An Interview with Todd Gaugler

“I have become very passionate about computer science. It is a much more dynamic subject than many people would assume.”

Todd Gaugler is a third-year Bachelor of Science student at Queens College in New York City. He has a triple major in Mathematics, Computer Science and Economics.

Todd began his bachelors program as a math major. He added computer science and economics to his degree because he enjoyed courses in those subjects and is interested in pursuing a career in finance. After graduating, Todd plans on earning a PhD in mathematics.

In your own words, what is computer science?

Computer science uses math and data structures to study how algorithms are processed and how data is organized. It is a broad field that can mean different things to different students, and it changes rapidly as technology evolves.

One of my interests in the discipline of computer science is quantum computing.
Quantum computing is a field that takes input from numerous scientific disciplines, the goal of which is to create major increases in computer speed and efficiency using algorithms specific to the structure of quantum computers. It is a relatively young and theoretical field at the moment, but it is exciting to work in.

Why did you choose to study computer science?

I initially chose computer science as one of my majors at Queens College
because I took several courses in the computer science department and found that
I enjoyed the discipline very much. My background in math and computer science allow and facilitate my interests in quantum computing and other topics in computer science.

I chose to earn my bachelors degree at Queens College because of the school’s strong academic programs and reputation. Queens was actually recommended to me because of the strength of their mathematics department.

Queens is also an affordable school. Since I anticipate spending money on grad school, I appreciate that I am not spending a lot of money on my undergraduate education.

When you first considered studying computer science what were your expectations?

When I first began studying computer science, I only thought I would minor in it, and I did not expect to enjoy it so thoroughly. I have become very passionate about computer science, and it is a much more dynamic subject than many people would assume.

What do you find most and least enjoyable about studying computer science?

I enjoy how interesting and engaging computer science is as a field. On the other hand, the workload is very heavy. But that is to be expected for anyone doing 3 rigorous programs at once.

What kinds of classes have you taken in your computer science program?

At the moment, I am doing mathematics research, which is integrated into the
computer science curriculum. I am exploring a program that has applications to computational algebra, a nice example in which my math and science backgrounds cooperate.

Which of these classes do you think will be most valuable for your future goals?

I think that the actual classes that I have taken at Queens will be of less importance to my career development than the professors who teach those classes. I took several classes with a very effective and enthusiastic professor. I am taking another course with him now, and he has become a sort of mentor. We are interested in the same topics, and he gives great encouragement and advice.

What resources do you use to help you succeed in your studies?

The biggest resource that I have found at Queens College is the opportunity
to work with professors on research projects and participate in conferences. The school facilitates and encourages these types of participation. For example, attending and presenting my own research at conferences is highly encouraged by Queens College.

Have you done an internship in your field?

I have not conducted an official internship, although I have helped teach some
calculus courses during previous semesters. These were not official teaching
internships, just informal, temporary positions. I have also informally tutored and been
involved with some summer research programs in mathematics.

What personality traits do you think would help a student to succeed in a computer science program and what traits would hinder success?

A good work ethic is incredibly important for all computer science students, as well as confidence. Students will eventually come up against concepts that they do not understand and will have to grapple with them. Some questions and concepts are extremely challenging and require both hard work and guts to master.

Students who simply skim several pages of text and are satisfied without really understanding what they just read will not do well in a computer science program.

What is your weekly schedule?

I have classes for several hours a week, and I spend an average of 30 hours
a week on homework and studying for those classes. Sometimes I will review the
material again, which can take another 5 to 10 hours. My workload varies. It is
usually quite demanding, and sometimes I have to take a day or weekend off to keep
myself balanced.

How do you manage your course load? What study tips would you give to a prospective student?

I have to balance my work with non-academic activities in order to perform effectively. I run a youth group with my girlfriend at our local church, and I volunteer at a kids’ program there as well. Those leisure activities are very important.

When I have the opportunity, I sometimes arrange my schedule so that I take evening classes and can then work uninterrupted until the early hours of the morning. The timing of my schedule has a lot of influence on my success.

What are your plans for after graduation?

I would like to attend a school in New York that has a reputable PhD program for mathematics. I haven’t completely decided what field of math I am most interested in, but keeping my grades up and being involved in extracurricular research projects is something that I prioritize as I strengthen my resume and applications.

Now that you have completed 3 years of your computer science program, if you could go back to high school, what would you do differently?

I was very well prepared for college, but I wish I had known just how flexible the scheduling process was and how much independence I would have in the process. If I could go back, I would have taken more courses I was interested in, knowing that they could apply to a computer science degree.

What advice do you have for students who are interested in studying computer science?

My biggest piece of advice is that you should find another student who is interested in the subjects that you are interested in, because you will be able to learn from and challenge each other.