Author Archive

Waseem Ahmad

I love technology! I love how it improves our lives by allowing us to instantly communicate with people across the globe, access tremendous amounts of data in an instant, and produce and consume meaningful information. Computers give you the power to take tasks of enormous size and complexity and simplify them. I find computing very exciting and challenging which is why I'm working at Facebook as a Software Engineer. I recently completed my Bachelors in Computer Science from Rice University.

I've moved a lot as I grew up. So I've lived in 8 different cities across the world and hope to live in and travel to many more. Currently, I live in San Francisco, CA. When I'm not working or exercising at the gym, I'm always ready for an adventure! I love coffee, good conversations, movies, biking, reading, writing, flying remote control aircrafts, and most of all, the company of good friends.

The Joy of Writing Software

Written by Waseem Ahmad. Posted in Blog, Computer Science

OwlectionIt’s 06:45 AM in Houston. I nervously go over the logs and make sure that no errors were reported. I type in a few queries in the datastore to make sure that its state is consistent. I go over the quota and make sure the website will be able to handle the traffic influx. I look over analytics data to see the visitor flow and statistics. Its almost like being part of a startup. Entrepreneurs are anxious that their product will engage users and win the confidence of their investors. I’m anxious that my elections app will run smoothly and successfully work for the first real election that opens in 15 minutes.

About a year ago, there was a really close round of election at Brown, my residential college within Rice University. There were some inconsistencies in the number of people who voted and the number of ballots cast. Because the votes were so close between the candidates the ballots were declared spoilt and a runoff election had to be held. It highlighted some issues with the paper based system and the tediousness of manually counting ballots that were supposed to be anonymous but still fair. Phil Tarpley, who was the elections committee chair that year was the first to mention the idea of having online elections for Brown during cabinet. Last semester, Julian Cooper, the new elections committee chair approached me about making this happen. The idea was to have elections online that were simple, secure, and anonymous. A list of NetIDs would be entered in the application to restrict voting to a subset of people within Rice. At first, I was a bit reluctant to work on such an application. I wondered if all of the work would be worth the effort.

Higher Education in UK

Written by Waseem Ahmad. Posted in Blog, Computer Science, Studying Abroad

UCL - Portico BuildingToday marks the end of my 2nd week of modules here at UCL. During a presentation about academics in Brittian compared to United States, our speaker illustrated an analogy between baseball and cricket. She explained how trying to compare the two sports leaves you confused and you have to accept them as entirely different games. When I tell people that I’m taking two modules from Computer Science, one from Management Sciences and Innovation, and one from Science and Technology Studies, they are fascinated and surprised! The norm over here is to take all of your modules from the department you were admitted in.

When it comes to having a preference between the British system and the American system. I would definitely go for the American. Someone once told me that a Bachelors degree teaches you how to learn, a Masters degree gives you good understanding of a discipline, and a Doctorate allows you to produce your own knowledge. I completely agree with this. You can’t learn to consume knowledge in the broadest sense if all of it comes from a single discipline or department. A holistic approach to knowledge during the undergraduate level makes for a more well-rounded person. Furthermore, a sharply defined programme of study would inhibit newer interdisciplinary fields from emerging such as Computational Biology. The British universities are aware of this and are taking steps to change their system and mimic the American model, although it will take time. For example, UCL has launched an Arts and Sciences undergraduate degree ‘designed to provide breadth and depth, with students able to fashion their own degrees in a combination of humanities / social sciences and sciences / engineering.’