Student Spotlight: AJ Snarr
What makes JMU CS special?

The people: it really feels like a community. Everyone is so friendly, and we can all be nerdy in our own ways together.

What projects/research are you working on?

I am currently working on my Capstone project, but it's only in the proposal stage. I am working on using AI and machine learning techniques to help make a program that will learn to play a game where all it sees about its environment is a room description in English. So far, it has made a difference in my education in that it's taught me some about the best ways to read and understand research papers, and it's showed me how complicated and huge the field of machine learning is. Now, if I ever start working on another research intensive project, I'll have a better idea of how to dive into it.

What clubs have you participated in with the CS department?

I am in the robotics club, but this semester that's been about it. The most impact-full thing I've been involved with was during Freshman/Sophomore year, helping out the local high school First Robotics Competition (FRC) team when they asked JMU robotics for help teaching programming.

Have you done summer internships?

I have been in two internships. One after freshman year, at a company called ScienceLogic, and another after Sophomore year at WillowTree Apps. At ScienceLogic and at WillowTree, it was a huge struggle at first. Coming in I had to learn so much information at once, especially at ScienceLogic, since I was only just ending Freshman year.

At ScienceLogic I learned Python, some of the basics of docker (for monitoring status of docker containers), and a LOT about ScienceLogic's application named em7. At WillowTree, I worked on the backend-side of an awesome app for a major European grocer and learned a lot about good structuring of code, especially design patterns, and good protocols for sending information, as well as some good tips about structuring a backend.

I also did this while learning to program in Google's language, Go. Having to deal with learning so much at once at ScienceLogic the year before helped a LOT though, and I also had a great team and mentor to help me get in sync. I'm going back to WillowTree this summer.

Each of these internships has helped show me more and more what work might be like after graduation. They've also made an impact on me in showing me what kinds of things I would enjoy working on.

What are your plans for the future?

I think I want to go to grad school, but I am still not sure yet. It's a hard decision and I'm still not sure what to study if I went.

What's your advice for incoming students?

Be involved, find what you're interested in. Not even just in CS, but in clubs all around JMU. Time might feel stretched before you start dropping out of some clubs, but you'll meet a lot of great, interesting, people along the way.

Also don't be afraid to apply for internships your freshman year. People will take you, especially if you show interest. It's all about having the confidence to talk to recruiters at career fairs, and applying to as many places as you can find. Getting an internship might not sound like something that will be all too different from school, but believe me, I've learned so much from internships that I don't think I could have learned from school that it's insane.

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