Yi Zhuang '08


Yi Zhuang '08

Hometown: Chengdu, China
Major: Double Major in Computer Science and Mathematics

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I have three cousins who go to school in the United States and all of them agree that college education in the United States is much better than that in China. It was really hard for me to pick a college in the United States from thousands of miles away, but since I grew up in a big city and attended a high school of five thousand students, I knew I wanted to go to a small college in a cozy town with small classes.

Why did you choose your major?
I became interested in computer science right after I took Computer Science 210: Data Structures with Professor Eric Chown. It was a fun and challenging class. I started working for the robotics team during the summer of my first year and then declared computer science and economics as my majors. I became "interested" in economics simply because it seemed that almost everyone else was interested in it. After three semesters of econ classes, I found that I had no passion in the subject and realized that doing something just because other people are is simply stupid. I found that a lot of econ concepts were better explained by mathematics. I dropped my econ major at the beginning of my junior year and added mathematics.

What has been a course you especially enjoyed at Bowdoin?
I especially enjoyed Computer Science 210: Data Structures. We programmed fun things ranging from simple games like nibble to complex ones like course registration and Tetris. I have also been a quantitative skills tutor for this class.

What professor or professors have especially inspired you during your time at Bowdoin?
Professor Eric Chown, head of the robotics team, really changed my attitude toward life. The biggest thing I have learned from him is that there is always room for improvements. For example, I was in charge of the vision system of our robots and the initial system I created was slow. I found it hard to improve because I was hoping to avoid completely changing the existing system, but we ended up doing poorly in the U.S. open in Atlanta. After that, Professor Chown rewrote the way our robots scan images, resulting in a huge improvement in our performance. I have seen the robotics team grow from a small, three-person team to the world champion team that it is today. I have seen the secret — just keep improving.

Have you engaged in any independent research while at Bowdoin?
I have done quite a lot of independent studies at Bowdoin: Robotics (sophomore year), I/O-efficient view shed computation (junior year), I/O-efficient Map Overlay (Honors Project). All of them have turned out to be very rewarding experiences.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
Besides working for the robotics team, I also worked for Network Operations Center (NOC). I learned a lot about computer networking working there. When I first came to Bowdoin, only the main Quad, the libraries and Moulton Union had wireless. During the summer after my first year, we installed the wireless access points in all the buildings, which was a valuable experience for me. I became very familiar with Cisco devices working for NOC. We also received CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) books and training and NOC even paid the test fee for me to become certified as a CCNA.

What have you done during your summers?
In the summers I work for the robotics team and Network Operations Center but, most importantly, I fly twenty hours home to see my family and old friends.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
There are many of them. If I could only pick one, I would pick the Robocup that the robotics team and I attended in Germany (I also spent my 21st birthday with the robotics team in Germany).

What are your plans for after graduation?
I plan to go to graduate school. I hope to get into the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
As an international student, I was really impressed by the host family program. Brunswick is full of nice people and it never hurts to get a host family.

Story posted on January 31, 2008

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