Computer Science student likes what she hears about University of Bristol

university of bristolSom Liengtiraphan, a freshman in computer science and digital media studies, met recently with both a vice provost and the dean of engineering faculty from England's University of Bristol to discuss study abroad opportunities.

It wasn't long before her eyes lit up.

Dean Nishan Canagarajah was describing how computer science students at Bristol work in teams to design brand new computer games during their junior year – the same year Liengtiraphan is planning to study abroad.

"They do the script, the animation, the sound and they get an industry person to help them. The music is done by music students in the Department of Humanities," Canagarajah explained.

On "Game Day," faculty and students gather to play the games. "One of the assessment criteria is the feedback from the players," Canagarajah added.

For Liengtiraphan, who already had Bristol on her short list of possible study abroad destinations, this all but sealed the deal: Coding animation is one of her two main interests, the other being simulation computation for environmental research.

Close collaboration with industry

Canagarajah and Nick Lieven, Bristol's Pro-Vice Chancellor and former engineering dean, were on the UR campus to work out a student exchange program and a memorandum of understanding between the two universities. Two UR computer science students are already studying at Bristol this semester.

Bristol's engineering school includes departments in aerospace engineering, civil engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, engineering mathematics, and mechanical engineering, in addition to computer science.

The school emphasizes close collaboration with the Bristol region's trademark industries: creative companies, microelectronics, and aerospace. Liengtiraphan was intrigued to learn, for example, that Bristol is home to Aardman Animation, producers of the award-winning Wallace & Gromit stop-action comedy series.

"The ethos in the faculty is very much that we partner with industry for our research, but also allow opportunities for our students to work with industry as well,"Canagarajah said.

An 'interactive' Computer Science Department

Key research strengths in the computer science department are cryptography, digital media, microelectronics and human-computer interaction, he added.

The department,which recruits about 100 undergraduates per year, stresses practical applications of what students learn in class, working in groups ("because when you go into industry you work as part of a team"), and acquainting students with several different computer languages.

"We want you to be able to design your own computer language one day, so we help you to understand what underpins a computer language."

Lieven described the computer science department as "very interactive. When you walk down the halls, all the doors are open. There's an expectation that students will talk with staff. There are white boards all along the corridors, with students writing on the walls and talking with faculty."

Snow is not a problem!

By the end of the session, Liengtiraphan was getting down to the logistics, such as visa and travel arrangements.

"Are you bike friendly?" she asked. She rides her bike "everywhere" in her native Thailand, but finds it harder to do that through Rochester's snowdrifts.

"You won't have that problem!" Canagarajah assured her.

(Hajim School students who want to learn more about study abroad opportunities at Bristol and other overseas universities can contact Rohan Palma.)