Econ and theatre double major, and computer science minor Will Brackenbury ‘15 is pursuing a PhD in computer science at the University of Chicago. He shares some insights about grad school in this Q & A.

Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate school and career pathway: what impacted your decision?

I had been working as a consultant for a year and a half at the time. I was enjoying what I was doing, but as I looked ahead to the next steps in my career, I realized that the aspects of the job I enjoyed–data analysis, programming, and writing database queries–would diminish to almost nothing. I realized that attending graduate school in Computer Science would allow me to continue doing all these things, and in fact, would increase their importance in whatever job I would hold in the future.

What challenges did you face on the way to or during graduate school, and how did you overcome them?

The first year was especially challenging. Because I had been a Computer Science minor, and not a Computer Science major at Denison, I was comparatively behind my peers in terms of subject matter knowledge. Additionally, the first year was when course requirements were most demanding. I had little time to devote to the aspects of the graduate school experience I enjoyed most (research, attending seminars), and this was very draining. However, I had built a community among my fellow PhD students, and by leaning on each other, we helped motivate each other to make it through the most difficult times.

What has been your favorite part of your graduate school experience so far?

I absolutely love the subject matter, and because of this, the job of being a PhD student is the best I can imagine. The incredible freedom to mold my own working and learning experience is easily my favorite aspect of graduate school.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I plan to work in a research lab in industry after graduation.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate program like yours?

If you’re able, get involved in research as an undergraduate. I was lucky enough to have had the chance to participate in summer research at Denison, and the publication resulting from that experience was a major differentiator in my application.

December 22, 2019