The Computing Scholars Honors Program (CS2) began in the fall of 2013. It was designed to attract students with excellent academic records and provide them a cohort elite style of classes taught by our best instructors at a deeper level of theory and mathematics. Our aim was to prepare participants for a career in research in academia, or at top industrial research labs and top high-tech companies. It was the vision of Dr. Hal Sudborough, Dr. Ivor Page, and Dr. Gopal Gupta that the program would become one of the best honors programs in the nation. Dr. Ivor Page was to be its first, and so far, its only director.
Students are selected from incoming Computer Science freshmen who have been awarded top Academic Excellence Scholarships (AES). Some one hundred of these are invited to take an entrance examination designed to test aptitude for discrete mathematics. Students are admitted to the program on a first-come-first-served basis after passing the entrance examination. The process continues until the class has 30 students. Subsequently, students may still take the entrance exam and, if successful, they are placed on a wait list. When students who have been accepted into the program choose to go to a different university, those at the top of the wait list are promoted into the program.
The popularity of the program and the excellence of the participants continues to grow throughout the years. More than twenty CS2 students are actively engaged with UT Dallas faculty in various research projects. Many more take internships and Research Experience Undergraduate (REU) positions at universities and top research laboratories across the nation. Others have studied abroad at prestigious research universities and laboratories. You will find testimonials on this website from some of our students describing their summer research experiences. Others will follow.
The following section highlights just three testimonials. Amber Hasan is a senior in CS2 student. She spent two summers interning at USAA learning about and developing products in an Agile Environment. Her work included the development of Android applications. She writes about the way that code-reviews and production-reviews operate at USAA. This summary by Amber is currently being used to help other students learn how to prepare for an internship and perhaps a career in industry.
Amber holds a black belt in Taekwondo and is an instructor of white-to-black belt students in this martial art. She has played the piano professionally for many years and is also proficient on other instruments. And beyond that, Amber also has amassed over 400 hours of medical experience during clinical rotations! Capturing all the extremely impressive experiences in this young woman’s short career is not possible in this short space.
Karan Shukla is a junior who, last summer, interned in the IBM Extreme Blue project in Austin Texas. This is an extremely selective program that expects from participants high levels of determination, research potential, and excellent communications and interpersonal skills. His work there was extremely well received and he will be returning to IBM in the summer of 2017. He documented his IBM Extreme Blue internship in this short piece for other students to read and get interested in wanting to intern at large tech companies like IBM.
Karan has been a Senator in the Technology Committee for Student Government and a staff writer and photographer for the award-winning UTD Mercury student newspaper. In his own time, Karan wrote an R (statistical analysis) package that contains easy-to-use functions to anonymize private data, and he is currently in the process of getting it published to CRAN (The Comprehensive R Archive Network).
As part of our undergraduate research immersion program, Karan worked on a Sentiment Analysis Twitter application under the guidance of Professor Yang Liu. The application utilizes Naive Bayesian Classification to classify tweets by sentiment, and is able to filter tweets by their location or their topic. He has also worked in Dr. Murat Kantarcioglu’s Security and Privacy lab.
Shayan Monadjemi is a junior in the CS2 program. In 2016, he participated in the Smart Environments REU program at Washington State University and helped develop an algorithm for discovering and maintaining a list of frequent and interesting patterns occurring in a database of graphs. Such an algorithm can be applied to many different real world problems that are represented by evolving graphs in the database. Criminal network discovery for national security and activity pattern discovery for smart houses are just a couple of examples. Shayan shared a brief summary about his time participating in the Smart Environments REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) program at Washington State University (WSU), you can read about it here.
He is a member of the UT Dallas Wind Ensemble, and was chosen as a member of a committee established by the Dean of Arts and Humanities to suggest ways to improve the already very active music programs at the university. He has had a leadership role in a large student organization at the university and was a peer-leader in the Student Success Center, helping students with their studies in Math. Shayan has also worked with Professor Ryan McMahan at UT Dallas on a Virtual Reality project in which a trainee can climb a virtual ladder while the software detects potentially dangerous physical movements, as defined by The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
After three and a half years, the first graduates of the program have taken their new titles and exclusive green commencement chords to begin new and exciting careers. Four students have graduated with Computing Scholars honors and the rest of the founding class will graduate this spring.
We spoke to Dr. Ivor Page about the success of the program over the years, “We have learned a lot during these almost eight semesters. We continue to refine the program details, recently establishing a Bridge Program that enables existing UT Dallas Computer Science majors to bridge into the CS2 program any time up to the end of their third semester. Bridge students are faced with considerable obstacles in the form of catch-up studies and examinations on those studies but, so far, none has disappointed us.”
Dr. Page continued on saying, “How do you measure success of such a program? Student satisfaction and their success as measured in their GPAs is a beginning, but the responses of researchers who take on our honors students to participate in their research, and ask for more, is perhaps a more immediately gratifying measure. Ultimately we will look to the trajectories of these students once they graduate from the program. In five to ten years, we will have some real success stories to share. Have we produced truly remarkable graduates with careers in academia, government, and industry that have potential for high, positive impact on our society?”
The UT Dallas CS department is one of the top Computer Science departments in the United States with average SAT scores of entering freshman higher than at any public university in Texas. As the CS2 program continues into its fourth year, a new cohort of 30 select students will be embarking upon this specialized program to help launch their careers.
ABOUT THE UT DALLAS COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPARTMENT
The UT Dallas Computer Science program is one of the largest Computer Science departments in the United States with over 2,100 bachelor’s-degree students, more than 1,000 MS master’s students, 150 PhD students, and 86 faculty members, as of Fall 2016. With The University of Texas at Dallas’ unique history of starting as a graduate institution first, the CS Department is built on a legacy of valuing innovative research and providing advanced training for software engineers and computer scientists.