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Growing up, I had a STEM oriented mind and (like many of you) loved science, math, and puzzles, so I naturally knew I wanted to explore the world of engineering in college. However, I was lost on which degree to choose in specific because of my varying career interests: I potentially wanted to traverse the path to healthtech through Biomedical Engineering (BME), but I liked the statistics and management side of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE), and even revered the idea of integrating hardware in Electrical Engineering (ECE) courses. I was at a crossroads. 

Then, I spoke to a current student studying computer science and he explained the vast options his degree opened doors to, especially at a school like USC. This ultimately led me to choose computer science as my own major. 

What makes computer science at USC special?

I love the collaborative environment within my department. At least half of the core computer science classes involve some sort of group project, where you get to come up with your own ideas and bring them to life with your peers. Also, although computer science is the biggest program within Viterbi, all of my classes have familiar faces because of the smaller class sizes at USC. This makes it easy to form bonds with your classmates and to reach out to other students for help. Everyone is going through a communal struggle with the rigorous curriculum, so leaning on each other for guidance is welcomed. 

In addition, I get to delve into specific interests within computer science through my technical electives. I have recently been looking into cybersecurity and, on a whim, decided to take an introduction class on it as one of my electives. We are currently learning about cryptography practices and have simulations to hone in our own skills. We also have presentations that keep us up to date on all current cybernews. My favorite part is the weekly Capture the Flags, or CTFs, which are like computer security competitions between our classmates! I have also taken a Graphical User Interface Programming class, where I get to tinker with designing digital interfaces for users to interact with. This class was super fun for creating personal projects to add to my portfolio. 

Outside of the classroom, I have been able to use work on more interdisciplinary projects. I am a member of an engineering club called Makers, where we work in cohorts on a year long project. I am currently working on a virtual reality version of the beloved game, Subway Surfers. This club allows me to cultivate skills I would typically learn inside the classroom, such as soldering, 3D printing, and working with gyroscopes. I also get to work with everyone from electrical and aerospace engineers to Iovine and Young Academy students. The club even has its own makeshift makerspace with various tools and tidbits hidden in there. 

Overall, I’m still figuring out the path I plan to take after graduating, but my major has allowed the exploration of more than I could have imagined.

Saafiyah Patel