Hanna Anderson, sophomore, electrical and computer engineering.

Story by Hanna Anderson

As a freshman, or maybe even a sophomore, college can seem a bit daunting. Classes are harder and larger, there are three-hour labs, recitations, financial aid, football games, pressure to start research, Greek life, midterms, new friends and 10 weeks later there’s finals week. All of these events and aspects can pile up and before you realize it, you’re drowning in a first-year mid-term crisis.

As an entering sophomore in electrical and computer engineering here at OSU, I can recommend some resources and tips to help you through the hard times.

  1. Check out the student groups and clubs on campus

Even in college, sometimes it can be hard to make friends, or find people you have a connection with. Joining a student group or club can be a great way of connecting with other people and having some great experiences! I joined the marching band last year, and was given the opportunity to perform in front of the entire football stadium each game, as well as travel to several away games. It was a great experience meeting all the other 200+ members and seeing us all come together for one common purpose.

There are dozens of student groups and clubs on campus, many of which might fit your interests in and out of the classroom. Whether its building rockets, cars, robots, or mobile apps; working on open source software; or even bass fishing, check out the engineering-specific clubs or the many other inclusive student groups at Oregon State.

  1. Students with no previous robotic/electrical experience, HAVE NO FEAR

For those of you who may have no previous robotics or electrical experience, do not be worried. I personally was not a part of the robotics team in high school, nor had I ever had any real electrical experience, and I have managed to survive with very little wear and tear. However, if you are worried, there EECS peer mentors who are more than willing to help you out. Peer mentors are EECS students who can help you navigate the ins and outs of being an EECS student. They can assist with academic questions and are available for advice about classes, internships, clubs, and other opportunities.

  1. Research and internship opportunities

It’s never too early to start thinking about internships and work experience. Having work experience in your field before you graduate will greatly enhance your employability when it comes time to look for a job, but it can take bit of hard work and perseverance. Simply sending an email, or talking to a professor after class, or attending office hours are all great first steps to making your name known. The School of EECS provides students with many opportunities to connect and gain experience. Also, making a connection with your academic advisor is a great way to find out about other opportunities.

  1. Be aware of your physical and mental health

The transition to college may be a hard one, or may be an easy one. It all depends on each individual person. While this is true, it very important to keep tabs on your mental and physical wellbeing. The “freshman 15” is indeed a very real thing, as well as the possibility of declination of your mental well-being. The most important thing to combat both of these two happenings is to be cognitively aware of your decisions, and realize that your brain makes those decisions, and your body carries out those decisions. If either one is not working at its prime, things start to slip. You don’t need to be in crisis to take care of your mental health; make sure you know about Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). The Dixon rec center and OSU’s Recreational Sports have many programs and opportunities for exercise, and relieving stress. Lastly, University Housing & Dining has many healthy eating options to keep your brain and body well nourished.

  1. Get to know your professors

Yes, it may be intimidating to meet with your professors, however they are a great first resource when in need of help. Getting to know a professor may even help you down the road when you are in need of letters of recommendation, and some may even hire you as an undergraduate researcher. Attending office hours is the best way to communicate with professors individually. If their office hours don’t work with your schedule, feel free to send them an email to schedule an appointment.

  1. Seek academic support

Oregon State and the College of Engineering have many resources for students to receive academic support with their class. The HUB in the College of Engineering has study tables and tutors for subjects such as physics, chemistry, math and electrical fundamentals. There are also engineering specific academic coaches who can help with skills such as organization, study skills, concentration, memory, note-taking, test-taking, and time management. Another resource are the academic tutors in the residence halls. Each residence hall will have a math and English tutor each week, as well as an Academic Learning Assistant who holds office hours every week.

  1. Attend class

Yes, it may be a struggle to get up for class in the morning… However, the knowledge that is shared and the connections that are made while attending class can never be recreated, and whether or not you attend class, you will still be held responsible for understanding the material. Some classes even have attendance as part of a requirement for passing. So just to be safe, go to class.

  1. Get to know your advisor

Your advisor will help you make a plan, get involved in extracurricular activities, and advise you about what to do when you are struggling with a class. As a first year engineering student, you will meet with your advisor at least once a term to receive your registration PIN. If you make a good connection with your advisor, they can even help you find scholarships, research positions, and internship opportunities!

  1. Check your ONID/OSU Google e-mail

Or make sure you have them forwarded to other e-mail accounts that you check regularly. This is the only way you’ll receive information from your professors and TAs about your classes and other important information that you need.

  1. Represent your school

Go Beavs!


Hanna Anderson is from Bonney Lake, WA, and attended Bonney Lake High School, class of ’14. As a freshman, she was a member of the Oregon State marching band and joined the CreateIT Collaboratory, a program in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science to employ students on projects to develop new prototypes for industry clients.

She is now a sophomore in electrical and computer engineering. She decided to pursue an ECE degree because she really enjoys being able to understand how a piece of technology works, and thinking about how she could modify it to make it better. “ECE is a one big puzzle that I am continually being challenged to solve,” she said.

In her spare time, she enjoys playing the pianos around campus, as well as going into the Collaboratory and engulfing herself in new fun, interesting projects.

Danny Dig
Danny Dig integrates lectures and labs in his courses on parallel programming for professionals.

Danny Dig, assistant professor of computer science at Oregon State University and Andrew Black, professor of computer science at Portland State University, are hosting a workshop in Portland, Oregon on October 17-19 for software professionals to learn the foundations of multicore programming in Java and JavaScript.

Dig’s research focus for the last 8 years has been on techniques for transforming sequential code into parallel code. He is acutely aware of the need for software developers to learn these techniques now that all new devices from smartphones to desktops use parallel processors. In response, he has organized workshops at Boeing and the Illinois-Intel Parallelism Center at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to help professional programmers improve the performance of their applications by using parallelism in software.

Dig will instruct the class along with other software experts including Tim Matsson from Intel Corporation who is co-author of the influential book, “Patterns for Parallel Programming,” and Doug Lea, professor at State University of New York at Oswego and the lead architect of Java concurrency libraries.

“I teach it as a unique blend of lectures and labs that are deeply integrated. It’s not theoretical, it’s very hands-on,” Dig said. After 30 minutes of lecture, students work on planned exercises on their own laptops with help from teaching assistants.

Dig said that the very pragmatic approach has been well received by past participants. For example, a Boeing engineer commented: “Excellent course:  relevant, well done, timely.  Well worth the time and effort.  I would recommend this course to all our developers.”

Dig has also made changes to the course over the years based on comments from participants. Previous courses included additional programming languages like C++, but he said covering just Java and JavaScript has allowed him to go more in-depth into the main topics of parallelism.

This is the first time he will offer the class in a compressed format over a weekend instead of a full week, to make it easier for software developers to attend without missing work. The shortened course cannot cover all the same content, so he will offer additional resources for the material not covered, and there is a possibility he would offer a follow-up course based on interest.

Dig is excited to be hosting the class in Portland, a hub of software development, so he can start building relationships with local software practitioners.

“A constant dialogue with practitioners keeps my research centered and very focused on current software development problems,” he said.

But these classes fulfill another need for him as well.

“Fundamentally, I’m a teacher and I love seeing the lights go on — it’s my mission in life to help people develop their full potential,” Dig said.

Visit the Multicore Parallel Programming Summer School website for more details.