James Bruska '18, BS Computer Engineering and Computer Science
Hometown: Syracuse, N.Y.
I was hooked on computer programming in the eighth grade, so it was easy to choose my double major. Choosing a college was a process in which Clarkson rose very quickly to the top of my list.
The Honors Program grabbed my attention first, because I didn't just receive a letter informing me that I could be part of their "prestigious honors program." I had to apply and go through an interview process — to make an effort in order to demonstrate that I wanted to be part of the program. In return, the Honors Program offers students some unique opportunities, such as pre-freshman research experiences and challenging courses that made me responsible for far more than a typical class assignment.
The faculty and my students really sold this place to me, and I could not be happier. When I visited campus for Clarkson’s Accepted Student Day Open House, we visited the Electrical & Computer Engineering Lab to hear a talk. Afterwards, students showed what they had been working on in the Lab. After I explored all of the cool projects, a single white board caught my attention. It was filled with a bunch of circuit diagrams — and I wanted to know how it worked!
A professor (Abul Khondker) introduced himself and spent 30 minutes explaining senior-level circuit designs to a potential freshman! It truly amazed me. I thought, “If the rest of the professors are anything like this one, then I'm ready to start classes right now!” As it turns out, the rest of them are like that too!
The Clarkson Open Source Institute also proved to be irresistible. This club is essentially a computer laboratory in which students can meet to work, have fun and get any type of help with computer classes. It also has approximately $70,000 worth of server equipment that is run solely by its members!
The Clarkson Honors Program allows students to visit overnight in order to see what it’s like to be a student at Clarkson. This experience made the decision so easy for me. Busy people took time out of their day to talk and just hang out with me. One of the students even took me out at midnight to show me around campus. When the visit was done, I knew where I was going to college; I could not have chosen another school.
It is hard to say what Clarkson has helped me with — except to say “everything.” The community at Clarkson has made me who I am as a person today. I study more than I used to; I have a great group of friends, that I trust unconditionally, and I can easily see my path to a job after I graduate. It is not just about studying itself, though. It's how I study and who I study with. I have a community that is willing to help with any problem.
This past semester I was working on something that has been an open research question for more than 50 years. When I proposed a solution, I was met not with laughter, but with resources. I had conversations with professors, who provided new resources as well. A group of students who I asked for help, worked with me for about 10 hours on hyper-dimensional math and the algorithms pertaining to my solution.
Relationships such as these will be helpful throughout my career as well. My network is also expanding rapidly. I have already met many people working in the field of computer security, thanks to the professor under whom I do research. I was even able to attend a conference in California — where I also did some networking — due to his support.
At Clarkson, professors will give you all of the extra help that you need, but they will never give you the answers. Half of the time they don’t even give you the process needed to solve the problem. Instead, they challenge you to find it. That makes all the difference. I also want to praise the community as a whole. Everyone is trying to improve. The administration is open to suggestions, professors change their classes to incorporate new ideas in their fields and students work. This leaves me assured that, no matter where the future takes me, I will succeed, because I will just work until everything works.
From the day we step foot on campus, or even earlier, students have opportunities for hand-on learning and real-world experiences. I have worked on computer-security research projects with Professor Chen Liu since the summer before my freshman year. I've worked on five different research projects so far, including biometric security systems, a Google Glass application for heart-rate detection, virtual machine scheduling optimization and malware detection with hardware performance information. This summer, I'm working with him again, preparing a publication and creating a virtual reality video game.
Outside of class, I'm in two a cappella singing groups: Golden Knotes and Ultravioletones; I serve as vice president for the Golden Knotes. In addition, I'm part of the Clarkson Open Source Institute and a member of Tau Beta Pi. I am vice president of the Clarkson University student chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery, and I was recently a teaching assistant for Introduction to Computer Science I & II. I also participate in campus coding competitions, such as Hack Potsdam.
I plan to go to graduate school to pursue a PhD in computer security.