Alexandra Okeson, a CU Engineering Outstanding Graduate for Academic Achievement for 2017, tried her hand at several computer science disciplines during her time at CU Boulder.
But it was through a Discovery Learning Apprenticeship that Okeson finally found her calling in the field. She was paired with advisor Sriram Sankaranarayanan and got to help create algorithms for his artificial pancreas verification project.
"Right now, medical companies are using computers to test these devices before testing them on humans, but they don’t have algorithms to test devices on kids and a couple of other high-risk populations," she explained. "We made an algorithm that took a small subset of data and made it into a larger test set."
Working on that project inspired her to go on for her PhD, focusing on algorithms for healthcare. She starts graduate school at the University of Washington in the fall.
Dabbling in different areas helped Okeson stay motivated during the tough early semesters of the computer science curriculum. As a teaching assistant, she advises younger students not to get discouraged by the early coursework.
"There are a lot of different ways you can use computer science to help the world and inform what you’re passionate about, so don’t give up too early."
Okeson, who’s originally from Anchorage, Alaska, discovered computer science during a required intro to programming class at the university where she spent her freshman year before transferring to CU Boulder. After that, Okeson was hooked.