This page relates some stories and pictures of former students of the CSE department.
Mihaela’s Story: (By Mihaela Iridon, PhD and MS in Computer Science from CSE @ SMU)
(top row from left): Krishnan Indiradevi, Krishnakumar Pillai, Hakki Cankaya, Karen Lewis, Gheorghe Spiride (seccond row from left): Yasemin Seydim, Mihaela Iridon, Andreea Spiride, Cristina Iordache (bottom row from left): Mark Lewis, Zeyad AlKhalifa, Beth Minton
I love the challenge: coming to study Computer Science at SMU in Dallas - so very far away from my home in Sibiu, a small town in Transylvania (Romania), sure was the biggest challenge of my life. But I loved it, I enjoyed every step of it, and I would do it again and again would I have that choice.
I met people and made friends from all over the world: Saudi Arabia, India, Bulgaria, Turkey, Taiwan, Denmark, China, Philippines, and, of course, the United States. They made me a better person. I received excellent education which allowed me to build a gratifying career with one of the biggest telecom companies in the US (Verizon). I had my share of hard work as well as fun, and I could write an entire book about all my wonderful experiences and memories while a student at the Computer Science and Engineering department at SMU.
I could tell you about my total surprise that here, in the U.S., my first name (Mihaela) seems so hard to pronounce and write (it got twisted in weird ways, such as: Mihalea, Mikayla, Mehalia, Mahilea, etc), or about the time I took my first Tylenol pill just before the Computer Architecture exam and it made me so drowsy that I had to read every question 3 or 4 times to comprehend the meaning of it. Focusing was really, really hard. Later during that exam, the professor started to give out some candy to the students but I was totally oblivious to his action. When he arrived at my seat, I suddenly saw his hand stretching out by my side, but because I was so tense about the test, I almost jumped out of my seat! My payback: it startled him too :-)
Cristina’s Stories: (By Cristina Anderson: PhD in Computer Engineering from CSE @ SMU)
During my first semester at SMU I had to teach an “Introduction to Computers” lab. At that time my English was sufficient for basic communication, but still needed a lot of polishing. So when one girl complained that she couldn’t do her assignment I said “That’s too bad.” Everyone laughed and I realized that my statement did not mean “I’m sorry to hear you are having trouble.”
Also during my first semester I had to teach one or two FORTRAN labs. At first I was a bit nervous about this one because I had never taken a FORTRAN class myself, but with a FORTRAN textbook I did just fine. Towards the end of the semester the class instructor asked me to send test scores in individual e-mail messages to every student. I cannot remember the exact number of messages I had to send, but it was large enough that I decided to automate the process. So I wrote a little program that extracted each student’s scores from my list and invoked sendmail with a short message for each student. To do this I had to create a list of e-mail addresses. I could not find one student’s address, so I looked it up in a directory. A few hours later I received this message: “Thanks for letting me know how my lil’ bro is doing in FORTRAN class.”
It was at SMU that I learned it was fine to say “I do not know the answer to your question. (And perhaps I can look it up later.)” After many years of school in Romania I had been left with the impression that instructors had to have an answer to every question.
Andreea and Gheorghe’s Story:(Andreea Spiride: MS in Computer Science from CSE @ SMU, Gheorghe Spiride: PhD in Computer Engineering from CSE @ SMU)
(from left): Prasad Golla, Andreea Spiride, Gheorghe Spiride, Zeyad AlKhalifa, Hakki Cankaya, and Ileana Tibuleac (Ph.D. in Geophysics)
Part of the fun of being a graduate student is that you end up spending almost all waking hours - and in some cases non-waking hours too, but that's another story -- at school in front of a computer. Or at least that's the theory. At any rate, that's how it used to be back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, real programmers used 'vi' (by the way real programmers use 'emacs'), and the wonderful world of high speed residential Internet connections was but a glint in someone's mind's eye. As a way to relax now and then,we'd look for ways to get some physical exercise going, and table tennis was one approach.
Right next to the office I was sharing with five other people there was a big conference room, which was relatively rarely used: mostly for thesis defenses, seminars and presentations, and the odd faculty meeting every now and then. The long tables in the room could be positioned next to each other to get amazing table tennis games going. The games were amazing because the ball trajectories were mostly random, due to the large joints between the table tops. Size-wise, the setup would be longer and narrower than a real ping-pong table, but it would do in a pinch. Somehow or another I learned of the existence of a real folding table tennis table somewhere in the campus central furniture warehouse.
With a certain amount of pleading, promises, and cajoling, we managed to convince the powers that be to have the table brought over and installed in the conference room. The deal was that we'd be responsible for setting it up and folding it back, with the understanding that it should not disturb the other activities going on in the building. The next logical step of course was to setup a competition. I think it was back in 1996 or early 1997 that we ended up with the graduate student table tennis games, where we would have a round robin system, both singles, and doubles. Over the course of a weekend we had more than 10 players compete. It was great fun for all involved! The table remained in the room for several more years, until the conference room was renovated for use as a classroom/computer room.
Prasad’s Story (By Prasad Golla: PhD in Computer Engineering from CSE @ SMU. Prasad’s wife, Maya Petkova: MS in Operations Research from CSE @ SMU).
I’ve been in SMU for 7 years as a graduate student. During my stay I was reminded by some that “graduate students do not get tenured.” Come to think of it, all those who said that were tenured professors. Served me right for I got two Masters and a Doctorate out of it. Some were not so lucky, they moved on without getting what they came there for. It was good having them along the journey, though.
One is bound to have at least a few fond memories in such a long stay. (Surprisingly, I forgot all the not so fond ones. Go figure!) One such memory remains as a metaphor for ‘life’s a journey.’ During those days when the CS dept. was collocated with those other geeks on SIC 3rd floor – by the way I wonder what the acronym would have been had there been ‘Korner’ at the end of Science Information Center – as now, there was an entrance at the front which appears like one is boarding the space shuttle and one in the back which feels like one is alighting into a dungeon (expect one is going up in both cases.) The whole of the 3rd floor didn’t have a single window; something to do with the place being a book depository before; I contend it still is.
I made it a point only to enter from the front (which was actually back of the Airline Road. One had to walk around to get to the front of the building.) Hours spent without windows except those on the computer screen were bad enough I didn’t want to feel like we were holed up in a dungeon (for never ending days we were.) Once a staff member asked me why I walk around rather than take the short cut. Unlike my other quirks I actually had a reason for this. I told her that it just takes a couple of more minutes but I like the “journey.” She walked around with me. On my recent visit I was glad to know that she remembered that after almost a decade. Actually, I am glad she didn’t think I was nuts.
We remember the pleasant parts of a journey. Getting education is a journey. Along the journey it is good to imbue the sceneries. This is as opportune time as ever to thank my fellow students, faculty, and staff at SMU for providing a life time worth of memories to look back to.
Galia’s Story (By Galia Ivanov, MS in Computer Science from CSE @ SMU)
Everyone and everything enjoys ice-cream
I was comfortably sitting under a tree on the SMU lawn reading from textbook and enjoying few scoops of ice-cream one sunny afternoon in the Fall of 1995. There were many other students around enjoying the sunny day on the lawn.
As I turned a page I heard a sound of something landing to the right of me. I screamed and jumped to the opposite direction throwing everything I had in my hands. The next think I noticed was that everyone was laughing. I turned around and I saw a small squirrel eating my ice-cream. It looked at me few times. I left the SMU meadow that afternoon with the feeling that it was thanking me for the dessert.