Born and raised in Mumbai, Aakanksha Rao brims with a passion for computer science. As an undergraduate electrical engineering student, she participated in many learning and research events, meet-ups, and boot camps related to Web development, machine learning, Python development, and game development. Learning new technologies and taking on hands-on projects had an exhilarating effect on her and she was curious to learn more.
Rao would soon find herself drawn to Drexel University’s drive for exploration and learning, finding it the “right place” for her to pursue an MS in Computer Science.
“The coursework offered by the College of Computing & Informatics’s (CCI) MS in Computer Science is well-structured for those who do not have a background or experience in computer science,” the Class of 2023 student says.
“It felt really welcoming as I started my master’s with the introductory prerequisite courses and gradually transitioned towards the core courses. The cooperative education programme is an added benefit for anyone like me who is looking to gain industry experience before graduation.”
Led by faculty members who are all professional practitioners and researchers, students like Rao pursue a curriculum that’s industry-aligned and centred around experiential learning. The curriculum is brought to life through hands-on lessons designed around real-world problems – a centrepiece of all CCI master’s degrees – which allows students to gain invaluable skills that can be applied towards their careers.
Learn from the experts
Drexel CCI offers MS programmes in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, Business Information Technology, Computer Science, Computer Security and Privacy, Economics and Computer Science, Data Science, Health Informatics, Human-Computer Interaction/UX, Information Systems, Library and Information Science and Software Engineering.
Regardless of their programme, students learn from faculty mentors who are leaders in their fields. “Mark Boady is an amazing professor who has the best beginner-friendly ways to teach concepts regarding data structures and algorithms,” says Rao. “He has his own website with all the concepts arranged sequentially with explanation notes, code implementation in Golang, and animation of how the concept works.”
Other experienced faculty members include Dr. Jake Williams. His research covers social science and machine learning in the context of social media. He also delves into computational social science, natural language processing, machine learning, and many others.
These faculty members have been recognised for their outstanding research and received grants from the National Science Foundation, Department of Interior, Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research, Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and many others.
In 2022, Drexel University sustained its designation as an R1 Doctoral University, the highest level of research activity identified by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Drexel is one of 146 institutions out of approximately 3,900 in the US to receive this prestigious classification, indicating the highest level of research activity, and is one of only 39 private universities in the US to earn the distinction.
Not only are they inspiring, but these professors are also giving CCI students an edge that could prove crucial in their future careers. “[The] CS-543 [module] was interesting for me because it was the first time in a long time that I saw something new in terms of content in a computer science class,” says Edmond Mbadu, an MS in Computer Science Class of 2023 student. “Everything before was more of [an] extension in breadth or depth of what I already knew.”
Experiential learning opportunities
The Drexel co-op programme lets students learn alongside experts in their fields – a vantage point that gives students an advantage as they enter the work environment. Many students see first-hand how tech innovators are shaping the professional world. In turn, these students are transformed, armed with a unique preparation that lets them expand the limits of what they can achieve as students, employees, and individuals.
Mbadu, who completed two co-ops, learned how to transform his ideas into a product used by clients. During the summer and fall, Rao interned at United BioSource LLC, a pharmaceutical company based in Philadelphia, as a software developer engineer.
“I was able to learn a lot by interacting with other developers who have years of experience in the field and being part of team meetings. Learning from developers was truly an amazing and new experience for me,” she says.
Great campus and location
In April 2019, CCI relocated to 3675 Market, a new space designed with students in mind. There is lots of natural light streaming in, with comfortable spaces for collaboration, innovation and interaction among students, faculty, and professional staff. The technology is state-of-the-art; the access to industry is unmatched.
Drexel is part of an “innovation neighborhood” with a high concentration of tech start-ups and other tech companies – and the CCI is in the epicentre for innovation and discovery. Surrounded by startups and tech/biotech corporations, as well as industry engagement through its Corporate Partners Programme, CCI students get to be at the intersection of tech education, research, and innovation.