longer an option.

Socially, graduate school is both amazing and terrible. I've met and become good friends with some of the most incredible people. Computer Science is an incredibly ethnically diverse field, and as such I am often the only U.S. American in the room. The discussions I have with my social circle often span global economics and international politics with viewpoints from a handful of places around the World. Sadly, as the years progress my social circle's churn rate increases when I would very much prefer it to stabilize. Nevertheless, all the frustration I have had with graduate school is meaningless compared to the professional and social contacts graduate school has inadvertently provided me.

How did you become involved with the UCSB subreddit? How has it affected your connection to the UCSB campus and community?

reddit (always lowercased) is a great way to share things with those interested in similar topics. As such I was interested in what other people had to share on reddit at UCSB. Unfortunately, the individual who created the former UCSB subreddit /r/UCSB did not do a very good job of approving legitimate submissions from the spam queue, so I took it upon myself to solve that problem. After many failed attempts of contacting the individual responsible for /r/UCSB, the only course of action was to create a new subreddit. That's how I became involved with /r/UCSantaBarbara.

The subreddit does exactly what I originally desired from it. That is, it keeps me up to date on campus events and issues that I would never otherwise be aware of. Moreover, it provides an excellent resource to students who are considering applying to or attending UCSB. Neither of these attributes, however, require my active involvement. While I have organized a few /r/UCSantaBarbara events and met some awesome people as a result, my involvement in the subreddit has had little impact on my connection with the UCSB community (until this interview).

What else are you involved with outside of your graduate studies, both on and off campus?

At this point in time, as I near closer to completion of my Ph.D., there is very little that I am involved with on campus. I previously organized programming competitions for undergraduates, and for three years I helped organize (co-chairing, and chairing in 2009 and 2010 respectively) the Computer Science department's Graduate Student Workshop on Computing. This workshop is organized entirely by graduate students and showcases the research of the Computer Science graduate students.

Off campus, I am a fairly active member of the Python open-source community. What that essentially means is I volunteer my time to write new software and improve existing software that is free for everyone to use. My most notable contribution is PRAW, the Python reddit API Wrapper, which is utilized by a large majority of the bots on reddit. I also thoroughly enjoy running for beer with the Hash House Harriers of Sant'o Barbara.

Name an accomplishment you are most proud of and why.

This will be an easy question to answer once I complete my Ph.D. Until such a time, I think being the instructor of record for a UCSB Computer Science course is probably my biggest accomplishment. Only a handful of CS students take the opportunity to teach a course, and I am incredibly glad I did as the teaching experience I gained should prove to distinguish me from other academic candidates when I apply for positions this coming winter. To help further distinguish myself, I am teaching both over the summer, and again in the fall.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

Most people are surprised to learn that I am incredibly uncomfortable in new situations as they often initially encounter me in a role where I am already considerably confident and comfortable. In their defense, I explode out of my shell rather quickly, so my nervousness is something few people observe.

What do you hope to be doing five or ten years out of graduate school?

Within ten years I hope to be a tenured faculty member of a Computer Science department and have established some sort of name for myself in the Computer Science Education community. More importantly, I hope to have a family to share my life with as all this education and desire for a career is just a means to an end; to provide the best environment possible for my future family.

Do you have any advice for other grad students?

Make the most out of your time as a graduate student. Try new things, and do not be afraid to fail as each failure will point you closer toward success. Eventually you will either make it through, or you will find an even more awesome path to follow.