Rice CS – Small Enough to Know Each Other

Cary Jiang in John Greiner's COMP 130 course, photograph by Emily LiuHe “Cary” Jiang transferred to Rice University’s Computer Science (CS) department from a large school in California because, as she says, “The classes were big and people didn’t know each other. It was not the undergraduate experience I was looking for.”

Jiang, a sophomore CS major at Wiess, continued, “At Rice, CS classes are getting larger but some are still small. There are only 10 of us in COMP 441, Large Scale Machine Learning with Shrivastava.” (Anshumali Shrivastava is an assistant professor in Computer Science.)

She is taking COMP 322, Fundamentals of Parallel Programming, a required class, with the CS Department Chair, Vivek Sarkar, with about 100 students. Jiang also completed COMP 215, another required class, with about 130 students taught by Dan Wallach. “With a large class, collaboration really depends on the classroom setting. For COMP 322, it is the sort of course where we watch videos and read the textbook before hand, then the instructor goes through their slides and we work on exercises together. But 322 is taught in Herzstein 210, [a large and traditional lecture-style] classroom with stairs and you can really only talk with the people on each side of you.” Jiang is a teaching assistant (TA) for COMP 130, taught in Brockman 101. “In my experience as a TA, that is a very collaborative space even though it has about 90 students. Of course, it is also a “flipped classroom”, so that encourages collaboration in addition to the way the room is set up.”

What Jiang finds most surprising about Rice, she says with a smile, “is how the professors are always there for their students, especially when it comes to office hours. All the professors I’ve met are really helpful, whether your problems are really basic or more at length like something you’re working on. If you’re interested in the research they are doing and you just ask about it, they are really passionate.” She thinks a moment, then continues, “If you say to your professor, ‘ I want to follow that field, what classes do I need to take,’ the professors are super helpful with their advice.”

Jiang is actively engaged in developing her software engineering skill set. “Theoretical knowledge has been fun for me. But Rice CS is not just for learning in a classroom setting.  Activities like HackRice keep us engaged in the real world – connecting with alumni in industry, meeting awesome peers from other colleges.”  She pauses for a moment and adds with a grin, “And it seems the real world welcomes us, too. I’ve already accepted my internship offer with Google for this summer.”

For more information on the largest academic department at Rice University, visit the Computer Science Department web site: http://cs.rice.edu.