Computer scientists and software developers spend the bulk of their time solving other peoples’ problems in code.  The discipline often attracts people who are curious and interested in diving into a variety of different domains as new projects come their way.  The discipline, though called a science also has an artistic side to it.  There is in fact a branch of artificial intelligence referred to as computational aesthetics.  Programmers often take great pride in devising elegant algorithms that solve complex problems in a simple beautiful way.   Given this, we often find students in our computing programs at GVSU that have significant artistic abilities and/or diverse interests that go well beyond writing code.   Current students Kaye Suarez, Ron Patrick and Adam Terwilliger are excellent examples of students with very diverse talents and interests.

Kaye Suarez

Kaye Suarez is a dual major student: Besides majoring in Computer Science she is also a Dance major.

Kaye Suarez is a dual major student: Besides majoring in Computer Science she is also a Dance major.
Kaye writes:

“I am a fourth year student at Grand Valley State University pursuing a double major in both Computer Science and Dance. Many people ask me how and why I chose this strange and unique combination. My simple answer is that these two seemingly different fields actually have many overlapping ideas and theories. Computers offer endless possibilities as a platform to create visually appealing graphics and images through animations and systematic programming languages. Their foundational design resembles the same logistics that a choreographer uses to fabricate shapes into moving artwork. The analysis of programming is as tedious as the analysis of the human body in motion. Designing a program involves a great deal of understanding computational processes. How can I process this information? Will this change the overall efficiency of my program? How user friendly is my program? Is my code readable? All of these questions are nuances that a software developer has to constantly ask him or herself. Naturally, I deliberate the answers to these questions for hours when working on a project. Similarly, the dancer in me is equally inquisitive. However, instead of asking the questions of processor efficiency, one asks the questions of movement efficiency. Technology is a creation to enhance our daily lives and to offer the world endless opportunities and display innovative collaborations between other professions. I want to create the link between my two passions dance, artistic expression, and computer science, expression of information.”


Ron Patrick computer science student and accomplished pianist.

Ron Patrick showed his talent for music, piano in particular, at an early age. He won the soloist competition for piano
that is conducted every year by the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony. He studied piano, both classical and jazz, at the Berklee College of Music. Ron is now a senior in the Computer Science program at GVSU. Watch Ron’s performances. Enjoy!

Adam Terwilliger

Adam Terwilliger is pursuing a triple degree (different than a triple major – three separate diplomas – 180 credits) in computer science, mathematics, and statistics.

Adam Terwilliger is pursuing a triple degree (different than a triple major – three separate diplomas – 180 credits) in computer science, mathematics, and statistics.

Adam writes:

“My original motivation for coming to GV was to study chemistry and do biochemistry research. After uncovering I did not enjoy being in an experimental chemistry lab, I did research with a chemist, Dr. Lord, in computational inorganic chemistry and quantum chemistry for two years. From there, I realized that it was not the chemistry or physics I enjoyed, but the underlying mathematics and computing needed to solve these problems.”

When asked what has Adam gained by pursuing a triple degree, Adam stated:

“Certainly, I have been more confident and better prepared in some of my classes relative to my peers. For instance, in computer science courses like Theory of Computation, having been exposed to proofs in many math classes has helped. Additionally, I was able to develop more complex and robust code in my statistics courses.
In addition to undergraduate courses, I was able to take six graduate level courses ranging from Multivariate Data Analysis to High-Performance Computing and more. On the other hand, in pursuing this triple degree, I have been able to pursue unique summer opportunities: developing a graph-theoretic data visualization tool at the SAS Institute, exploring generative text mining models with Advanced Analytics at Steelcase, and implementing deep learning models for particle physics collisions with the Department of Energy. In essence, I have been able to explore careers in software development, industry, and the government.”

Adam was asked what is he currently working on:

“In addition to more ease in the classroom and more real world opportunities, I have also been able to explore research in computational science during my time at Grand Valley. Over the past two years, I have been working with Dr. Leidig and Dr. Wolffe on mining billions of cell phone calls in Africa to develop models and visualizations applied abstractly to movement and specifically to computational epidemiology.
This coming year, I plan to transition to deep learning focused research with Dr. Wolffe, using the expertise gained over the summer at the DoE.”

Adam is looking to pursue a PhD in computer science at top-tier institution specializing in machine learning.

The School of Computing at GVSU has many other students with multiple interests and we plan to highlight their talents in future editions.

Article contributed by Dr. Christian Trefftz.