How to Choose a the Right College Computer Science Program for You
If you’ve found your way to our blog, you’re probably interested in learning more about computer science — or perhaps even pursuing a career in technology.
First of all, that’s a smart move. The demand for experts in computer science is growing rapidly as the field adapts to emerging technologies in data mining, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and cybersecurity.
But with so many possibilities of what to study and where to study it, we understand picking a university computer science program can be quite a daunting choice to make. To find the best path for you, it’s important to cut through the noise and focus on the details that matter and give you the greatest chance for success.
Here are some factors to consider when making your decision, with some real examples of professors, research, classes, organizations, activities and opportunities found at LSU.
LOOK FOR CLASSES IN COMPELLING TOPICS YOU’RE MOST INTERESTED IN
The world of computer science and technology moves fast and covers a huge range of career possibilities. That means means the program you choose should be nimble, constantly reinventing itself and offer multiple opportunities to explore the tech sector that best fits your interests and skills.
LSU’s Division of Computer Science and Engineering, which is part of the College of Engineering, offers concentrations that include data science and analytics, software engineering, and cloud computing & networking. The department’s ever-evolving courses cover a range of fascinating topics, such as professor Golden G. Richard III’s malware reverse-engineering, and also offer valuable project-based experiences like Anas "Nash" Mahmoud’s Software Systems Design.
Mahmoud heads LSU’s Software Engineering and Evolution Lab (SEEL), which conducts research with the goal of providing high-quality and error-free software, and he pushes students to create software applications from the ground up — from design to development to pitching the product to a “Shark Tank”-style panel of peers and software industry representatives. His goal is to give students real-life experiences that prepare them for the industry.
The Division of Computer Science works with other schools and departments on the Digital Media Arts & Engineering minor for undergraduates that offers skills for careers in video game development, film, animation, web development and digital media. There is also a DMAE master’s program that is the first of its kind in Louisiana. Students can earn an M.S. through the interactive media and entertainment technology program that lets them work in teams to solve problems using the industry’s most advanced tools and techniques. DMAE director Marc Aubanel is a 15-year veteran of video game development and has worked on titles such as “FIFA Soccer,” “Need for Speed Underground” and “Marvel Nemesis.”
LOOK FOR ACCESS TO PROFESSORS DOING INTERESTING RESEARCH
Any complete academic experience that prepares students for an exciting career in the technology industry should also offer opportunities to work with leaders of the industry. Throughout LSU’s CS program, students work closely with professors who are at the top of their field, pushing the boundaries of what is possible with technology.
Among them is Xin Li, head of the Geometric and Visual Computing group, who is working with his team to develop and apply 3D visual data processing and analysis technologies to challenging forensic and medical problems. Through his work with the LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory, Li is leading cutting-edge research to digitally restore human skulls and reconstruct faces of unidentified bodies to help aid investigations.
LSU Professor Steven Brandt is using computer science to help researchers explore some of the most enduring and elusive mysteries in the universe — and also to solve complex problems that threaten Louisiana’s coastline. The adjunct faculty member serves as a coordinator for the Einstein Toolkit, an open, community-developed software infrastructure for relativistic astrophysics that helps researchers simulate black holes. He’s also involved with the Coastal Hazards Research Collaboratory at LSU, which uses related software frameworks to model complex coastal events such as storm surge, erosion and oil spills.
And LSU Professor Doris Carver is leveraging three decades of distinguished experience in the field of computer science to make the world’s critical software easier to troubleshoot and more reliable. Much of her research focuses on developing new methods to identify errors in programs more efficiently. As director of LSU’s Software Engineering Laboratory, Carver aims to enhance the productivity of student software developers by providing them with methods and tools to support their daily work.
LOOK FOR AVAILABILITY OF ENGAGING EXTRACURRICULARS
A well-rounded computer science program should offer plenty of opportunities outside of the classroom to network, learn and explore career possibilities.
One of the first opportunities for new computer science students to connect with fellow students and prepare for their field is the Encounter Engineering (E2) Bridge Camp, which aims to give incoming freshmen a head start on their college experience through a series of seminars and group activities. At E2, entering freshmen in engineering, construction management and computer science receive helpful information to prepare them for their future in the College of Engineering and beyond. Students participate in team-building and design activities, attend academic sessions and meet upperclassmen, faculty and industry partners. Students are placed in small teams, each led by a peer mentor who guides them throughout the week.
There are also a number of opportunities for new and more established students to connect with their peers. The LSU chapter of Women in Computer Science supports the professional and academic development of females in the field. The group provides career training, hosts an annual hackathon and offers a way for female programmers on campus to connect with others going through the same journey.
The Association for Computing Machinery’s LSU student chapter advocates for computer science and the students who study it. The organization holds a community meeting every few weeks to let students study together and form connections. For other meetings, ACM invites technology companies to present information about their firms and connect with students.
LSU computer science students are also making important connections in the community. LSU students in recent years have mentored high-school students in technology-related fields through the Geaux CS program, funded by a Google igniteCS grant. They have also helped promote enthusiasm for computer science in robotics and computer programming through a program run by the campus chapter of Society of Peer Mentors.
Students have numerous opportunities to connect with industry leaders through campus technology events like the Red Stick Digital Festival’s Video Game Symposium, which hosts gaming and software industry leaders from around the country to discuss the future of digital arts. And the annual Global Game Jam event brings together dozens of gaming enthusiasts, coders and digital artists at LSU’s Digital Media Center for a hackathon to create video games from the ground up in only 48 hours.
These extracurricular opportunities to learn and connect — combined with a rigorous and engaging classroom atmosphere as well as top-notch faculty who are leading their fields — help create a computer science program that is preparing students for a future driven by technology.