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Vic’s Picks

A chat with Jeromy Johnson and Rae Marks

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

When you talk with Rae Marks and Jeromy Johnson, you feel like you are in the presence of an unstoppable force. They are going somewhere, and they are going fast. Yet you don’t feel like you are going to get run over; there is an inclusiveness in the way they speak. At the time of the interview Jeromy is the president of the Association for Computing Machinery Student Chapter (ACM), Rae is the vice president. The duo took time to sit down with me in the ACM clubhouse in the middle of finals week last spring. We covered a number of topics related to their experiences as computer science students at WSU. Rae and Jeromy are excited about what they are doing. They have insight and experience, and they are willing to share it.

About EECS

 

About ACM and the Hackathon

 

About interviewing for jobs

 

About programming and the future

 

Advice for new students

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We talked about their time here at EECS—favorite professors and recommended classes. Jeromy mentions Computational Genomics taught by Ananth Kalyanaraman. Rae explains, “We are using algorithms to do genome sequencing–solving problems with DNA.” Jeromy adds,

The fun thing about the class is that although the algorithms you learn in that class are taught from the perspective of genome sequencing, that’s not all that they can be used for. I was talking to someone a little while back who was using those same algorithms to find commercials in TV segments.

Rae nods her head and remarks,

That highlights something cool about our program here. We teach a lot of fundamental things. We teach these really cool algorithms. As you leave the University and do things in your job or talk to other people, you realize that you can apply these things to all sorts of different problems.

We talked about the ACM and the successful hackathon that they organized. Rae explains the importance of joining student clubs and how it relates to successfully interviewing for jobs. Jeromy tells me about his Github account and how it has opened up job opportunities for him. He also talks about what he is excited about doing in the future: changing the internet. In his words, “I want to make things better that people didn’t think could be better in a tangible way.”

At the time of the interview Rae is getting ready to head out for her internship with EMC Isilon in Seattle, Washington. This is her second summer working for them. We talk about the interview process and then I ask her if being a woman in a male-dominated field brings specific challenges. Rae says that in her experience so far she does not feel like she is treated any differently just because she is a woman. She goes on to say,

If you are a woman and you feel hesitant to join this field just because you are female, you should come talk to me and other women in computer science. It is not as bleak as it is sometimes painted out to be.

At the end of our chat, I ask Rae and Jeromy what advice they have for people interested in pursuing computer science. Jeromy answers, “Definitely get involved. Community is the biggest aspect of computer science. Sure you don’t need other people to ‘program,’ but if you talk with others about your ideas, it is easier to come up with something novel.”

Rae and Jeromy speak in an encouraging tone to those just starting out. Rae says,

I would say if somebody is just coming into this field in college that they should not be alarmed by students who have been doing it for a long time. It’s okay to start from whatever background; you are still going to make it. Some students think, “There are people who have been doing this for five, ten years. How can I possibly compete?” And the great thing is you don’t have to. You don’t have to compete. There is room for everybody.

Jeromy agrees, adding,

Don’t be discouraged. There is so much work to be done. Companies need every programmer they can get their hands on right now. And I don’t foresee that slowing down. The field is growing massively.

Rae and Jeromy hand over their leadership of ACM this fall. They both have one semester to graduate, and jobs after that. Rae is going to work for EMC Isilon in Seattle, Washington as a Software Development Engineer. Jeromy is going to be a Distributed Systems Engineer at Protocol Labs wherever he wants, working remotely.

Vic’s Picks

Vasiliy Bunakov, Tech Super Hero

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

vasiliy_headshot_croppedIf you have been at EECS for any length of time you have probably asked Vasiliy Bunakov for help of some sort or another. Vasiliy (or “V” to those who work with him) oversees the IT help desk, where a constant stream of faculty, staff, and students come to solicit his advice and help. In between providing desktop support for several hundred individuals in the college, support and maintenance for many research labs, mentoring senior design projects and providing tours for prospective students, Vasiliy is constantly doing two things: answering a wide range of questions and solving problems. All of us on the third floor of Sloan witness his unbelievable schedule. We see him as V-man the tech super hero running between Sloan, Dana, EME, Wagner, TFRB, ELB and ETRL saving the day, every day.

During the last five years Vasiliy has spent supporting EECS and Voiland College he has never taken a sick day. I have never once heard him complain about anything.

Vasiliy was the recent recipient of the Staff Excellence Award, an award that acknowledges outstanding employees who go above and beyond their job description. Vasiliy’s boss, Systems and Services manager John Yates comments,

Everyone is glad to see V and sad when he leaves. V is the go- to-guy for VCEA, everybody seems to need him to fix this or that. He is like a sponge; anything new, he masters it right away. He currently supports three separate areas within the college and fills in for those areas that don’t have tech support for that particular day.  He has taken his personal time to go to people’s homes to set up their system so that they can work remotely. He brings to the group: enthusiasm, knowledge, eagerness, and a positive can-do attitude. I have not had any faculty, staff, or student make negative comments about Vasiliy.

I decided to follow Vasiliy around for a day and take some pictures. I began to question this idea around 10:00 a.m., the time I found myself completely worn out. Vasiliy was constantly on the move with me ten feet behind running to keep up with his ridiculously fast pace. When he was not on the move he was fixing something. There were never any breaks.

Go to the basement of ETRL–build a monitor frame with vesa mounts.
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Next stop–sand vesa mounts
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Up to the server room–install monitor frame
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Back to the 3rd floor of Sloan(help desk)–check email, pick up some files
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Delegate task to Daniel
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Run up the stairs to the 5th floor of Sloan–Resolve Mat lab issues for faculty
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On the way to the ground level of EME–field a question in the elevator
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Arrive at destination–Virtual OS install for another faculty
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On the way back to the help desk–quick question about an account profile change
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At this point I frantically streamlined my apparel and filled up my water bottle, regretting that I had not worn running shoes and yelling, “wait up!”
Inputs
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Down to the basement of Dana–Talk to Gary about setting up his new computer
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Reimage/upgrade for a machine
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Back to the help desk to drop off the computer
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Down to the ground floor of EME–get keys from the boss
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Basement of EME–Up on a ladder to check cables–I’m thinking, “I thought IT was supposed to be a desk job.”
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Grab the ladder and we are on the move again–Resolve network issues
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Back to the help desk–
We stop for a quick picture in the hall with advisor, Linda Howell who calls out “St. Vasiliy thank you for saving my morning!” referring to an event that had taken place earlier before I arrived.
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Lower a desk for a staff member and check ports for that room
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Confirm switch was configured correctly
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The pace quickens (hadn’t thought it was possible). We are on our way back to the basement of ETRL. I take a chug from my water bottle and call out, “Vasiliy, how many miles are we going to walk/run in these halls today?!” He informs me that his daily average is four miles and that what we were experiencing was an average sort of day.–
Make modifications to Vesa mounts
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Back to the help desk–Talk with Tony
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Down to the server room–Put a server online
I didn’t take a picture each time we went to the server room. I just started whining, “Not the server room again”.
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Basement of EME–meeting with new faculty who submitted a request for a server-explain support options
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Vasiliy was one of the first people I met when I started working at EECS, which I think is true for most people here. I remember during my first week of work asking him, “What’s going on around here that is cool and unusual?” How ironic that he was the one I asked.

I was only able to keep up for a few hours of Vasiliy’s “average day,” but following him around for a bit confirmed what I have thought since meeting him over a year ago. V is a rare person. His unrelenting drive makes him superior in figuring out how to solve all problems presented to him. He has a machine like work ethic. He is always positive, always humble; never condescending. Watching his interactions with others I realize we all think the same thing, “I am so glad Vasiliy’s got my back.”

 

Other Picks from Vic

Dr. KC Wang, Professor/Computer Science Guru

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Vic’s Picks

50 Years of Computer Science culminates in an original book about operating systems

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

kc_new_500(1)Dr. KC Wang received his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Northwestern University in 1965. It was at that point he decided to study Computer Science. KC explains, “I realized in the late 60’s that computers were the future and began to shift my study in that direction.”

KC began teaching at WSU in 1970 in both EE and CS and continued after the schools merged to become EECS. “KC teaches the really hard classes” says Scott Hanson, EECS Research Operations Manager, “The classes that serious employers like Microsoft want to see on your resume”. KC has intensely studied and taught computer science for the last 50 years.  He has acquired a level of knowledge in this area that only a few in the world can claim.  Having written a complete operating system from scratch entirely by himself he is now coming out with a book that provides a detailed platform for teaching and learning the theory and practice of operating systems.

KC’s new book, Design and Implementation of the MTX Operating System is scheduled to print this fall. It provides a comprehensive explanation of the theoretical and practical aspects of operating systems, and describes the design and implementation of a real operating system in detail. It is intended for computer science students and computer professionals who wish to study the internal details of operating systems. Its inclusion of detailed example code and complete working sample systems make it suitable as a textbook for technically oriented operating systems courses in a Computer Science/Engineering curriculum as well as for self-study by computer enthusiasts.  KC explains: “The book contains a lot of original material that you will not find anywhere else, especially on the design and use of parallel algorithms in SMP to improve the concurrency and efficiency in Symmetric Multiprocessor systems.” Click here for a full list of unique features.

When asked what his advice is to students in the serious pursuit of computer science, KC replies, “It is important that one’s primary focus be on gaining real knowledge. Students must not be distracted by the mercenary concerns of a career in place of the pursuit of real knowledge, otherwise, it will be impossible to adapt to the rapidly changing field.” He goes on to discuss the danger of near- sidedness and explains, “Becoming too narrow in a field is dangerous. Technology is evolving and CHANGING fast, especially in the area of computing.  To be trained in a very narrow and specialized area is undesirable because it may be phased out and disappear very soon. Without a solid and broad background, one cannot adapt to the changing world.”  At the end of the conversation I asked KC why he continues to study computer science after fifty years, he replied, “I still have a lot to learn. Learning is never ending”.

Vic’s Picks

Sarah Belter’s checklist

By Victoria Sandmeyer, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

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Sarah Belter graduates with a degree in Computer Science from The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science on May 10th. Two weeks later she starts her first job at Microsoft as a test developer. “Are you just a born winner; how does this happen?” I ask. As I spoke more with Sarah it became apparent that coupling a good education with social skills will take you far in this field.

Sarah first became interested in computer science after taking an introductory web development class in high school. “I found HTML code mystifying but cool, and I wanted to know more,” she says. As a child Sarah enjoyed solving puzzles and working on projects with her dad. “My Dad is a big Do it Yourselfer and we always had home improvement projects going on. I always wanted to help him, even if it was just holding tools for him when I was young. As I got older he let me help him do the planning and the math for the project. For example, when we moved to our new house, we were installing a sprinkler system and he let me help design the layout and had me do some of the measurements for pipe lengths and a number of joints. Although it wasn’t always a complicated project, him letting me do the real work and trusting me to get it right made me work that much harder, as well as made me double and triple check my own work.”

Sarah talks about her experience as a student being positive. She mentions the “atmosphere” and the “college community”. She mentions two teachers specifically: John Schneider and Andy O’Fallon, describing them as “excited, easy to understand, and available.” How did your education here at EECS help you through the interview process at Microsoft? I ask. “My internship interview at Microsoft as well as other companies seemed frightening, but most of the time it came down to the basics that we learned in our first few computer science courses. I had John Schneider and Andy O’Fallon back and forth my first three semesters. Their teaching abilities and passion for computer science helped me learn some of the most fundamental but invaluable information that led to my internship, and which ultimately led to my first job.”

Sarah is easy to talk to. She seems like the type of person who makes a goal, works hard, and does not make a big fuss about it. I ask her about computer science in general. “There are so many jobs out there for Computer Science majors,” she tells me. “Computers are widely integrated into our everyday lives and it has become beyond important that technology become a topic across all fields of study. Even if it is just advanced word processing, everyone can benefit from not just learning about computers but understanding what (and why) things happen the way they do. Ultimately, computer software is still written by people, and those people have to make decisions on how programs work and what they will do, so understanding the process that occurs to create computer programs could help reduce the frustration of many people.”

Throughout my interview with Sarah it becomes more and more apparent that her study of computer science has been more than just job training. There is a contagious passion for discovery that is evident in all of her explanations. The exciting thing about computer science is, in her words is: “[That] it’s never going to stop, it will always progress.”