Ryan Leo Elworth, a second-year graduate student in computer science at Rice University, knows a good thing when he hears it. “One of the best things about Rice CS is the opportunity for constant interaction with super smart people,” he said. “Walking down the hallway, you can overhear people discussing a technically advanced process or a niche computer topic. Anyone can join in. Everyone is willing to be interrupted, to consider a new idea or perspective.”
He believes these random intellectual conversations reflect his colleagues’ deep interest in their research. “When you are really interested in what you are working on, it doesn’t feel like work. We’re always thinking about the problems we’re working on and where they might lead, so of course that comes out in our daily conversations.”
Some of the highly intellectual conversations are not random at all. CS professors invite guest speakers to both undergraduate and graduate-level courses. “Last year, Lydia [Kavraki, a CS professor] had the head of NASA’s robotics program come give a guest lecture in her robotics course,” he said. “And over the last couple months, I have heard talks ranging from Nobel Laureates, to local entrepreneurs innovating our country’s medical care, to the scientist with the 12th-most-cited paper in the world. These talks are almost always given to small groups of graduate students.”
Guest speakers and employers alike value strong connections to Rice. “Rice opens doors,” Elworth said. “Anyone putting in the effort and showing the passion to work in industry, to teach at a university, or start up their own company, there are connections here that can make it happen for you. As trite as it may sound, if you have that drive and come to Rice, the world really is your oyster.”
Elworth recently won a Keck Fellowship to pursue research in biomedical analysis, specifically finding sets of genes responsible for medically relevant phenotypes, such as genetic risk factors for disease.
On a side note, Elworth met Jayvee Abella, another CS Ph.D. student who also won a 2016 Keck Fellowship, on their first day of graduate school. Although they have different advisers and their research does not overlap, “We hit it off right away,” said Elworth. “We’re tennis buddies, and we’ve also worked together on a major project for one of our courses.”
For more information on the largest academic department at Rice University, visit the Computer Science Department web site: http://cs.rice.edu.