Lood van Niekerk, Green Templeton College
MSc in Computer Science, 2020/21
Lood van Niekerk
I'm from Cape Town, South Africa. After completing my BSc (Hons) in Computer Science (Data Science stream) at Stellenbosch University in 2018, I worked at a health tech startup called LifeQ as a research engineer. After one and a half years helping build and deploy machine learning models for smartwatches, which was very rewarding, I decided it was time to do my Masters.
I applied for Oxford's Computer Science program because it had a breadth of module choices (from concurrency to machine learning, and ethics), and because I could choose a mix of practical and theoretical subjects from these choices. I am going to be writing my dissertation on protein variant classification, together with Pascal Notin and Yarin Gal from OATML.
So far, Oxford has been such an exciting atmosphere. I have made some friends for life, and it is refreshing meeting so many people that are passionate about what they do. Living on-site at Green Templeton College has been a pleasure, because it is a small post-grad community with beautiful gardens.
Jonas Wildberger, Trinity College
MSc in Computer Science, 2020/21
I'm from Germany, where I started studying Applied Computer Science at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. Upon realising how important Mathematics is to understand Computer Science on a deeper level, I decided to take up mathematics as an additional degree. The interplay of mathematics and computer science has influenced my research interests ever since.
I applied to the MSc in Computer Science at the University of Oxford, because it puts a particular emphasis on a rigorous mathematical formulation of concepts beyond their application. This allows me to deepen my knowledge of Machine Learning and learn more about Computational Learning Theory, which I consider essential for future DPhil/PhD research. A personal highlight is the dissertation in Trinity term, because it encourages me to identify an exciting problem myself, based on recent research.
Besides the degree, the biggest perk of being at Oxford is the stimulating environment of people from a great variety of cultures who pursue highly interesting research. This allows me to gain knowledge beyond the scope of my degree from the brightest students and first-class researchers. During the COVID-19 lockdowns I have found that Oxford offers a rich digital experience to maintain and foster this exchange of ideas.
To any prospective students, I recommend being inspired by the unique experience the University of Oxford offers. There is always something new to discover which makes the time here truly rewarding.
Shiri Avni, Kellogg College
MSc in Computer Science, 2017/2018
I'm from Israel and completed my undergrad in physics and computer science, cum laude, at the Technion in Haifa. I then took a gap year to pursue an internship at Cornell-Tech, and I also worked as a research assistant at the Technion.
My main reason for applying to Oxford was its unique MSc program. I knew that I wanted to get exposure to more computer science fields and a taster of research, but I didn't feel ready to commit to a fixed, multi-year dissertation topic. Oxford's MSc programme seemed to me, and it has indeed proven to be, a fantastic balance - two terms of advanced courses and the final term for a research project. I feel much more ready to select a PhD or industry path now that I’ve had this extra year to look into different sub-fields.
One of the things I'm most grateful for in this course is its open-mindedness towards the research project - I was able to start mine early, in Hilary Term, and with a supervisor from another department. This is in contrast to many courses that limit your choice of supervisor to the home faculty.
The course workload is challenging and stimulating, but definitely manageable. Everyone I know in the course has been able to have a good social and study balance. My advice to people considering applying is to do so!, and to do your homework on selecting a college. Your college has a much greater impact on your social life than you’d initially expect.
Foluso Ogunlana, Green Templeton College
MSc in Computer Science, 2017/2018
I'm from Lagos, Nigeria and I completed my undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering at Imperial College London. Afterwards I spent two years working as a software engineer at Brainlabs Digital in London.
I chose the MSc in Computer Science programme to get a feel for the deeper research problems in the field. I suspected this would be an exciting path and wasn't wrong. The initial application was straightforward and painless though I found the interview questions challenging. Nevertheless, working through the problems during the face-to-face interview was alright.
One highlight for me is the wide range of topics I've been able to explore. From reverse engineering seemingly secure cryptographic protocols, to debating the ethics of autonomous vehicles, there hasn't been a dull moment. I've also been fortunate enough to meet encouraging and intelligent peers and lecturers in my college and department, though I've found myself skipping a couple of social events to study!
Overall, the course is challenging and rewarding. To any prospective students, my advice is simple. Pick a college that you'll love, brush up on your mathematics, and don't be afraid to ask for help as everyone needs it sometimes. Good luck.
Dan Jarrett, University College
MSc in Computer Science, 2017/2018
I come from the United States where I studied economics and philosophy at Princeton University. Following my time as an undergraduate, I worked for several years as a consultant. In my spare time, I developed an interest in technology, and helped launch the first artificial intelligence module online at Columbia University.
As a non-traditional candidate, I decided to pursue the MSc course at Oxford due to the strong theoretical emphasis, which would allow me to solidify the foundations of my largely self-taught knowledge. On the other hand, the dedicated research component gave me the freedom to hone in on the field of intelligent systems, which was what first drew me onto my journey from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. My dissertation project will be co-supervised by the Department of Computer Science and the Oxford-Man Institute of Quantitative Finance.
My advice to prospective students: don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a traditional science or engineering background. Of course, the learning curve will be steep, especially at the most rigorous academic environment that is the University of Oxford. However, my expectations of learning were more than fulfilled by the first week into Michaelmas term. There is nothing quite like learning from the brightest and most varied student body around you every day, and also being able to contribute your unique experience and background through tutorials and projects.
Edward Fleri Soler, Keble College
MSc in Computer Science, 2017/2018
Edward Fleri Soler
I'm from Malta. Having completed a BSc (Hons) in Information Technology (Artificial Intelligence) at the University of Malta, I am pursuing an MSc in Computer Science at Oxford. My primary research interests are within Computer Vision and Machine Learning, focused on creative solutions for real-world problems.
My choice to study at Oxford was driven by the socio-cultural and academic research opportunities present at such a renowned institute of excellence, and I have not been disappointed. The historical backdrop of Oxford's colleges and departments provides the perfect inspirational environment to not only excel in academia, but to step out of your comfort zone, engage new people, cultures and traditions, while keeping active both socially and physically.
I now look forward to applying the knowledge and experiences learnt here to a research position in the form of a PhD or industry experience, to play my part in pushing forward the boundaries of science.
Ralph Abboud, Jesus College
MSc in Computer Science, 2017/2018
I'm from Lebanon, where I completed an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering with a Minor in Mathematics from the Lebanese American University. I chose the MSc in Computer Science because of its flexible structure and the variety of courses it offers. As an Artificial Intelligence enthusiast, I was particularly interested by the Computational Learning Theory and Machine Learning courses.
All in all, I have found the experience very rewarding. I am being regularly challenged to improve. I have particularly enjoyed the tutorial sessions. They're a great way to review the material covered in class and tackle problems consistently.
I have met some amazing people from all subjects and made friends from around the world. College and MCR events are also great fun. In college, I still play the piano at gatherings from time to time and play the occasional foosball game!
After the Master's, I hope to pursue a DPhil with emphasis on Artificial Intelligence, ideally combining symbolic AI with Neural Networks and non-symbolic methods to produce sophisticated systems whose decisions and actions are interpretable by humans.
If you are considering the MSc, don't rule yourself out before you apply. Just give it a chance and show what you can do. If you ask me, the interview was actually quite fun! The interviewer encouraged me to think out loud and the interview itself quickly became an exchange of ideas, so all the pre-interview nerves were gone within a few minutes.
Naomi Pentrel, St Anne's College
I'm from Germany and completed my undergraduate studies in Computer Science at an international university in Germany, Jacobs University Bremen. During my studies there I co-founded jacobsHack!, one of the first big international student-run hackathons in Europe. Currently, I am part of the Major League Hacking Community Council to work towards improving hackathons worldwide. Within Oxford, I am on the committee of the Oxford Entrepreneurs Society and working towards organizing the next hackathon in Oxford.
Being able to take part in a broad range of societies and events was, aside from Oxford's academic reputation, one of the main reasons for choosing Oxford. My college and the magical atmosphere of Oxford with its beautiful cityscape and diverse people from different parts of the world and different fields have quickly turned into a home for me.
I wanted to do an MSc to gain more knowledge in topics I had not explored yet. So far I have been learning about Computer Security and Computer Animation which has been very interesting. Oxford's approach of formative assessments resonates well with me, as it helps me learn more effectively without the fear of making mistakes. The emphasis on supervision and ensuring that we really understand the materials is very helpful.
While the application might seem daunting (it certainly did to me!), I would advise that you go for it. I have found the requirements and workload to be manageable and about right, still leaving time to engage with the community. Oxford has been very welcomning and studying here certainly is a wonderful experience for me!
Charlie Kingston, Keble College
Charlie Kingston I'm from the United Kingdom where I studied for a BSc in Computer Science at the University of Warwick. After attending an open day, I decided that Oxford was the place for me.
The MSc in Computer Science strikes the perfect balance between theory and practice, highlighting the fascinating interplay between these two approaches. A great aspect of the course is its flexibility. I've been able to tailor my studies to the key themes that I'm really interested in: Software Engineering, Information Systems, and Security.
The University gives you a vast platform to get involved both socially and academically. The Middle Common Room (MCR) is a fantastic way to meet other graduate students from a range of different subjects. Within my college, I'm a member of the Football Club which plays in the MCR League, and am the Captain of the Darts Club. I was also elected as the Student Representative of the MSc Supervisory Committee, and I'm a Committee Member for the Computer Science Graduate Society (CoGS) which influences academic decisions and organises social events for graduates in the Department.
The opportunities available to students at Oxford are unlike any other - it's a really great place to study!
Rassadarie Kanjanabose, Green Templeton College
Rassadarie Kanjanabose I'm from Bangkok, Thailand. Before coming to Oxford, I studied for a Bachelor of Engineering in Information and Communication Engineering at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. I graduated with First Class Honours.
I chose to pursue the MSc in Computer Science at Oxford because it provides a variety of courses with both theoretical and practical knowledge. Everyone told me that Oxford has very high workload, and it has proven to be correct. However, good time management and friends can solve this problem. I found myself becoming stressed in the first term, but I was able to cope with it in the second and third terms.
I have had a chance to attend many seminars that I hadn't thought about before. I went to the first Oxbridge Women in Computer Science Conference, participated in Google Women in Tech Training Day, and visited Facebook’s London office. These events gave me the opportunity to interact with professional scientists and engineers.
The best thing about studying at Oxford is its people. I have met various people from all around the world and shared both cultural and academic experiences. They made me look at Oxford as another home. Oxford is a small city, filled with love. It is a perfect place for studying. The city is safe and local people are really welcoming.
Melissa Wu, Kellogg College
Melissa Wu I studied my BSc and BSc Hons (optional fourth year) at the University of the Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, South Africa. My major was Computer Science with a minor in Molecular Cell Biology.
The application process was straightforward. The interview was extremely nerve-wrecking but also pretty straight forward. The response came quite quickly. I was definitely surprised when I was accepted - wasn't expecting it at all.
The lecturers and professors are extremely smart and good at what they do. There's a constant aura of knowledge, learning and working hard, but still enjoying what you do. Good resources are available and there is free coffee! The practicals are the best bit: it's great to be able to apply things from lectures to actual problems. The practicals also helped to give a better understanding of the course material.
Ioannis-Alexandros Assael, Wolfson College
Ioannis-Alexandros Assael I did my undergraduate study at the University of Macedonia, Greece. My degree was a mixture of Economics and Informatics, and I graduated in the top 5% of my class. A challenge was exactly what I needed; this was Oxford. The application process was very smooth, very informative and the administrators in charge of the Master’s degree were amazingly helpful and friendly.
Oxford is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, where modern sciences and tradition are in perfect balance! The best part of the course, for me has been doing research with some of the greatest minds in the field of Machine Learning.
Gaurav Bhadra, St Edmund Hall
Gaurav Bhadra I was born and brought up in Kolkata, India which is where I did my schooling and my undergraduate degree. I went to St. Xavier's College to do a BSc in Computer Science.
I was not looking to go abroad to study, so I did not consider coming to Oxford as an undergraduate. But when it came to graduate study, Oxford was an obvious choice because of its reputation. It is always ranked among the top institutions and is especially good for the topics I am interested in – Quantum Computing and Security.
I started programming when I was 11 and have always found Computing Science to be interesting. The security group in Oxford is very nice and a lot of interesting research is being done in that domain. The taught modules (Security and Advanced Security) have been very interesting and the practicals were very challenging indeed when we tried breaking numerous codes and passwords.
I was nominated the graduate representative of MSc in Computer Science, so had to attend all the meetings with the graduate supervisory committee. I have also been actively involved in the Computer Science Graduate Society (CoGS).
There are a lot of opportunities here for extra-curricular activities. So far, I have represented my college in cricket and played in the “Cuppers” tournament (an inter-collegiate sporting competition). I have enjoyed playing music with friends and there are quite a few opportunities for that. Oxford has also given me the opportunity to take up tennis for the first time.
After this course, I intend to work a little before continuing my education as a doctoral student. Studying in Oxford provides a lot of opportunities to select the direction one wants to pursue a career in – be it in academia or in industry.
Joseph Root, Oriel College
Originally from London, I completed a BEng in Computing at Imperial College. I settled upon Oxford for my Master’s degree as a result of the department’s reputation and the course’s well-balanced transition from learning through to in-depth project work.
The department's academic prowess, coupled with its breadth of study, offered the perfect opportunity to explore new areas whilst building upon existing knowledge in others. As such, the taught course allows students to touch upon a range of interests or conversely focus on a more specific field of study. Class supervision and practicals proved valuable in working through difficulties, and the time offered to students by academics helps distinguish the course. Alongside the taught learning sat a superb range of talks and seminars held throughout the year, presenting the chance to hear from experts both within and outside of the department.
The MSc project offered both time and academic supervision in tackling a serious body of work built upon interests developed during the taught portion. Students take on a diverse range of projects, with many supervisors more than willing to discuss potential avenues and ideas. Broader university elements proved equally as fulfilling. The collegiate system presents an interesting and diverse community of fellow graduates with the college serving as a hub for numerous social activities and events. Furthermore, University-wide societies, lectures and debates provide the perfect setting to explore any number of extra-curricular interests.
Nathan Hale, Exeter College
Nathan Hale I'm from the United States and I studied for a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering at Columbia University. Following my time as an undergraduate I worked for five years in industry as a software engineer.
What attracted me to Oxford first and foremost was its outstanding reputation as a place of learning and research. My academic expectations going into the course were more than fulfilled by my time on the course itself. The taught portion of the course featured a variety of courses that allowed me to challenge myself with fields I hadn't considered and to delve deeply into subjects that I'd been interested in before heading into the course.
The project portion of the course, meanwhile, was a great way to apply many of the ideas from the taught portion to a real problem in an academic environment. The flexibility was also nice, freeing some students up to do highly theoretical research while others such as myself were able to gain experience with research in an academic environment while directly applying techniques from the taught portion to a large software project.
The other thing that attracted me to Oxford was the historical and social environment of the University and the college system. Having had friends who attended the University in the past, I knew that the city was vibrant and that the opportunities for balls, formal meals, and interaction with world-class scholars were unlike any other. Additionally, the city itself is beautiful and overflowing with history. I've gotten involved with my MCR Committee and on the guidance committee for the MSc Programme itself, in addition to attending events that I wouldn't be able to attend anyplace else.
Quincy Prentice, St Cross College
Quincy Prentice I come from the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis. I completed my undergraduate studies in Computer Science at York University (Toronto, Canada).
I chose to pursue the MSc course at Oxford because of the strong theoretical content of the course, the research component of the course and the rich tradition and strong academic standing of Oxford University and the Computing Laboratory. [Since renamed to the Department of Computer Science.]
Oxford provides excellent opportunities to interact with individuals within and outside of one’s course. Guest lectures, such as the one on String Theory delivered by Dr. Michio Kaku, provided insight into the world of theoretical physics whose research also impacts Computer Science. St. Cross College provided an engaging and informal atmosphere where I could interact with fellow students and faculty on a daily basis either at lunch or one of the many dinners. I also participated in the St. Cross College choir.
My course selection was a combination of two of the core areas provided: Concurrency & Artificial Intelligence. This gave me a foundation to explore issues involved in Autonomic computing in my thesis: “Emergence in an Autonomic Computing Environment”. This aspect of the course proved to be the most challenging and personally gratifying. Since graduating I have returned home, and I am presently working as a Senior Systems Analyst with the Nevis Island Administration.