Scott Morgan Rises to CS Challenge

Scott Morgan, MCS alumnusScott Morgan wasn’t surprised that College Choice ranked Rice University’s Master in Computer Science program one of the best in the United States. Rice’s program was precisely the kind of academic excellence he was pursuing.

Morgan double-majored in Statistics and Math with a Computer Science minor while on a track scholarship at the University of North Carolina. “I was focused on my training and how I ran,” he said. “It was a difficult schedule and I wanted to go somewhere else for my masters, somewhere I could just focus on academics.”

“The best part [of the Rice CS program] for me was the people I got to be in class with,” said Morgan. “To see what they would come up with, how much knowledge they were bringing to the projects.” The challenge of being in classes with people with that level of ability challenged Morgan to work even harder. “I only thought I’d had to work hard as an undergrad,” he said, “but it was nothing compared to the amount of work I’d had to put in here to keep up and get the most out of my classes.”

Morgan also credited the faculty with their commitment to teaching. “Teaching can get lost in universities with strong research programs, but I’ve had fabulous teachers at Rice.” For example, Stephen Wong incorporates real world projects to teach Software Engineering Methodology in COMP 410/539. Wong introduced the client and problem, and then told the students to pick team leaders; one of their first challenges was determining how to run their own elections, in which Morgan was elected as a Project Manager in charge of customer relations.

Morgan said, “We looked in Sharepoint to see how the previous classes had done it, and had the online elections that night.” Grades were based on their Sharepoint journals, which prompted the students to continue using the unfamiliar tool. “We had to fill in journals every week and that is where we have the documentation for our site. We ran into issues if a team didn’t update their API in the site for other teams.”

Looking back, Morgan said most of the students realized they could have benefited from using Sharepoint more. “We used Slack most because that was most familiar to us. People would give important updates in Slack, but it would be hard to find the notes later. The search tool was good, but it wasn’t the same as having a web site like in Sharepoint.”

In addition to managing the project through collaboration tools, the students used class time for standup meetings. “The standups were a good experience,” said Morgan. “Most of the people in the class knew about standups because they had already completed impressive internships at Google, Microsoft, and places like that. But interns are usually being told what to do and this was the first time we were totally in charge.”

 Department Chair Vivek Sarkar (left) treated three graduating MCS students (including Scott Morgan, third from right) to a congratulatory lunch with CS faculty members after their last class.

Department Chair Vivek Sarkar (left) treated three graduating MCS students (including Scott Morgan, third from right) to a congratulatory lunch with CS faculty members after their last class.

Following his May graduation, he began working at a hedge fund. “I got the job offer in early December,” said Morgan, who wanted to return to the Chapel Hill area and work in finance. There are not many quantitative finance firms in North Carolina, but Morgan found a small company that had done really well over the last five years with an extreme quantitative focus.

He said, “So I just sent them an email last fall, asking if they had any positions open. They weren’t hiring then, but passed my resume around. I ended up in a phone interview and a technical assessment, then they flew me in for a personal interview.”

Although he had offers from bigger firms in other industries and locations, North Carolina was calling him home.