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Life in Harvard University: Dublin High School’s Armaan Sengupta Explores Computer Science at the Ivy League

February 12, 2018

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS—Dublin High School Class of 2017 graduate Armaan Sengupta is a freshman at Harvard University currently pursuing a degree in computer science. Armaan was accepted to Harvard through the non-binding Early Action program, in which an admitted applicant is not obligated to enroll.

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“While I was working on one of my entrepreneurial projects outside of Dublin High, I was able to get a summer internship at Harvard to work on a similar project,” Armaan recalls. “Throughout the six weeks I spent at Harvard, I fell in love with the campus and what it felt like being surrounded by a big city like Boston.

“After this experience, I decided I might as well apply to Harvard through Early Action, even though I had little hope of actually getting in,” he continues. “Finding out that I got into Harvard through Early Action during class at Dublin High School still holds as one of the best days of my life.”

Here, Armaan shares more about a typical day in the life of a Harvard student, and how his experiences at Dublin High School influenced him to pursue computer science at the Ivy League.

Neha Harpanhalli: When did you first become interested in computer science?

Armaan Sengupta: “When I was younger, I used to be obsessed with videogames, although I never knew how to make one. During the summer after 6th grade, I went to a 2 week Python-based programming camp and experienced the thrill that comes when you create code that functions how you imagine it to. I learned that although programming can be frustrating, the satisfaction that comes with overcoming these frustrations is much more rewarding. While I lost my obsession with videogames, I began programming in different languages and for different platforms.”

Harpanhalli: What does a typical day in the life of a Harvard computer science student look like?

IMG_2935Sengupta: “Harvard encourages taking a wide variety of classes so I have only taken two Computer Science classes so far. Because of this, I have not actually experienced a typical day in the life of a Harvard computer science student but I can tell you about the typical day of a Harvard student. I usually wake up around 8 or 9 am to either go on a run by the Charles River or go to the gym. After that, I get ready for my first class which is either at 10 am or 11 am. The classes I have taken so far during my two semesters at Harvard have ranged from CS50 (Computer Science class), Cartoons, Classical Mythology, Ancient Egypt, a writing class on the Drug War, to Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra. I always leave 12-1 open for lunch with my friends.”

“The period between 1 and 6 pm can vary in what activity I do. Most of the time, I work as a Research Assistant under Dr. Roland Fryer for the Department of Economics on a data science project that looks into the correlation between police use of force and racial discrimination. I also use this slot to work on homework or work ahead on assignments.

“Harvard also hosts a lot of events where you can hear/see famous people speak on pressing issues. During my short time here so far, I have seen/heard from President Barack Obama, Draymond Green, Sir Elton John, Mila Kunis, Jayson Tatum, Jose Altuve, and Hanley Ramirez.

“After eating dinner with my friends, I work on homework for my classes at one of Harvard’s libraries or attend Office hours. [Office hours either can refer to coming into the professor’s office and asking them specific questions on subject material or working in a collaborative environment with other students where professors and course assistants are available to help you with questions.] I also spend a good amount of time with my friends, attend activities such as intramural sports or sporting events, or simply find ways of having fun. I usually go to bed a bit after midnight.”

Harpanhalli: So far, how have your expectations of studying computer science at Harvard matched the reality?

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Sengupta: “As I have mentioned before, I still have not taken enough Computer Science classes to make a full judgement. However, I can say that Harvard has exceeded my expectations in the resources they provide for their students, especially in Computer Science classes. There is so much help and support available. We got to present our final projects for my first semester Computer Science class (CS50) in a big event called the CS50 Fair.

“I am also impressed with the amount of tracks Harvard has within Computer Science. You can vary from Artificial Intelligence to Economic Computing to Visualization. The amount of opportunities to study exactly what you want at Harvard is incredible. You can combine Computer Science with almost anything so tying it with other passions of yours can make it even more enjoyable.”

Harpanhalli: What high school courses were most helpful for your field of study? Who are some of the Dublin teachers you would like to thank, and why?

Sengupta: “Before I even began attending Dublin High School, I took a 3-week summer course called Robotics, Engineering, and Technology which was taught by Ms. Eugene Chou and former Dublin High student Josh Price. This class taught me how to combine Computer Science and Electrical Engineering through Arduino hardware which I applied throughout high school on various projects I worked on.

“The classes that were most valuable in preparing me for my studies in computer science where the ones I took in the Engineering Academy: Computer Science/Software Engineering (CSE), Principles of Engineering (POE), and Digital Electronics (DE). These classes helped gear me towards Computer Science while still leaving me with an open mind. I have to thank Ms. Chou for preparing me and encouraging me to pursue engineering. She always pushed me further in classes, competitions, and robotics which I will always be grateful for.

“I also would like to thank Mr. Sheldon Dance for helping me realize the importance of the humanities even within engineering. While I am still trying to figure out what I want to minor in at Harvard, I definitely know it will be some subfield of the humanities. I would also like to extend my gratitude towards Mrs. Halket who guided me all four years and showed me many opportunities to take advantage of while at Dublin High.”

Harpanhalli: How did the Dublin High Engineering and Design Academy and Gael Force Robotics prepare you for your studies at Harvard? What other experiences outside of school solidified your interest in computer science?

Sengupta: “First and foremost, the Engineering Academy and Robotics taught me technical skills and how to apply them to create interesting applications. A lot of these skills dealt with software and electrical hardware. The Academy also taught me how to work with a team and convey my ideas clearly to even those who do not have an engineering background. The Entrepreneurship competitions in the Engineering Academy helped me to apply these skills, especially effective communication and teamwork.

“Outside of school, I tried to start my own projects and keep up with advancements within the field of computer science, which has helped create fascinating applications. I also did a lot of volunteer work teaching kids/adults Computer Science through StreetCode Academy in East Palo Alto.”

Harpanhalli: Are there any activities you’re interested in or have already started pursuing outside the classroom at Harvard?

Sengupta: “Along with Computer Science, I am interested in sports. I follow a lot of soccer, basketball, and baseball, and have worked on Computer Science projects related to sports. Also, since joining Harvard, I have found myself becoming more interested in politics and have joined some clubs related to politics.”

Harpanhalli: What has been your coolest experience at Harvard so far?

Sengupta: “Although I have experienced so much at Harvard in my short time here, my coolest experience at Harvard so far is probably presenting South Park as my final for my Cartoons class in the Fall Semester. I explained how South Park effectively satirizes social and political issues. I’m amazed that I had the opportunity to present this as a final for one of my classes at Harvard.”

Harpanhalli: How have you adjusted to living on the East Coast? What do you miss most about the Bay Area?

Sengupta: “I am actually really surprised by how quickly I adjusted to living far away in Boston. It does snow here, but the cold is honestly not as bad as I thought it would be. Although I am far from Dublin, I don’t feel out of place at all since most people here are from somewhere far away too. I do miss my family and friends from high school, since most of them have stayed close to California. I miss consistent warm weather because cycling through jackets and multiple layers is annoying. I miss Bay Area music and having people understand my Bay Area slang. Also, can’t forget about In-N-Out, of course!”

At the Dublin High School 2017 Senior Awards Night, Armaan Sengupta received the Presidential Gold and Gael Scholar awards, and was named a California Scholarship Federation Life Member and a graduate of the Dublin High School Engineering & Design Academy. He was also the recipient of the 2017 Comcast Leaders & Achievers Scholarship.

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