Aileen Perez

Aileen Perez

Name: Aileen Perez
Age: 21
Major: Computer Science
College: College of Engineering and Computer Science
Hometown: Palmview, TX
High School: IDEA Mission 

UTRGV has always played a big role in my education when I was little. Going to events like HESTEC made me feel as if I belonged here. Being only a small drive away from my family and being at an affordable university reassured me that getting my degree is possible with endless amounts of support. I knew that my education would grow into amazing opportunities in the field of Computer Science, and I knew UTRGV was the place to be. 

What made you decide on your current major?
To be honest, I've changed my major a few times my first year. It wasn't until my professor and mentor, Dr. Tomai, convinced me to pursue a degree that would make a difference. Computer Science is revolutionizing the world around us. The research that is being done with HPC excited me and the problems we are solving will lead us to a better safer environment. I also wanted to support the industry that proved elementary teachers wrong when they said we will never carry a calculator or dictionary with us every day.

How are you maneuvering being a student during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am grateful to be studying under a department that handled the pandemic the best way possible. From creating Discord communities to staying connected with students, to the communication I had with my professors to get me into research and industry, the Computer Science department gave me the motivation to keep taking notes and learn outside of class. In addition, my friends and family are always trying to push me to get my degree and are continuing to push me to obtain my future master’s degree.

What are your greatest strengths and what are some challenges?
The biggest strength that I earned was the ability to learn outside of the classroom. COVID made it very difficult to collaborate with other computer scientists and engineers. This didn’t stop me from joining video chats and reading many handbooks on the skills needed to be successful. Outside of school, I had the challenge of caring for my elderly father while COVID was at its highest. I learned how to create web apps, gained leadership skills, and learned to be safe in harsh times. 

What do you hope to achieve beyond completion of your major?
In the future, I see myself pursuing a master's and working closely with the Department of Energy and Defense to create a safe world around us. I enjoy research-based development, so I plan to one day make contributions to the research in supercomputing. My code may not be as famous as Google, or Windows, but I do see it protecting us in the background of the internet. 

What do you like most about UTRGV?
I enjoy working with professors. They want to see their students grow into great individuals and they give us the tools needed to impact the world. There is no professor that I have met that has not made an impact on my life decisions. 

What does being a Vaquero mean to you?
Being a Vaquero means being able to represent UTRGV, the Valley, Hispanics, and my family. Working in an industry that favors well-known schools like MIT or Stanford, it makes me proud to say UTRGV. With every line of code, I submit is a reminder que si se puede

What advice do you have for fellow students pursuing degrees during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Pursuing a degree does not mean neglecting your mental health. Take it slow, it is not a race to finish. Find a support group to motivate you to not give up. Pets also help a lot. Not just for you but also for the few that get to see them during Zoom classes.