Sang Choi, a junior majoring in computer science and math, built quite a research repertoire during his three years at Rose-Hulman. He has participated in prestigious undergraduate research projects and was twice a candidate for the National Barry Goldwater Scholars Program. While this is an impressive accomplishment for any student, it’s especially notable given Choi’s first experience with computer programming as a student of Rose.
Choi, originally from Seoul, Korea, came to Rose from Xiamen, China, where he lived with his family for seven years. He wanted to attend a top engineering school in the United States; and as one of only 12 to graduate from his high school class, he was particularly drawn to Rose-Hulman’s reputation for small grades.
He majored in computer science and quickly learned to program. Choi decided to add math as a second major because he realized how important math played in research work. During her first year on campus, Choi applied for several research experiences and received an offer from Carnegie Mellon University.
During the summer between his freshman and sophomore year, Choi worked on a project at Carnegie Mellon to design a new framework to make software systems more secure. Currently, with many software systems, if the user makes a mistake in the program, it is designed to automatically correct the problem before the system and the user are in an irreversible “dangerous state”. The problem, however, is that users don’t know they made a mistake because the system corrects itself automatically; this can have dangerous consequences and results. Choi worked on a concept called consolidation, which created scenarios that no matter what path or action a user took inside the system, always returned to a safe state. He wrote a research paper and then presented it in an online conference.
Choi continued his undergraduate research during the summer between his sophomore and junior year at the University of Maryland. This project involved quantum computing and replicating work on classical computers that had previously only been done on quantum machines. Next summer, Choi will return to Carnegie Mellon for a third undergraduate research project that involves working on a software system that will generate graphically appealing mathematical diagrams for research journals and textbooks. To create these types of diagrams currently, researchers typically create their own art through Microsoft Paint or Photoshop, which requires the tedious manual placement of images. Choi’s project will eliminate this manual work and allow the user to create scientific diagrams by simply entering a few lines of code.
Choi considers himself lucky to be nominated for Rose-Hulman for the Goldwater Scholar because only one-third of applicants receive the undergraduate research scholarship and only four students are allowed to be nominated at each college in the country.
He looks forward to beginning work on his main research project under the direction of Joshua Holden, PhD, Endowed Chair for Innovation in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Education and Professor of Mathematics. The two will work on Pell’s equation, examine the work of ancient mathematicians, and apply quantum computing to solve the famous equation. Choi plans to eventually pursue a doctorate in computer science or mathematics. He has not yet determined whether his future plans will include continuing on the path of research, teaching or working in industry.
Choi strongly believes that Rose-Hulman was key to the success of his undergraduate research and thanks the professors for their accessibility to students.
“Being someone who started with nothing without any prior knowledge of computer science and math, I’m pretty sure that if I had gone to regular public school, I probably wouldn’t have made it because lack of support and fierce competition,” says Choi. “The people I owe to Rose are those who helped me in these areas, supported me and gave me advice and emotional support. I am also very grateful to my friend, Will Fedlman, for his patience and understanding over the years.