With the 1st of February CAO deadline coming up final year Computer Science student Lucy Byrne explains why she put computer science in UCD down on her CAO application and what you can expect from the course.

Choosing to study Computer Science at third level can be daunting. I’m going to talk about a few of the assumptions and worries I had before starting my degree that almost stopped me from putting it on my CAO. With Ireland as a global tech hub, it’s no surprise that there’s a wide selection of Computer Science degrees available all over the country. On the surface these may all look quite similar, so why should you choose UCD in particular? I want to show you how putting UCD Computer Science first on your CAO will expand your options even further than you can even think about now.

I had absolutely no coding experience before coming to UCD. I had fears that everybody in the class would already be computer geniuses and I would fall behind. During my classes in the first week, it was apparent that over half of the class was in the exact same boat as me. Our first programming module started with the basics of how to type a basic program and run it to display “Hello World!” on the screen. The Computer Science Support Centre is open all day and we could drop in anytime with questions we had if we were struggling with any part of the course.

I thought that working with computers meant that I’d be working alone most of the time. However, in UCD we learn together through labs. These are usually two-hour slots where we are given a task to complete. Depending on the class this might be making a program, solving a puzzle, or figuring out a maths problem. We all sit at round tables and are encouraged to talk to each other about ways to approach the problem. There will also be demonstrators in the room to answer any questions we have and guide us in the right direction. In second year, we have a software engineering module where a large percentage of the grade goes toward teamwork and organisation skills.

Maths wasn’t my best subject in school, and doing research online led me to believe that I needed to have a solid background in maths to succeed in Computer Science. Even though a strong foundation in maths is helpful, it is not a necessity to done higher level maths to come to UCD. In fact the maths entry requirement for the course is O2/H6 in maths. If you did ordinary level, you take a class in your first semester that helps bring you up to speed with the maths needed for computer science and this is a great help for people like me who were initially hesitant about maths. Also the Maths Support Centre on campus where you can drop in anytime to ask for help with difficult problems you encounter is a great resource for your entire time in UCD.

You spend your first two years taking a wide range of modules to get a solid background in all areas of Computer Science. At the end of second year you have a choice. You can continue with Computer Science, which focuses on topics like software engineering and hardware. The second option is to pursue a degree in Data Science; this is the path I chose. UCD is one of the only universities in Ireland that offers an undergraduate degree in Data Science. Named “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century”, this is a new field that uses data, artificial intelligence, and computer science skills to investigate and change the world around us. The official name of the degree is “Computer Science with Data Science”, which reflects the fact that it covers both areas. The structure of the course means that you don’t have to specialise immediately when coming to UCD – you have two years to evaluate what area suits you best.

This year I took classes such as Information Visualisation and Python programming, where we’d be given tasks to perform analysis on a large volume of data. We could choose to investigate any topic we wanted; I analysed baby names, McDonalds food content, graduate salaries, and NCT tests to name a few. Next year I’ll be taking classes such as Machine Learning, Data Mining and Predictive Analytics.

Your choices don’t end once you’ve chosen Data Science. In third year, you have the opportunity to take a five-month internship from April to August, or complete a Data Science research project instead. UCD helps us find internships, prepare our CV, and practice for interviews. The school also ensures that we are paid fairly. I chose to do the twelve-week research project from March to May, which was a great opportunity to practice the analytics skills I had learned. The project focused heavily on communication skills and our ability to present findings to the class twice a week. We could choose any topic we wanted and align it with our own personal interests. Projects this year included analysis on movies, the Olympics, tennis, and gaming consoles. In my team’s project, we looked at Yelp reviews to find gaps in the market for future businesses.

Even though I didn’t take the five-month internship, I still had the choice to take a three-month internship from June to August as part of my degree. This summer I’m working with the Analytics and Artificial Intelligence team in Accenture, where I have the opportunity to apply all the presentation and data analytics skills I have learned so far in UCD.

If you are thinking about studying Computer Science in UCD you can find out about our course here.

You may also be interested in coming along to our  Science, BAFS and Computer Science 6th Year Open Day taking place on 16th February 2019.