Yesterday I was finally able to interview Professor McKinley, a Computer Science professor at my university whom I’d set an appointment up with earlier. While I didn’t quit gain an extensive grasp of knowledge regarding the language utilized in the field, I still found the interview to be very informative and overall successful. Before walking in to speak with Professor McKinley, for example, I’d assumed software and hardware to be the two primary divisions of Computer Science. However, this professor clarified to me that the hardware aspect is actually a completely separate sub-field of Engineering that often falls into Electrical Engineering. Maintaining the topic of misconceptions in Computer Science, we discussed things that the general public tends to misunderstand about this field. The professor explained to me that the greatest inaccuracy among public perception is the idea that Computer Science is exclusively coding. As someone who has taken a programming course in high school and intends to pursue this degree for the purely coding aspect, this caught me completely off balance. He went on to further elaborate for me, explaining that computer science also places an emphasis on designing, maintaining, and tweaking these machines so that they may continue to operate as intended or even improve the way they operate.
Narrowing down the subject of the interview, we discussed his current focus in his field: Artificial Intelligence, or AI. He described AI development to me as making improvements and tweaking the code in order to improve a system and allow it to continue operating in the event of an emergency. One example he gave me was a project of his that involved designing a boat to change course in the event of one of its parts being rendered inoperable. Rather than a boat continuing to spin in a circle in the event of one of its rotors being destroyed, he explains, the machine instead adapts to the situation and adjusts itself so that it is still able to continue on its path. He told me that 10 years ago, he had no idea how to do this.
One more interesting subject we discussed was technical papers. Although we only briefly discussed this, he referred to these papers as often being “more formal”. I have also spoken with my roommate about these technical papers in casual conversation, and he explained to me that you aren’t allowed to use contractions. While this struck me as odd, it also has encouraged me to learn a little more about these technical papers.