A Day in the Life: Computer Science Engineering Student
During her Instagram takeover, computer science and biomedical engineering student, Jillian Anderson introduced us to her field of interest and her research on medical imaging and artificial intelligence. Find out all about her journey into the tech world and read some of her top tips for those interested in programming:
Can you introduce yourself to our community?
My name is Jillian. I’m a third-year comp sci engineering student and I mostly focus on AI and the combination of medical imaging technology to further advance the biomedical engineering field. I use Java, C, C++, and Python for the majority of any projects that I do and I’m currently doing independent research on AI and medical imaging, specifically with ultrasound technology. I’m interested in how those two can intersect for better medical imaging scans in the future!
How did you get into the tech world and your coding career?
I started programming around nine years ago. I learned some basic web development skills for social media websites, and in a game development class at my school at the time, they taught you a little bit of HTML which was my introduction into development. Then, when I was 14 or so, after a few years of gradually learning on my own, I joined my high school robotics team which is really where I got my focus on what I do today: object-oriented programming.
Tell us more about the Robotics Team!
I would greatly recommend joining a robotics team if you have the option to! It’s pretty much my dream. If you have any kind of dream of intermixing computer science with engineering, it’s the perfect outlet for you. You’re in a team of other students, with subsets of the electrical team, mechanical team, and the software team.
When I first joined, I was on the software team, and then by my senior year, I was leading the entirety of the engineering team. I got to oversee the mechanical design, check out the wires, and I had also done a lot of the programming there. We had also done vision tracking technology and a few different things with the software team as well.
It’s a really fun experience and it gets you in the mindset of how to problem solve, how to work with other people, and generally how to develop your skills from just coding, coding, coding to applying that into a real-life scenario.
What has been your favourite thing about your journey so far?
One of the things I find the most important and most enjoyable is research. I started researching in high school, where I did a full research project on the Internet of Things and the security that consumers have with using those devices. It was more so to get an understanding of how consumers view these devices versus how they actually are perceived in the tech world. After high school, I started my independent research based on my passion, which is biomedical engineering. I started researching AI and medical imaging technologies.
Do you have any advice for those interested in research?
So, there’s a lot of stages of research. What I would recommend is that first, you need to find a subject that you are really passionate about, and then you need to find a gap in that research. Look through the research, find what’s out there, and then find where you could come in with the research question and close that gap. And then, you make your question based on that gap and something that needs to be objective and able to be quantified.
After that, typically, in my experience, I’ve had to do a literature review, which is pretty much looking at all the research that pertains to it and summarizing all of those, drawing conclusions from those for how it can pertain to your research as well.
What are you currently working on?
My focus is primarily on biomedical engineering and the overlap of that with computer science. I’ve seen pretty much every field of engineering, I think, has really started to develop and revolutionize. We’ve had personal mobile devices: PMDs that have gone from flip phones into iPhones, Androids, and NDs. I’ve seen cars develop, I’ve seen all these fields develop. The one that I have yet to see really keep up as much is the medical technology field.
I think it’s a constant battle between cost and making sure they are safe and they work. So, we have commonly stuck to what we know rather than what we could develop because it’s just too costly. I think that’s an incredible tragedy because there’s so much technology out there that we could use.
What interests you most about biomedical engineering?
Personally, I would like to develop that into something that can actually be revolutionized. I really find a focus in artificial intelligence and how it relates to the medical industry. I think a lot of people see a lot of potential for AI, even though it can be controversial at times. Pattern deduction is one thing that’s super valuable when it comes to medical technology that we haven’t really explored in much depth yet.
Even in a situation like the current pandemic! How useful it would’ve been to have a scan that could’ve predicted and prevented these outbreaks from happening in the first place, just by locational technology using machine learning which could detect outbreaks. And then, as more scans are done, as more scans are on the market, growing that knowledge and knowing where these patterns are and harnessing that power.
Medical staff are so overworked, a lot of hospitals are understaffed, and they are not nearly credited enough for their work. I would love to have the focus back on them, so they are able to do their diagnostics, treatment, passion, and specialty and taking care of people, rather than focusing on triage. That itself can become automated or at least better detected, so that they have a pointing direction.
What programming languages do you use?
I found that Java and C++ are pretty common in universities. My university focuses on Java for the first three years of your courses, and there are a few classes here and there that use C. However, most of the content is focused on one of those foundational levels of object-oriented programming. I would suggest that beginners start there if they intend to go to university because that can help them get an edge when they go in and they are already aware of the syntax of the language.
Do you have any tips for beginner programmers?
I would suggest taking breaks. New eyes will always catch details that you missed before and any errors you’ve made, which in my experience has always been really helpful for deadlines.
Also, I think that you should always ask how your work is going to affect the world. For me, I think that goes hand in hand with the concept of ethical engineering. Focus on using your work to better the world or to help other people. I try to live by that. I hope that others also try to live by that.
Another piece of advice would be to focus on the concepts of programming rather than the syntax, especially at first. You’re going to learn the syntax along the way, especially in projects. The concepts and the structure underneath are incredibly valuable to understand and I’m lucky that my college focuses on those structures, and we do definitely learn the language along the way.
I think it’s really important that you remain open to criticism and to learning new things. Try not to focus on the top of the top, and instead think if you are doing something that you care about or are you doing something that you find that you’re good at? And that’s really where it matters.
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