Computer Science – An Area To Realise My Potential

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The catalyst for my my interest in computer science was found back in year nine, when I discovered Apple’s Swift programming language and the iOS development frameworks. Armed with these, I devoured hours upon hours of lectures and programming talks and undertook multiple personal projects. I further built upon this interest by enrolling in Harvard’s MOOC, CS50. The skills I gained through this course were invaluable, ranging from fundamental computer science constructs, including algorithmic thinking and data structures, to familiarity with the C and Python programming languages. A fascinating component was the elegant concept of abstraction – defining objects and functionality with common features to decompose and layer implementation details, allowing for more efficient and quicker software design. A major takeaway from these lectures was also the ability to construct logic and apply it to a new language or platform – a critical strength in a field where adaptation and constant learning is vital. Project Euler problems provide me with resources to sharpen these skills by optimising solutions to run as efficiently as possible.

Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in the National STEM School at Lahore University of Management Sciences, where I was one of 30 high schoolers selected on academic merit. Over the course of ten days, I led a team of three in developing an intelligent solver for the board game, Logic Dots. The scope of the project involved creating a parser for interpreting conditions, a solver for matching quite literally a billion potential outputs to the conditions, and a pitch to three of Pakistan’s most renowned computer scientists. In heading this team, I put to use leadership and communication skills I developed through working with the Student Council as Head Boy and by leading groups at the NGO, Door of Awareness. The experience culminated with our project winning first place and leaving me with valuable insights about managing groups, team software development methodologies and pitching products. This was followed up by a first place award at Lahore Grammar School Innoventions, where I led a team in creating a proof of concept game demo in Python.

The intersection of computer science with my other major passion, photography, is of particular interest to me. The potential of computer vision and computational photography to create effortless art, ensure secure biometric authentication systems and enable futuristic applications like real time image analysis in driverless cars, is unparalleled. Experiencing Amazon stores usher in a seamless shopping experience using camera sensor arrays and machine learning algorithms and watching modern sensors simulate high dynamic range images and creating fake bokeh is fascinating.

While researching these, I studied how Google uses semantic segmentation to classify foreground and background elements in images. Then, by splitting the sensor into two images, they calculate the difference in viewpoints to form a stereo depth map and apply the synthetic blur. Also fascinating is removing obstructions in images by capturing multiple with slightly different viewpoints and calculating the parallax between elements to determine which is the closest. While at LUMS, I observed first-hand the impact innovative solutions using vision can have on people’s lives. I shadows Dr Suleman Shahid’s lab, working to build accessible, assistive technologies for the disabled. I witnessed creative techniques such as a custom Virtual Reality learning environment, using vision algorithms to analyse behavioral cues in children with learning disabilities such as autism and eye movement in dyslexics. I am looking forward to expanding my knowledge on the topic with Stanford’s Machine Learning and Mark Levoy’s computational photography lectures along with Richard Szeliski’s book, “Computer Vision: Algorithms and Applications”. I believe I truly have the academic mettle to realise the wide ranging potential of this discipline as proven by my four distinctions in Edexcel IGCSE, including one in Mathematics.

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