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Chris Siergiej

An interview with a Penn State Computer Science and Engineering student who is also the Penn State Blue Band Drum Major.

Chris Siergiej

Chris Siergiej with Raj Acharya, CSE Department Head

Interview with Chris Siergiej:

Meet Chris Siergiej (pronounced SIR-gee), an IUG scholar, obtaining two undergraduate degrees (mathematics and computer science) as well as a master's degree in applied statistics. He was also selected as the Blue Band drum major last April, after marching in the Blue Band saxophone section for three years.

We caught up with Siergiej at the start of the spring semester to ask him about his experience as a computer science major, advice he may have for incoming students, and how he balances band practices and schoolwork, among other things.

CSE: What makes Penn State special?

Chris Siergiej: Penn State is a university with countless opportunities. When I was looking for a school, I was looking for one with strong academics and an opportunity to continue with music. At Penn State, I am able to pursue two undergraduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and a master's degree in applied statistics through the Schreyer IUG program. Besides the Marching Blue Band, there are other organizations such as the Fall Athletic Band or Campus Band that I knew I could become a part of.

CSE: What advice do you have for incoming or current computer science students?

Chris Siergiej: My advice for incoming or current computer science students is take advantage of every opportunity at Penn State, whether it be academically, professionally, or even outside of school. Seek out your professor's office hours if you're struggling with a course. Go to the Engineering Career Fair if you are interested in pursuing an internship. Pursue an extracurricular outside of class, make friends, and have fun at the same time.

CSE: How does a computer science degree fit into your life's plans?

Chris Siergiej: I think I will eventually enter industry -- technology, finance, or consulting -- and I know my computer science educational background has helped train my mind to think logically about any problem and approach any ambiguous situation systematically; skills that are applicable to any position in any industry.

CSE: Who is your favorite computer science instructor; why?

Chris Siergiej: My favorite computer science instructor is Doug Hogan because of his teaching style and willingness to help. I have had Doug for CMPSC 221 and CMPSC 465. He has the ability to break down complex material into simplistic, easy to understand terms. Doug was always offering help by providing extra office hours or outside of class reviews for challenging topics. In fact, I remember emailing him at 2 AM the day before a CMPSC 465 exam asking about finding recurrences for recursive algorithms. He responded within the hour.

CSE: What is your favorite quote?

Chris Siergiej: My favorite quote is by Neil deGrasse Tyson, responding on Reddit when asked "What can you tell a young man looking for motivation in life itself? "When you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You'd be surprised how far that gets you."

This quote resonates with me because it echoes a personal motto: motivation comes from within.

CSE: How has being the Blue Band drum major changed you?

Chris Siergiej: Being the Blue Band Drum Major has developed me into a stronger leader; after all, over 300 members of the Blue Band look up to the Drum Major for guidance and support! More specifically, it has developed my self-awareness, because everything I do is not only representative of me and the Blue Band, but Penn State as a whole.

CSE: Between all your activities being the drum major, schoolwork, thesis writing, etc., how do you manage it all? You're also a dual major in MATH and CMPSC.

Chris Siergiej: I have found that good time management skills are necessary to be successful in multiple areas of life. Planning and exercising control over the amount of time spent on activities helps maximize productivity. I allocate specific time during the week dedicated to activities such as school, working out, and socializing. Setting priorities and goals to activities can help determine what needs to be done.

CSE: What are your plans after graduation?

Chris Siergiej: I plan on either attending graduate school or entering industry.

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