Ali Nazemi Explains Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech to Education-Portal.com

Apr 28, 2011

Virginia Tech is one of the country's top-ranked universities and computer engineering (known at VT as CPE) is one of its best programs. Education-Portal.com recently caught up with Ali Nazemi, a CPE student who's earning his second bachelor's degree at Virginia Tech, to learn more about this excellent program.

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By Megan Driscoll

Ali Nazemi of Virginia Tech

Education-Portal.com: Where are you from, what is your current class year and what attracted you to Virginia Tech?

Ali Nazemi: I'm originally from Salem, Virginia, but I have been a member of the Virginia Tech community for the better part of nine years. I'm currently a senior computer engineering student with ambitions to graduate in the summer of 2011.

When I first visited Virginia Tech the campus seemed a bit daunting, but the beautiful campus, combined with the variety of people, programs and activities that Tech has to offer, was a huge selling point.

E-P.com: How did you become interested in computer engineering? Did you start college planning to study CPE? If not, what led you to the field?

AN: I thought computer engineering was 'too difficult' a major for me as a freshman. When I arrived at Virginia Tech, I was a biology student. After completing my B.S. degree, I later returned to take on the CPE program full force. The diversity of the program and the opportunities for graduates in the department were the driving factors that led me to my current course of study.

E-P.com: Computer engineering is a broad field. Do you have an area in which you'd like to focus? Please tell us about it.

AN: My focus throughout my time in the CPE department has been in mobile technologies and pervasive computing. Between courses in Android development, wireless systems and independent research with cutting edge pervasive computing technologies, I've had the opportunity to increase my knowledge and hone my skills in the areas that I found most interesting.

E-P.com: What is the most challenging CPE course you've taken so far and what did you find challenging about it?

AN: It is hard to pin down the most difficult course in the CPE program because it really depends on the strengths of a given student. Some of the more math-oriented courses such as Signals and Systems and Electronics were difficult for me.

If you took a survey, I'd say the most challenging course to the widest variety of students is Embedded System Design. Time management, programming, mathematics, team building and presentation skills are all essential to success in Embedded Systems.

E-P.com: What was your favorite CPE course? Least favorite?

AN: My favorite course throughout my time in the CPE program would have to be Microprocessor System Design. The class had a great mix of programming and hardware concepts that really helped prepare me for the second half of my CPE program. My least favorite course was probably Signals and Systems. There was a lot of trig-based mathematics work that I had a bit of trouble grasping.

E-P.com: What subjects do you find most interesting outside of the computer engineering department? Are there any that have contributed in surprising ways to your CPE education?

AN: I originally came to Tech and graduated with a degree in Biological Sciences. This background actually served me quite well when I was doing research in nanoparticle semiconductors. During that time, I was working on nanoparticles that could be used in biomedical applications for cancer detection.

E-P.com: Do you participate in any extracurricular activities at Virginia Tech? Please tell us about them.

AN: I've been active in a number of student organizations at Virginia Tech over the years and VT is great about allowing students with just about any interest to put together a student organization. The Student Engineering Council (SEC) and IEEE Student Chapter provide a number of programs targeted at engineering students and serve as good extracurricular activities directly related to computer engineering. (Editor's note: The IEEE is a professional organization aimed at 'advancing technology for humanity.')

E-P.com: What advice would you give to someone who's considering studying computer engineering at Virginia Tech?

AN: Start working on your time management skills as soon as possible. The key to success in CPE is knowing how to use your time wisely and prioritize the various assignments and projects that you receive. Additionally, any student who is considering the CPE program should talk to one of the undergraduate advisors and take advantage of the knowledge and advice they can give to an entering student.

E-P.com: Finally, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to share anything you'd like about your experiences as a computer engineering student.

AN: Having been through two full undergraduate programs, I'm in a special position to say that the CPE program at Virginia Tech has some of the best professors and highest quality courses that are available at the university. The program is challenging and not for the faint of heart, but it provides students with an opportunity to learn from the best about emerging, cutting-edge technology.

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