By: Dezaray Barr
Thomas (TJ) Collins graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) in 2011 with a B.S. in Computer Software Engineering. “I grew up in Marion, Indiana, and I visited Indiana Wesleyan numerous times with friends and older cousins that were students there,” Collins shared. “I was always impressed by the facilities available on campus, but it was my interactions with IWU students that really drew me there. The community of students I encountered had a high level of academic ambition tempered by a true desire to help one another succeed.”
When Collins attended IWU, the Department of Mathematics and Computer Information Sciences was extremely small. “At first, this concerned me,” Collins said. “I worried that the size of the department might somehow prevent me from studying computer science and software engineering at the same level of depth and breadth that I could at a university with a large CS department. However, this concern quickly dissipated when I realized the distinct advantage afforded by a small department: one-on-one interaction with professors.” This sort of interaction is rare at large universities or in large departments due to high student-to-faculty ratios.
Collins is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA. He is a teaching assistant for undergraduate and graduate level courses in Artificial Intelligence, probabilistic inference and object-oriented programming.
Indiana Wesleyan provided Collins with the educational foundation necessary to pursue an advanced degree in computer science. “As I entered graduate school at USC, I worried about how well-trained I would be compared to my peers from other institutions and other countries. I quickly discovered that IWU had provided me with a knowledge base and skill-set that allowed me to distinguish myself from my peers and excel in my studies.”
Collins is an avid weightlifter and enjoys reading about astrophysics and quantum physics in his spare time. His Ph.D. advisor, Professor Wei-Min Shen, studied under Nobel laureate Professor Herbert A. Simon.
If Collins could tell students one thing, he’d say, “If you wish to become a researcher and continue your education in graduate school in a technical field, find research projects in your area of study and get involved in them as soon as possible, even if you feel that you don’t have the necessary technical skills yet. There is almost always some aspect of a research project that can be done under the guidance of an older student or professor without fully understanding all the technical intricacies of the project.”
Currently, Collins lives in Redondo Beach, CA, with his wife, Kelsi, and his daughter, Remy.
Written by Dezaray Barr, PR Specialist for the Alumni Office. Dezaray is a junior Strategic Communication, Journalism and Honors Humanities triple major at Indiana Wesleyan University in the John Wesley Honors College. Visit Dez’s website at www.dezaraybarr.weebly.com.