Lydia Choy

Lydia Choy

My interest has always been video games and special effects. I really enjoy graphics and exploring their applications. Here at CMU, I have found a place where I can pursue my hobbies and do exactly what I want. In addition to computer science (CS), I have a double major in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

I do research with Stage 3, which concentrates on 3-D interaction and virtual worlds. It is exciting work, and I have the opportunity to collaborate with the smartest and nicest people on campus. I have been involved with the Alice project since my junior year, although I had been aware of it long before that. There are plenty of people on the project, and I like the way the work is allocated to the team members. Many parts are worked on individually and, because of this, there isnít a need for constant meetings. Living the life of a busy CMU student, I am grateful for this flexibility in scheduling. Besides being a lot of fun, I have found that my experience provides a good foundation for further interests.

Back in high school, my goals were not well defined. I applied to a myriad of schools for various majors, ranging from art to CS and from business to film. I only applied to CMU because it had a late application deadline, and then chose it arbitrarily. My preference was for film and CS, so I was looking to land a job in the entertainment industry. Although I chose CS for my major, I was involved with the film club here for three years. Had I picked film instead, I might still be doing the same jobs, just without the technical aspect.

In eighth grade, I took BASIC. I also learned FORTRAN, but my experience did not extend further than that. I enjoyed math, and was inspired by video games, so I didnít let anything stop me. I also found that, in many cases, those with less or no experience ended up being very successful since they hadnít learned bad programming habits.

I discovered that learning to program is like learning to write. I enjoyed my CS classes most of the time, although my freshman year was definitely the toughest. CS is a very broad subject and I accepted the fact that I was better at certain aspects than others. I think it is fine if some classes seem much harder or easier than others. I like the end product of programming Ė it empowers me for the day.

During my freshman year, I took the Building Virtual Worlds class. Although it was an excellent, worthwhile, and fascinating course, I recommend that others wait before taking it. The reason I did not join the Alice team until my junior year was that I found that I needed more experience before diving into complex projects.

I joined the WSCSAC (Women @ School of Computer Science advisory Committee) because I received an email about it and was intrigued. I didnít understand what pressures other girls were feeling, since I never felt those pressures myself. I never would have considered joining a gender-focused organization before, but it has taught me to understand how others feel, and that is useful. I believe that separating men and women is counterproductive, and I wholeheartedly support equality.

I have found, through helping others, that the biggest fear of students is fear itself. My suggestion for programming blues is to just sit down and write something. Do not fear that it might not compile or have errors or produce incorrect results. Even knowing and understanding the concepts cannot always save you from the dangers of syntax. It is better to try without all the worries. Iíve forced myself through difficult situations in order to get to better things. Try to stay in the department long enough to find your niche.

But donít stay in the program if you genuinely dislike it, even if you are a woman. Your decision should not be made based off vanity or outside pressure, and the gender variable should be completely irrelevant. Make the decision that best suits you as a person, and makes you happiest.

In high school, I was very focused on my GPA and class rank. Here, I eliminated academic competition and chose to judge myself solely against myself. I think that I am doing well, so I donít have any worries. Comparing yourself to others is not always a good motivator.

Eventually, I would like to enter graduate school. However, I would rather work for two or three years before committing myself to more education. My job will hopefully be related to my research, and I think moving out to California would be nice. I havenít yet planned everything out because the future is still open-ended and Iím sure there is more out there for me to discover.

- written by Tania Liebowitz

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