For Cameron McAlpine, ‘23, the best opportunities in life are often just beyond your comfort zone. During his time at UMassD, the senior Computer Science major found that the initial discomfort of new challenges - in and out of the classroom - gave way to rich and rewarding opportunities.
Why did you choose UMass Dartmouth?
I had always heard UMass Dartmouth has great engineering programs. But what really influenced my decision was my experience as captain of the robotics team at New Bedford Vocational High School. Our team had the opportunity to work here on the UMassD campus and receive mentorship from the engineering students. That connection made me want to come here for college.
How and why did you get interested in Computer Science? What about your field is most interesting to you?
In high school I got interested in software and robotics, and later developed a concentration in artificial intelligence. For my senior capstone project, I’m leading a team that is developing algorithms for autonomous jet skis that can be used for unmanned research. I’m excited by the ways AI and robotics make it possible for us to safely do things that would otherwise put humans at risk.
Was there a particular class or professor who was highly influential for you?
Dr. Iren Valova has had a huge impact on my experience here. She really cares for her students and works to ensure they get real world experience. Dr. Valova has helped connect me with research and job opportunities; she is the best asset I’ve had as a student.
Tell us about an achievement or project you’re especially proud of
As a SAIL Student Programming Coordinator, I organized the first annual Run for Veterans 5K in November 2022. The race engaged community members of all ages to help raise money for veterans in need. It was a great event, and I’m hoping it will become a campus tradition for many years to come.
How has your involvement in the campus community had an impact on your life?
Taking on different leadership roles on campus has helped me build confidence and improve my communication skills.
As a freshman, I was very shy. Whenever I needed to speak in front of a group of people, I was nervous and uncomfortable. But, I didn’t want that to hold me back. I started seeking out more opportunities to get involved and be of help to other students. I began by hosting events with the Honors College, then later I became president of the Robotics Club, an orientation leader, commuter assistant, and SAIL programming coordinator. In order to be successful in these roles, I had to get over my own nerves. By forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone, I got more and more comfortable over time. Eventually, I found myself at an event where someone handed me a microphone and I wasn’t nervous at all.
That ability to communicate with different groups of people and speak publicly is something I’ll be able to take with me in my future career.
What advice do you have for current or future UMassD Students?
Get involved. Spend more time on campus. Even though I was a commuter, I always loved being on campus. But, so many students, especially commuters, don’t know about all the great things happening here.
Getting involved in just one thing can open up so many other possibilities, and introduce you to people or opportunities you wouldn’t have found otherwise.
And, don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable at first.
What are your plans following graduation?
I plan to start my career in a software-oriented position or at a robotics and autonomy lab.