School of Computer Science

Meet our students and graduates

Our students share their own experiences of studying Computer Science and where it has led them.

Christopher Sinclair - Working at Maxtel Software

Christopher SinclairWEB

Meet Christopher, an Auckland University Computer Science graduate who’s on the road to a great career.

A full academic schedule while he was studying for his Computer Science degree didn’t stop Christopher Sinclair pursuing his other passion – motorcycles.

He juggled his studies with his other role as President of the University Motorcycle Club. They may seem like radically different interests, but according to Christopher, he’s always been fascinated by making things go faster.

“I decided on Computer Science because when I was growing up I had always liked working with computers and technology. I often found myself acting as a tech support service for friends and family.”

Looking to turn his passion into a career, Christopher enrolled in the BSc in Computer Science at the University of Auckland, where he enjoyed the pragmatic nature of software development. Writing code to create a portfolio of projects proved to be his true calling in Computer Science.

“The most useful parts of my degree definitely came from the more practical based papers which based their content on assignments on common software development industry practice.

“I always found actually writing code and trying to understand how it all worked much more fun than the theoretical part of the courses. I'm very much the same when it comes to working on bikes, always keen to pull the tools out and take things apart instead of reading the workshop manual. Occasionally it ends in disaster in both programming and mechanical work!”

After graduating, Christopher used his networking skills to land a position where he could put his skills into practice. And as many graduates have discovered, he realised that learning never stops.

“My current role at Maxtel Software involves a balance between support work, a small amount of software development work and testing. I spend a fair amount of time during and outside work hours studying and trying to further my skills as a developer to progress to an Intermediate and one day a Senior developer.”

Christopher reckons other young people can benefit from the approach he took. Enjoy student life, have a well-rounded set of interests (including motorbikes, if that’s what gets your motor running) – and get don’t be afraid to get hands-on with technology.

“There is one essential piece of advice I would give young people looking to get into this industry, and that is to work as much as you can on software projects in your own time to create a portfolio. At the same time, get the best grades you can while studying, and make as many contacts in the industry as possible.”

He’s no longer President of the University Motorcycle Club, but he hasn’t lost the urge to go fast. He has a number of bikes for different types of riding, but if pressed, the current favourite would be his Yamaha TT600r.

Irene Zhang - Working in the Research and Development group at LIC

irene zhang

Meet Irene, a University of Auckland graduate who’s exploring the interface between computer science and biology.

Irene was well advanced in her Biomedical Science Honours degree when she encountered the field of bioinformatics. This is an area of research that applies computational and statistical techniques to biological data such as genetic data.

In her own words:

“Data produced from biological research requires innovative algorithms and good computational power to process. Imagine all the raw biological data being dumped into a funnel with processed data coming out the other end, and the diameter of the bottom of the funnel is being controlled by computational techniques. The better the computation, the greater the diameter and the more raw data can be interpreted into usable data to drive research.”

Irene’s eyes were opened to the possibilities of Computer Science, and she decided to add some new capabilities to her skillset.

“Studying a Graduate Diploma in Science in Computer Science was a no-brainer for me after finishing my Honours programme. It offered me the type of skills I needed to pursue a career in bioinformatics.”

After graduating, it was time to look at the employment market. Irene found her Computer Science background made her much more attractive to employers.

“Having a degree in Computer Science opened many more doors compared to having a degree in Biomedical Science only. Knowing how to program and understanding computing principles really put me at a competitive advantage.”

Today, Irene is working with a leader in New Zealand’s biological science and agri-technology sectors – LIC. Their vision is simple: To improve the prosperity and productivity of our farmers.

The Research and Development group at LIC, where Irene works, is specifically focused on using science and technology to come up with innovative solutions for LIC’s customers. The research is computationally intensive and requires the collaborative effort of computer scientists, biologists, statisticians and mathematicians.

The group aims to improve the accuracy of genomic selection in dairy cattle. This is accomplished by using associations between variations in DNA and traits of economic value to farmers. They’re also looking at developing new models for interpreting data on-farm, which will help farmers do their jobs more easily and efficiently.

“I love working in a team of accomplished scientists where we share ideas and stimulate each other’s thinking,” says Irene. “We tackle interesting bioinformatics problems; it feels like I’m solving novel puzzles every day. Also, being able to contribute to the dairy industry in New Zealand is pretty neat!”

Irene is excited by the way Biology and Computer Science are continuously working together to open up new possibilities. For example, advances in technology have greatly reduced the time and cost needed for genome sequencing. This means scientists are able to collect sequence data for more and more individuals, which leads to higher accuracy and more predictive power.

“Having an abundance of sequence data from both diseased and healthy individuals can help scientists better understand diseases and find variations in the genome that cause diseases. An application in human genetics is personalised medicine, where therapeutics can be targeted to an individual based on genomic data.”

If you’re contemplating a career in Computer Science, Irene has some advice.

“Develop a passion for learning; keeping up with the latest developments is important in the ever-changing world of science and technology. Engage with lecturers and students and make good use of all the resources offered.”

“Given the pervasiveness of computer science technology in society today, I believe that there are excellent opportunities for Computer Science applications in many disciplines – and especially in the science sector.”

“Be curious, be creative, and you might be surprised where a degree in Computer Science can take you.”

Nodira Khoussainova - Senior software engineer at Twitter in San Francisco

Nodira Zhang

Meet Nodira, a University of Auckland Computer Science graduate who’s working as a senior software engineer with Twitter in San Francisco.

Nodira discovered a passion for Computer Science as a teen, when she took a class in the summer break. Her older brother had signed up, and Nodira went along just for fun.

She already enjoyed maths in school and was fascinated by the affinity between the two subjects. “I discovered Computer Science uses a similar set of analytical skills to maths, but you get to build something in the process. Sweet!”

Studying at the University of Auckland confirmed and deepened her interest.

“I loved the lecturers. Their passion and energy was contagious. Later in my degree I got a taste of research with Gill Dobbie and John Hosking, who were great mentors. They not only introduced me to research in Computer Science but also to the area of Computer Science that I would continue to pursue for the years to come: database systems and large scale data analytics. I’m forever grateful for that!”

After completing her PhD at the University of Washington Nodira started an intensive job search. She was looking for a career where she could pursue her interest in building large-scale data analytics systems for non-experts.

“I started with a month of preparation. This involved reading many books designed specifically to prepare you for software engineering interviews, as well as several mock interviews with friends. I applied to seven different companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. In the end, I was lucky enough to get offers from six out of the seven places. For the place where I didn't get an offer, I think it may have had something to do with me reading Hunger Games through the whole night before the interview!”

In her current role Nodira is a tech lead on Twitter’s Experimentation team, building the system that enables the company’s product teams to run ‘experiments’ on new features, see how users react and analyse the results.

“I love using the product itself and I think it has a positive impact on the world. 

I really enjoy working with a team of incredibly talented and hardworking people. Also I'm in a position that allows me to see the heartbeat of Twitter the company, and in some ways Twitter is the heartbeat of the world. So that's pretty neat.”

Nodira sees exciting possibilities for Computer Science graduates in the near future. “I think we're at a real exciting stage for machine learning, including deep learning. Now that we have way more data than we've ever had before, we finally have an opportunity to truly play with machine learning techniques. I think we're going to be solving a lot of hard problems in the coming decade.”

And if you’re just starting out on your career, Nodira has some sage advice.

“Embrace the difficulty; don't expect to understand concepts right away. Work hard. That said, ask for help early and often. Don't be intimidated by all the boys who have already been coding for years.”

Julius Bennett - studying for a conjoint Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Commerce


Julius chose to study at the University of Auckland because his older siblings and father had previously studied here. “It's a world renowned university which is close to home.” He is taking a conjoint Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Finance and Accounting, and Bachelor of Science, majoring in Computer Science and Operations Management. Being a recipient of the Hae Rere Mai Scholarship has really helped Julius. It has enabled him to meet fellow Computer Science students, it has given him the means to pay off some of his student loan, and also given him the opportunity to have a role as a Tuākana tutor for the COMPSCI 105 course.

Julius chose to major in Computer Science, he says, because it is “amazingly applicable to many different fields including business and science. It's the abstract way of completing a task which is important in making decisions spontaneously. It's a great complement to my other majors.” He enjoys creating huge programs as part of his assignments, particularly the end when every stage comes together to create the fully functional final project. Computer Science is, for him, not only understanding how computer systems and algorithms work, but it sharpens problem solving skills, especially finding the most efficient way to do something or how to do it in a given way. “It helps you think outside the box and produce an efficient end result.”

When Julius completes his conjoint degree, he hopes to get into financial sales and trading - the algorithms used in Computer Science will give him the edge for this. He has been fortunate to take part in Google’s Student Ambassador program and be flown to Sydney for this. Being able to reference this on his CV will certainly help him in his future travels. His diversified degree will enable to target areas of business that interest him, worldwide.


Arthur Joel Lewis - studying for a Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science

Arthur is studying for the Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science. He has previously graduated with a first class Bachelor of Engineering in Information Technology Engineering from the University of Mumbai in India. He was attracted to the Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science because of the practical nature of the curriculum and the amount of on-going research in the field. He plans to take his Computer Science expertise to masters level, but only after a few years of working in industry. He hopes to become an application software developer or have a role as a data analyst.

Arthur says that Computer Science is a very practical field. “People deal with the application of Computer Science on a daily basis. For instance, most people can't live without a personal computer or a mobile phone loaded with the internet, cool apps, games and work resources. Businesses run on information systems which in turn rely on the application of concepts from Computer Science. We make these things happen!!!"

"I like computers and Computer Science requires analytical thinking which is a skill I possess. I have had the opportunity to investigate the various technologies associated with developing and managing applications and programing. I have particularly enjoyed working on defining a policy management framework for Android applications. This was part of a larger project to enforce stronger security checks for Android.”


Brent Whiteley - studying for Master of Science in Computer Science


Brent has been studying for his masters degree in Computer Science in 2013. Since submitting his master’s thesis, he has been a research programmer for the Department of Computer Science. He is working on debugging a software library in preparation for open source release. From January 2014, he will be employed at Orion Health as a Graduate Developer, working on health care software systems that are being used in many countries around the world. His first contact with Orion Health was at the Innovation, Technology and Science Careers Fair.

In the accompanying photo, Brent is using the software he created for his Master of Science research to build a virtual 3D model using physical building blocks on the Samsung SUR40 with Microsoft PixelSense. A new physical model will then be created from the result using a 3D printer. This is an aspect of research into tangible user interfaces which seeks to create more natural alternatives to current input techniques, such as touch or mouse and keyboard. In this research project, Brent interacts with the computer by physically moving things from one place to another, which mimics the way that people interact with the real world


George Ianovski - first graduate of the Masters programme in Logic and Computation


George Ianovski is the first student at the University of Auckland to be awarded a Master of Science in Logic and Computation. Logic and Computation is a field that combines ideas and techniques from Computer Science, Mathematics and Philosophy. It investigates the laws and methods of reasoning with symbolic representations - examining the structure, design and limitations of symbolic representations and procedures in human thought and computer software.

When George began his studies, he says “I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to study when I entered university, and a degree in Logic and Computation allowed me to dabble in a number of different fields.” He also encourages others to venture into the sphere – “Don’t let the abstractness scare you off. There is reason to this madness, and it all comes together in the end.”

George chose the University of Auckland because of the open environment, which made it easy to meet people from other disciplines and explore the problems they study. He is presently reading for a Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science at the University of Oxford in England. He studies the way logical and computational techniques can be used to study game theory, and conversely the way game theoretical techniques can lead to a better understanding of logic and computation. George often takes advantage of the proximity of Europe to travel. A conference in Switzerland can lead to skiing in the Alps or exploring the castle Chillon. George sorely misses the amazing coffee at the Orbit Café on the University of Auckland city campus.


YuFeng Deng - Software Developer at M-COM


YuFeng Deng is a Software Developer for M-COM (now part of Fiserv). He designs and develops software and maintains his expertise in software technology, tools and techniques in order to support other staff members. This collaboration ensures the success of M-COM’s mobile banking software projects. “In M-COM, I have the opportunity to keep in touch with various new technologies. I have participated in quite a few projects and done some platform, web and mobile work. I have gained a lot of skills. These include CSS, JavaScript, Objective-C, Xcode Interface Builder, C#, Java and so on. It’s great that I can do what I want to do, and learn what I want to know.” YuFeng admits that he would never had been able to do this job without the knowledge he gained at the University of Auckland.

YuFeng graduated from the University of Auckland in 2009 with a Bachelor of Technology in Information Technology. “Unlike most students, I chose to study Computer Science without considering my career future. I chose it simply because I like computer technology. Fortunately, it was one of the wisest choices in my life.”

YuFeng encourages others to follow in his footsteps, saying “Computer Science is fun. When you play Angry Birds or Temple Run on your mobile devices, you feel happy. But I believe that the authors are happier. You can spend the whole night renaming the millions of songs on your hard drive - I have done that by running my own written script in a few minutes. Computer Science is useful for your life and for your career. Check the job websites and find out how many jobs are available.”


Ray Liu - IT consultant with IBM, New Zealand


Ray is a graduate of the Department’s Honours programme. He is now an IT consultant with IBM New Zealand. He assists enterprise clients to strategically transform their businesses to better achieve their goals by implementing tailored IT solutions‬. Working with some of the largest clients in New Zealand, he enjoys the challenges of innovation and problem-solving in his job.

“My passion for computers came from my time spent gaming when I was a little boy in China. Later in my life, I studied for a major in Forensic Science, specialising in Computer Crime. This really broadened my perspective about what you could use a keyboard for. So when I planned my study abroad, Computer Science seemed to be an intuitive direction to take and turned out to be the right one.”

When Ray first came to the University of Auckland, he did a bridging programme, called a Transitional Certificate. He says “Without an actual Computer Science background or much practical coding experience, studying Computer Science in a totally different environment, with English as my second language, starting with Stage III courses - it could have been a disaster. The thing that changed this potentially catastrophic situation to a success story is what I loved about studying Computer Science at the University of Auckland - everyone around me was willing to help. From the very first day I brought my application form to the admin office to the last day when I submitted my dissertation, I have always been supported and I feel truly grateful for this.”

Ray has this to say about taking up the challenge of Computer Science: “Studying Computer Science does not make you a software developer or an architect straight away. However, it’s the problem-solving and analytical thinking skills, as well as a lot of other highly transferable abilities, that you will really get out of it. Eventually, you really can become an analyst, a developer, a tester, a project manager, an architect and a consultant of...just wait and see what the future brings.” As you can see, Ray holds the future in his hands – a Computer Scientist in the making, just like his dad.


Daniel Resnick - Software Engineer at Google in Sydney


Daniel is a Software Engineer at Google Sydney. “I work on Google Maps, focusing on developer tools. On an average day I do a fair bit of programming, have a meeting or two and play a couple of games of table tennis or pool!” He is inspired by all the incredibly smart and passionate people around him who are always trying to learn new things and innovate.

Daniel has a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Computer Science, from the class of 2012. He has this to say about studying Computer Science at the University of Auckland: “I really liked the flexibility of the programme, allowing me to pick and choose courses that interested me, as well as mixing in papers from other disciplines. The quality and access to academic staff was second to none, and having spoken to friends who attended other universities I realise how lucky I was to be able to just knock on a professors office door if I wanted to clarify something.”

“I have always enjoyed computers and technology. Since I was little, I have always loved tinkering with things, breaking them and then trying to fix them again. I recall several occasions where I completely wiped out my parents computer when playing with it. I also love the certainty of science - the fact that once you figure something out you can verify it and be sure you are correct. This made computing an obvious choice for me. The only decision left was whether to study Computer Science or Software Engineering. In the end I chose Computer Science because of its flexibility - I was able to focus on the subjects that interested me most.”


Thusitha Mabotuwana - Clinical Informatics Research Scientist for Philips Research in New York


Thusitha completed his PhD with us in 2010. He works for Philips Research in New York as a Clinical Informatics Research Scientist. His job involves working closely with clinicians to understand their routine workflow and developing new and innovative software-based solutions that can help improve the workflow efficiency. He routinely develops research prototypes (primarily using .NET technology) that are then demonstrated to clinicians to get their feedback. Once the prototypes reach a certain level of maturity, typically after multiple iterations, the software development teams take over and integrate the research prototypes into product platforms that are eventually sold to thousands of users. Thusitha enjoys his job, saying “The best part is having the freedom to explore new ideas and applying what I learnt back in University to solve real-world problems; in my case, problems that can actually save lives since I’m working in the healthcare domain.”

“I have always been an analytical person and loved to understand things instead of simply memorising. As a result, I chose to do Engineering instead of trying to get into a field such as medicine. During my undergraduate studies in Computer Systems Engineering at The University of Auckland, we had the opportunity to take a few Computer Science electives and I absolutely loved these classes. I developed a passion for developing software systems and wanted to further my studies in an area where I could apply technology to solve real-world problems. Computer Science was the perfect place for this and I enrolled in a PhD where I could pursue my passion of solving challenging real-world problems while also having the opportunity to delve deeper into understanding the finer technical details."

Thusitha champions the study of Computer Science, saying that “If you like working with computers and want to create new technology that can have a positive influence/impact in others’ lives, Computer Science will be a great choice. It’ll be a great stepping stone that can open up many opportunities for you in the future, so follow your passion, and aim high.”


Jeremy Meese - SDET for Microsoft in Washington, USA

Jeremy describes himself as an actively lazy person. He just loves to find easier ways of doing things. He is going to find easier ways of doing things for Microsoft soon, as an SDET at the Redmond Campus in Washington, USA. (SDET stands for Software Development Engineer in Test.) His job will involve designing and automating tests for the Windows Phone operating system.

Jeremy prepared himself for this position with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, graduating in 2012. He says, “I found the teachers, the staff, and the support at University of Auckland were just unparalleled in New Zealand. As a world-class university and intentions for a world-wide career, it just made sense to choose it!”

Computer Science has been just the ticket for Jeremy in more ways than one. “Well, so far it’s given me amazing opportunities to travel and learn. Generally, though, Computer Science jobs for me have been challenging, satisfying, and heaps of fun.”

“Computer science, computability, and programming are incredibly interesting and important subjects for all fields of science today. The key is knowing how to use computers to solve BIG problems, and more importantly, knowing if it is even feasible to solve them.”