Post Freshman Year Summer Recap

Hello hello, it’s been a while. I guess that means it’s time for my regularly scheduled life update here on the blog to catch you up on what I’ve been up to the last three months, so let’s jump right into it.

Immediately after my spring semester of freshman year wrapped up around mid-May, I went back home to New Jersey for about a month and a half where I got to spend time with my family and overall it was a very relaxing and much needed break from school-life and Pittsburgh.

Biomotivate

While I was back home in New Jersey for that month and a half, I was working remotely as a Software Engineering Intern for Biomotivate, which is a small health tech startup based in Pittsburgh. I first found out about Biomotivate through CMU’s Handshake job application portal. They reached out to interview me around March and then after the interview gave me an offer to work with them for that summer. So through that process, I ended up getting my first taste of work culture at a small startup. I worked on a very small Development Team that mostly oversaw the company’s data integration project which consisted of developing the backend architecture to call Fitbit’s API and other health data providers’APIs to retrieve patient data and save then into a database for processing so that addiction treatment centers could use that information to help their patients and better help prevent relapses. For all of May and June, I worked remotely from home and called into weekly team meetings and then starting from July I was on-site for team meetings. Over about four months working with Biomotivate, my team ended up figuring out three different ways to program the data integration process. Towards the latter end of my internship, I also ended up working with the Superassessment Team at the company to develop a mobile app to survey patients and provide treatment centers administrator access to view all the survey results. Because of the nature of how small our company was, I ended up learning a lot of new skills and technologies in a short period. I was also able to get a pretty hands-on internship experience where I got to see tasks through from their conception as an idea, to their application architecture drafting process, and their development from frontend to the backend. Overall, I’m super grateful for the experience and thankful for everyone I was able to work with. Also, an additional bonus was that it was super close by campus, making the commutes to the office particularly easy.

Summer Teaching Assistant

So even though Biomotivate didn’t necessarily require me to be back in Pittsburgh to work for them, my summer TA job did. At Carnegie Mellon, summer classes are typically split up into two sessions, aptly named Summer 1 and Summer 2. The class I applied to TA for, 15-122 Principles of Imperative Computation, was a Summer 2 class that began July 1st so I made my way back to Pittsburgh right at the start of July to work. I wrote a lot more in-depth about my thoughts on TAing this summer here, but to give a brief overview, all the content, homework, labs, recitations, and exams for the 16-week long class during the semester was crammed into a mere 6 weeks. For me, this meant working much longer hours every day that I ever would TAing for the class during the school semester. On average I would teach 2 to 3 lab sections and hold 6+ hours office hours a week on top of doing prep work for the class, grading homework, holding review sessions, and proctoring exams. I felt somewhat insecure about my abilities to TA for this class, especially after I heard back that I would also stay on to TA during the fall semester as well when the class size was closer to 500 than 50. So, I made it a mission this summer to really put time and effort into making myself a better TA, improving my communication and presentation skills, and familiarizing myself much more closely with the course content so that come the fall semester, I’d be even more prepared to TA a significantly bigger class size and hopefully take on even more challenging tasks and roles.

AI and Humanity Research Seminar

Since I already knew that I would be staying in Pittsburgh working during Summer 2 around early April, when I receive an email from my professor for 16-161 (an AI and Humanity class I took my freshman fall and that I talk more about here) explaining that the Vice Provost’s Office at Carnegie Mellon was interested in supporting us to take on an interdisciplinary research project during Summer 2, and that the full cost of the research seminar would be covered by Dietrich College, I happily agreed to join on. And that’s how I also ended up working in a small student-directed research team of four sophomores for six weeks composing our 40-page research paper on the possible side effects of diminished student agency with many of the artificially intelligent educational tools in development today. Before this class, I didn’t have any humanities-based research experience and so I was looking forward to having this class provide me exposure to what a non-technical research project might look like. As I mentioned, this research seminar was somewhat of a spin-off of the fall class I took. However, I found it to be a significantly more rewarding experience. Despite it only being 6 weeks long, I had the opportunity to express my ideas and then have my other team members, who were also genuinely interested in the research topic, to subsequently follow up and bounce around ideas while our two faculty advisors chimed in from time to time. This was a distinctly different experience that I don’t think the fall semester class was able to provide in its larger-scale class setting so I am really glad I ended up picking up this summer class to do as well.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how balanced my summer was, with having sufficient time to rest at home, but also working hands-on on technical projects as a SWE intern, while brushing up my teaching and communication skills as a TA, and supplementing my technical work with a more humanities and tech ethics group research project. For now, all my summer work has wrapped up and I’ve got about one more week to go until school starts so I’m busy trying to get ready for that. Lots of exciting things ahead so look out for a future update on how my sophomore year at CMU goes 🙂