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[Interview] CS Undergraduate Research Paper accepted in CALDAM 2020

SUNY Koreaㅣ2020-03-31 09:24

Marsden Jacques, an undergraduate student in the computer science (CS) department, and Dr. Dennis Wong, a CS professor, wrote a research paper that was submitted to the CALDAM 2020 (6th Annual International Conference on Algorithms and Discrete Applied Mathematics) and was accepted. We recently spoke with Marsden about his research.

1. Nice to meet you! Could you please briefly introduce yourself?

My name is Marsden Jacques, I'm from the state of Maine in the USA, and I entered SUNY Korea in the fall of 2017. I'm currently on a leave of absence, taking time off from getting my computer science degree while I live with my wife in Japan. So far, it has been an amazing experience, the happiest time of my life, and the only thing left for me to really add to my life is a way to continue my studies without sacrificing our ability to live together.

2. How did you find your interest/passion/love of computer science?

I've always been really into PC stuff, mostly games as a kid. That being said, my first formal programming class was in my junior year of high school when I took Intro to Programming, as well as Data Structures and Algorithms in C++. These classes were my favorite of the year and I figured I would give it a go in college. My true love for computer science as a discipline came from working with Professor Wong together on our research. Until that point, most of my interaction with computer science had been mostly programming, but our research was a totally different game and it was almost addicting to sit in front of the white board and work on problems together after class.

3. Your recent research paper with Professor Wong has been accepted for the CALDAM 2020. Could you briefly explain your paper? What was it that inspired you to work on this project?

To give the absolute briefest description possible, the paper outlines an simple construction for a Universal Cycle for Weak Order. What this means is that it provides a really simple algorithm to generate a certain string of numbers which follow a certain set of rules and proves that the algorithm works for all string lengths. There wasn't really an insight for the paper in the traditional sense if the word. Professor Wong and I were just looking at some open problems and I saw the solution to one of them, which then turned into this paper.

4. What is the overall importance of this project? How do you see this work impacting the field?

Our work is fairly theoretical so the importance and effects of it are more up to the people who use it. It does, however, solve an open problem (a problem considered important enough to publish as a problem) within computer science (CS) combinatorics, and generates a previously ungenerated sequence of numbers, something which many areas within CS can use.

5. Describe a research problem you have faced. What did you learn?

One of the biggest problems I personally tend to run into is that it's very easy for something to seem like a solution when looking at a very small scale scenario, but when applied to a larger scale, it doesn't actually work. This realization that sometimes your gut instinct isn't correct, or that looking at a solution within a narrow context can lead to false positives, was a pretty good reminder for myself not only in research but also in life.

6. How was working with Professor Wong? What has been your role and his role in developing research ideas and carrying them forward?

It was both extremely informative and tons of fun. We mostly just bounce ideas off of each other, test each other's ideas, and give suggestions. Naturally, he also offers his wisdom and prior knowledge to me while I bring a fresh perspective as well as a new set of eyes and brain. I've learned so much from working with him, and we're already working on more papers to come. In fact, a second paper of ours was just accepted for a journal this week!

7. How does your work align with your study at SUNY Korea?

Honestly, work supplements my study at SUNY Korea more than aligns with it. A lot of computer science programs at the moment are still fairly application oriented. If I remember correctly, the closest courses we have to this kind of topic are 215, 303, and 373. As a result, I'm lucky enough to get to expand my experiences within computer science and develop new viewpoints for use when I get back to my studies and programming. It's beyond invaluable in my opinion.

8. What advice would you give to new researchers or undergraduate students of the Computer Science department at SUNY Korea?

My advice would be to leverage the small size of the department to your advantage. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to be asked by a professor to do research with them as a first-year undergraduate student. That's not something which would happen almost ever at different schools with bigger departments. Use the smaller size to make connections and see where it leads you.

9. What do you see yourself doing in ten years' time? What are your professional goals in the next five or ten years?

This is something I’m still trying to figure out. In an ideal world, I would love to finish my undergraduate degree and move on to graduate school. Sadly, that's currently something which seems difficult to fit into my life, although with the current virus situation SUNY Korea is fully remote from what I've heard. If that sticks around in a small way after the virus is over, maybe I could take advantage of that. We'll see. I would love to continue pursuing my studies and research. I find solving these problems with Professor Wong extremely enjoyable and rewarding, and if I could make a career out of that I would love to do so.

The details of the conference can be found here.

For more information about SUNY Korea Computer Science, please click here


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