Inside a Computer Science Mentorship

By: Gabe Aspir  |  August 31, 2021
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By: Gabe Aspir

This was my first summer away from sleepaway camp. I know, a little embarrassing for somebody who is 21, but I couldn’t bring myself to step away from the magic of it all until this summer, when Professor Diament, Chairman of the Computer Science department here at YU, informed my Computer Science course about a “can’t-possibly-pass-this-up” opportunity.

And it truly was an opportunity I could not pass up! It was a program titled “Industrial Software Development”, and I, a first-year Computer Science student, was given the chance to work and learn from a professional currently in industry.

For those unfamiliar, after your first year of structured Computer Science courses (which was where I was), you do NOT know enough to qualify for any legitimate internship. Really, what you need in order to qualify for such an internship, is two to three years of related classes. 

So while I was initially torn between going back to camp and reprising my role as a division head, I chose to stay home and try this Computer Science mentorship.

There were about 24 students in total in this program, and we were split up into groups ranging from 3-5 students per mentor. The mentors that were a part of our program were all very distinguished and intelligent people within their respective fields. Personally I had the privilege of working with Dave Feltenberger, a Senior Staff Software Engineer who works at Google!

I never imagined that I would be able to learn from someone directly at a big software company like Google, after only one year of computer-science-ing. But I did, and pretty well, too. My group created a system known as a “Patent Prior Art Finder” over the course of the summer.

With this tool, a person is able to comb through millions of patents, and find similarities and relationships within them, to avoid the possibility of patent infringement, and to glean insightful data. Data that can answer such questions, like how similar would my theoretical patent be to all the 100+ million patents out there? Do I need to source other patents as prior art? Am I even able to patent my idea?

So how did I, and a couple other YU students (Zach Fish and Ephraim Meiri), create such a powerful tool?

By learning a lot. Through teamwork, and determination. We were able to design this technology by not giving up.

With the help of our mentor, we first devised a plan of action, stated our end goal, and layed out the foundations of each step. We learnt about how to utilize different existing technologies, and how to implement them within our own advanced system. We explored the various intricacies of the Python programming language, and the pandas library and Google’s Big Query. We were able to utilize other python libraries that first year students would never possess the capability to use.

This experience allowed myself, and the other students who partook in it to really jump-start our computer science portfolios, knowledge base, and coding confidence. If you’re thinking about doing this program next summer, I highly recommend it.

To view all the different projects we’ve created this summer, please click on the link here: https://yeshiva-university-cs.github.io/

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