Hi! My name is Peter-John King. I recently graduated from Clarkson after double majoring in computer science and data science. I was also in the Honors Program. I was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica.
Why Computer Science
I had initially chosen to pursue computer science because I loved coding in high school. The main thing that fascinated me about it was the ability to translate real-world problems into useful applications
I started out making simple programs like a calculator, then I started to make simple video games, like Flappy Bird and Pac-Man. My interest just evolved from there.
As I developed a greater appreciation for the theoretical aspects of computer science, I also developed an interest in how the collection and understanding of data could be applied to solve real-world problems.
What I really love about it is that I am able to see from end-to-end a product that’s capable of radically transforming people’s lives. When you look at technologies like facial recognition and social media, you are able to make life much easier for everyone. And I wanted to be a part of that revolution.
Initially, I was a computer science and finance double major. However, I switched from finance to data science because I felt as though data science would give me a stronger mathematical background to complement computer science, as well as give me a business background that can be applied to any given field.
The curriculums for both computer science and data science are extremely flexible in their support for your passion. You can easily customize your degree program into whatever area of the discipline you wish to concentrate on, irrespective of how specific or broad it is. So, I could take advanced classes with graduate students as a sophomore.
Also, there is a significant emphasis placed on personal development and growth within the major. Professors tend to expect you to think outside the box and dive deeper into the topics discussed. My major was also very project-intensive, which definitely helps your resume!
I chose Clarkson primarily for its strong research reputation and its small size. I found out about Clarkson from a friend back home who had applied. She told me that Clarkson placed a lot of emphasis on research and real-world practical experience—and that’s what I wanted most out of a university. Also, since it’s a smaller institution, I felt as though I’d have a more personal relationship with my professors and students.
The great thing about studying computer science at Clarkson is the fact that from day one you are able to get real hands-on experience with computer science. Since the department is relatively small, it is easy to build a close working relationship with the members of the faculty.
Three faculty members serve as my main inspiration. Associate Professors of Computer Science Sean Banerjee and Natasha Banerjee were my research advisors and served as mentors in my computer science journey. Associate Professor of Computer Science Alexis Maciel is a reminder of why I love computer science. He radiates a passion for the discipline and was always willing to have very lengthy discussions about computer science—especially from the theoretical side!
Research & Experience
One immense opportunity I got was getting involved in research in my freshman year. This is not something unique to my major. Through the Honors Program, I was able to do research during the summer, which was paid for by the program.
I worked at the TARS (Terascale All-sensing Research Studio) since the summer of my freshman year. I primarily worked on the development of an intelligent microscope system for the analysis of microstructures in materials. This research lies at the intersection of computer science and materials science. I gained a lot of valuable experiences and knowledge from my participation in this project.
An example of other research that was being done in my lab was working with people who have difficulties playing the piano because they are missing a limb, like a finger or a piece of a finger. We created 3D simulations to make it easier for them to learn how to play.
I wrote a conference paper for the research I performed while at Clarkson. I also presented twice at RAPS (Research and Project Showcase) held by Clarkson in the spring and summer.
I had a summer internship at Google, which came out of being able to do research and hands-on projects in classes. I was able to put my projects on my resume, which contributed in being able to get that internship. I also spent a summer doing research for a professor’s start-up company.
Back when I was a finance major, I was also able to compete in the CFA Institute Research Challenge, which broadened my understanding of investment research and provided me exposure to financial professionals.
I found that in general my Clarkson professors are more than willing to provide assistance where needed. They are an immense resource and having discussions with them has broadened my understanding beyond just the classroom curriculum. Moreover, I found that my advisors were very helpful in guiding me along the right path. I think one of the most important things that a student can do is to ask questions and try to learn more. The Student Success Center, especially the wonderful Cathy Avadikian, is also very helpful in finding your path academically. They provide resources such as tutoring, planning your schedule, time management skills and stress management skills. There’s more than enough support here at Clarkson.
One of the things that really amazes me about the Honors Program is the closeness of the students. They were very friendly, warm and welcoming to me. All of the honors students are leaders and are very involved on campus in academics, undergraduate research and extracurriculars. They are motivated and determined students who think very critically and don’t simply take things at face value. Even with professors in our classes, during debates and discussions, honors students aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo. They are willing to challenge the norms and question.
But it’s not just about academics. It’s not just about the 4.0. It’s also about being willing to go into your space and transform it into this ideal that you believe is what would make this space better.
So, in terms of clubs and extracurricular activities, I was the president of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. It was definitely an amazing experience for me and I recommend to anyone coming to rush Sigma Phi Epsilon.
I also started the Software Development club at Clarkson, so I was the president of that. And since beginning at Clarkson I was involved in the Clarkson Integrator, our student newspaper.
I worked with the Diversity Inclusion Office too as a Clarkson Intercultural Ambassador, where we helped others to have tough conversations and try to make Clarkson as inclusive as possible. I was also a TA in Calculus III and Differential Equations, and I tutored physics.
My career aspirations tie into what I’m doing in research. I think the best name for my career goal would be a machine learning engineer/consultant. Essentially, I wish to develop intelligent technology solutions to assist clients in which a generic solution may not be applicable. You might say I’d be a researcher and developer into technologies surrounding human-computer interactions. These technologies transform day-to-day actions and make life easier for people.
There are a lot of opportunities out there, especially in computer science. In this job market, it simply isn’t enough to settle for just getting your degree. You need to go above and beyond!
Clarkson has all the resources to help you get there. You just need to reach out. That’s what I recommend!