Major: Computer science
Minor: Music technology
Graduation year: May 2022
Hometown: Winona, MN
Activities: Resident assistant, president of Stripes and Solids Pacific Billiards Club, Owen Studio recording engineer Co-op: NVIDIA
Jordan Scharkey was attracted to Pacific because of the School of Engineering and Computer Science’s co-op program. Now that he’s completed his internship with NVIDIA, he says the experience was “extremely beneficial and insightful” and has prepared him for post-graduation job searching.
Q: What originally drew you to computer science?
Jordan: My dad got a degree in computer science, and when I was a kid, he let me look through all his college textbooks. He kept all of them. I don’t do a lot of web development anymore, but that was the first thing I did. I made my own website and I thought that was so cool, being able to tell the computer to do something and have it respond to what I told it to do. That was what initially drew me in. And now it's fascinating being able to have the computer do things that I don't think I'm capable of doing, like learning on its own and automating processes into very small amounts of time. It's just really fascinating.
Q: Why did you choose Pacific?
Jordan: Initially I was attracted because of how much they were offering in terms of scholarships and financial aid, but what really sealed the deal was the small craft classroom sizes, the astonishing campus and the co-op program in the engineering department. The ability to have a guided experience to help me get work experience was really valuable for post-graduation job searching. And now having completed it — I just finished it last semester — that couldn't be more true. It was extremely beneficial and insightful.
Q: Tell us about your co-op experience.
Jordan: I was interning over at NVIDIA. They make graphics cards and chips for computers. I was running simulations tests on their hardware and reporting performance analytics. My biggest takeaway from the experience is probably working as part of a large team. In a lot of programming settings, it's really easy to get really dialed into what you are doing, just yourself. Whereas, from that experience, I became really mindful of what other members of my team were doing and how I could reach out to them for help, and when they would reach out to me for help, how I could assist them with what I knew.
Q: What is your favorite thing about the computer science program at Pacific?
Jordan: The faculty are really passionate about what they do. Professors of mine are not only passionate about what they're teaching, but also making sure that students are learning. And even past learning the material, learning how to learn. A big part of computer science is the ability to troubleshoot and keep moving forward past a problem. And knowing how expansive the area of computer science is, there is no way that you're going to be able to learn all of it within your time at university. So, a big part of all these classes is being able to learn how to learn, and a lot of faculty understand that.
Q: You're also a creative music technology minor. What inspired you to combine your computer science background with music?
Jordan: Ever since I got to university, I started exploring new hobbies with the people I've been meeting. I really grew to like working with music, and, more specifically, interesting pieces of hardware and software with music. The reason that I chose that minor as opposed to a [music] composition minor or something like that is the technology focus of it, where I'm learning a lot about circuitry. Next semester, I'm going to be taking a course about how plugins in digital audio workstations work, and I feel it's a very comfortable and smooth tie in with computer science. It lets me take two areas that I'm super interested in and bring them together. For my senior project next semester, I'm hoping to use different machine learning algorithms and automation techniques to feed data into a program about different songs and different forms of [musical] genres and output some form of MIDI data into a digital audio workstation to people that want to utilize that to speed up the creation process. In all of the work that I've been doing up to this point, with my work at my internship and all the classes that I'm taking for both my major and minor, I feel like that's a very good way of demonstrating that I have understood everything up to this point.
Q: What are you involved with on campus?
Jordan: I am a resident assistant. I have been for two terms now, my sophomore year and my senior year. Both of those have been extremely fulfilling. I'm also the president of the Stripes and Solids Pacific Billiards Club on campus. Twice a week, we meet up and play some pool up in the Lair. Anyone is welcome to join. For my artificial intelligence class, I am going to be using a genetic algorithm to learn the best position on a pool table to break from, so it's going to be a lot of fun. I got some of the members of my club involved and they're going to help me collect some data later. I love projects that take multiple aspects of things that I'm involved with and marry them together.
Q: What advice would you give to students that are interested in pursuing computer science?
Jordan: Don’t be afraid to create things. Making the first step is the hardest part, but once you get the ball rolling, there's really no better way to learn more about the subject than just doing it and creating. If you have an idea, one of the most unique things about comp sci is the ability to really do whatever comes to your mind. And that's really propelled by a lot of deep, project-based courses here at Pacific.