Tom Hazel '05

Tom Hazel

Tom Hazel '05

Hometown: Easton, Massachusetts
Major: Computer Science and Spanish

Why did you come to Bowdoin?
I came to Bowdoin because a friend of mine in high school was doing the whole college search, and she just couldn't stop talking about Bowdoin and how great it was, and she was going to go in the fall. That sort of put it on my radar, and I came up here to look around with my dad one day, and I just really liked the people here and the setting, and decided this was where I wanted to be.

How did you choose your major?
I knew I wanted to do something in the sciences. I tried chemistry and math, and then I just always found myself always doing my computer science homework first. That was the first thing that I really wanted to do, so I just decided to keep going with it, and make it into a major. I like the problem-solving aspect of it. You have this specific set of tools you can use and you can almost solve any problem with them. It's really exciting to see the different ways you can approach a problem.

Spanish is kind of a hobby that turned into a major. I was abroad for a three-week exchange program in high school, and from that point onward, I realized I wanted to go back. When I came to Bowdoin, I didn't take any Spanish freshman year just because I wanted to try different things, but I started up again sophomore year. I really liked it, and really wanted to go back to Spain, so I did. When I came back, I realized I only had a couple more classes then I'd have the major, so I figured, "Why not?"

What has been your favorite class at Bowdoin?
I think my favorite class has been Robotics, this [past] fall, in the Computer Science Department, with [Assistant Professor] Stephen Majercik. It was great because it was the first year the class was offered, so it was a learning experience for both the professors and the students. We were given these Sony Aibo robotic dogs, and we worked with how to make them see and how to make them move well. Starting completely from scratch, [we tried] to make dogs that could play soccer, which didn't really work out as well as we would have liked, but it was an incredible learning experience. We all worked really hard and learned a ton. These soccer-playing dogs are a part of a competition that has gone on for, I'd say, the last five years, so the robotics class in the fall was a way for us to get our feet wet and try.

Have you done any independent studies?
This year I'm doing an honors project with [Assistant] Professor [Laura] Toma of the Computer Science Department, working with GIS programming, Geographic Information Systems, and with maps that are way too big to fit inside a computer's main memory and how [to] write a program to deal with that kind of problem. [This area of study is] something that I heard Professor Toma speak about when she was interviewing for [her position here]. She gave a sample lecture about it, and it's interested me from that point on.

What extracurriculars do you participate in? Do you have an on-campus job?
I'm one of the captains of the rugby team this year, which has been an incredible experience. It's definitely one of the best decisions I've made at Bowdoin. It's really almost like a brotherhood there, where I know that those guys are there for me both on and off the field. Everyone is coming from a lot of different backgrounds, and we come here to do other things, but we find this common thread. The competition's incredible - it's something physical [and] mental at the same time. It's an incredible experience for four years, to work on something like that. We have coaches come to practice on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and to the games, so during those practices, Truc Hunyh ['05] and I are there to be leaders and help everyone work with the coaches. But on Tuesday and Thursday, there are no coaches, so [we] run those practices and work on what we think the team needs to do. A lot of it has to do with fitness on those days.

I'm also a teaching assistant for the Computer Science Department, helping out with grading some of the papers for the introductory classes. It's really nice to TA for the intro classes because I get to share my excitement about the department and about the stuff they're doing with people who might become future CS majors. I feel like I really get to affect the legacy of the department and help everyone get their feet wet and understand the cool problems there are to solve.

Did you study abroad?
I was in Barcelona, Spain, the spring of my junior year. It was an amazing experience. Being abroad really helped to round out my experience here at Bowdoin, and just in general as an American student. The whole point of a liberal arts education is to get a little bit of everything, and I feel like living in a different culture - I lived with a Spanish family - [helped me to] understand people in general more. Not only that, but having Americans go abroad helps with our image [in other countries] so that we're not all the ugly American stereotype. It's really good for both sides.

What's your best Bowdoin memory?
The one that comes to mind right away was in the fall, when the rugby team beat Colby. It's a huge rivalry between the two teams, and we'd lost the last two years. It's nice because it brings the whole four years of rugby together in one moment and shows how the hard work paid off in order to achieve a common goal with all these guys I'd been playing with [all along]. But at the same time, I know that that doesn't represent all the best moments at Bowdoin, whether you're working on a computer science project and all of a sudden you just get it and it all makes sense, or hanging out with your friends and roommates.

What are your plans after graduation?
I'm looking to get into the computer software design field right after school, and I'd like to look at grad school in a year or two. I'd be happy doing GIS or artificial intelligence, which is the other concentration that Bowdoin has.

What advice would you give to a first year student about the Bowdoin experience?
Definitely get involved in something, not just superficially. You don't have to be involved in everything, just pick a couple of things and really make a difference in those activities. Bowdoin gives you a lot of opportunity to be leaders on campus, so definitely take advantage of that.

Story posted on June 13, 2005

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