Computer Sciences celebrates December graduates

Chart showing 296 BS and BAs, 31 certificates, 36 masters, 12 PhD degrees.UW-Madison’s Computer Sciences department remains one of the fastest growing disciplines on campus, with 44% more majors than the next largest. This figure alone is worth celebrating, but during commencement weekend we had even more reason to cheer: 244 students were awarded bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorates in computer science.  

On Sunday, December 17, we gathered family, friends, and colleagues to commemorate our graduates, their academic achievements, and the very bright future of computing. But those are just the numbers. Below, we meet a few of the students.

Bovine AI research leads to honors, publishing, and patent pending for Moniek Smink (BS ‘23)

It’s official: If you’re going to do artificial intelligence (AI) research about cows, UW-Madison’s Computer Sciences department is the place to do it. A top-ranked research institution in America’s Dairyland, UW-Madison was the natural birthplace for ReadMyCow, a video-based cattle ear tag reading system Moniek Smink ‘23 developed for her senior thesis. While the project is now “complete” and Smink is officially graduated (with honors, two bachelor’s degrees in computer science and data science, and an undergraduate certificate in global health) the research project might still end up a cash cow. With the help of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), Smink is currently filing for a patent.

Moniek Smink

Smink met her thesis supervisor, Professor Yong Jae Lee, through the WISCERS program. “Through Yong Jae, I got into computer vision, and that led me to my final thesis,” says Smink. But first, she needed data to build the project around. “In computer vision, the main bottleneck is usually access to high-quality data,” she explains. 

Smink turned to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. Her mother, Dr. Dörte Döpfer, is an associate professor of food animal production medicine there, and Smink knew they had mountains of unanalyzed dairy cow data. About 18 months later, and trained on 48 hours of premium-grade Wisconsin dairy cow footage borrowed from the vet school, ReadMyCow has already generated some industry interest.

Here’s how it works: Plenty of research has been published on using AI and computer vision to monitor herds and diagnose certain health-related events (for example, a system may be able to discern that the herd includes a limping cow). Smink’s technology is innovative for its ability to identify and track the individual cow causing an alert. 

Used together, farmers will be able to provide targeted healthcare to the cows in need: “ReadMyCow is going to be used in conjunction with those diagnostics systems, so that farmers won’t just know that a cow [in their herd] is limping,” says Smink. “They’ll know which cow is limping.”

The paper, ‘Computer Vision on the Edge: Individual Cattle Identification in Real-time with ReadMyCow System,’ co-authored with Döpfer, Yong Jae Lee, and Haotian Liu, was accepted to IEEE/CVF Winter Conference on Applications of Computer Vision (WACV) 2024, where Smink will be presenting. Beyond that, she has a spring internship lined up in the Netherlands, a trip planned to visit potential ReadMyCow partners in the UK, and applications out to graduate programs in Europe and the US.

For Rachael Lang (BS ‘23), programming is about peoplenot just users

Rachael lang

With a major in Computer Sciences and certificates in Data Science and Chicano and Latino Studies, Rachael Lang is particularly interested in the human side of computing. Data, she says, is a common language.

“Being able to use numbers to draw conclusions and tell stories has always really appealed to me,” says Lang. Her course load generally reflected this, with plenty of seminars in comparative cultural studies to balance other coding-heavy courses.

“Even though they feel like complete opposites in almost every way, they pair unexpectedly well with each other,” says Lang. “The in-depth cultural discussions we have has given me a broader perspective towards both the world and how I approach academics.” 

Still, it was a Computer Sciences course that piqued her professional interest. “CS 571: Building User Interfaces, which I took this semester, helped me realize I would be interested in going into front-end web development as a career,” says Lang. For her, the appeal is partially in coding for real peoplenot just the user. 

“Because computer science is such a technical field, we often forget there’s a very real, personal aspect at the center of it,” says Lang. “The goal is for technology to help people, so it’s really important that we keep in mind who we are designing and developing for.”

Soon Lang will return to campus for the Plus One Pathway in Computer Sciences (POP) to earn a professional master’s degree. Until then, she’s gaining valuable hands-on experience at Intel as a software engineer intern. 

Iffat Nafisa (MS ‘23) turns back-to-back internships into backend software engineer 

Iffat Nafisa

Leading up to graduation, Iffat Nafisa MS’23 was finishing up a Master’s project focused on edge computing for augmented reality (AR) devices. Professor Suman Banerjee, who researches mobile computing and wireless networking and leads the WiNGS Lab, is her advisor. 

Her primary focus has been in edge computing, an emerging paradigm that keeps data and computation close to the user to save time and increase bandwidth.  “We use Edge-SLAM to offload some of the computation from AR devices to edge devices,” Nafisa explains.

Still, a key benefit of attending a major research institution is the unparalleled access to all manner of novel research. “Throughout grad school, I was very intrigued by machine learning,” says Nafisa. “I took a couple of grad courses and attended weekly machine learning lunch meetings.” They quickly became routine. Organized by faculty members from Computer Sciences, Statistics, ECE, and other departments, the talks are opportunities to meet with faculty and fellow researchers and learn about the cutting-edge research being conducted on campus.

Now that her thesis and graduation are behind her, Nafisa will be joining IBM as a backend software engineer. She’s excited and ready to hit the ground running in a familiar placeNafisa spent the last two summers interning with their software security and backend software engineering teams.

“My academic journey at UW-Madison has equipped me with the technical knowledge and analytical skills I need,” she says. “I’m looking forward to applying my expertise in building robust backend solutions and collaborating with the talented team at IBM.”


In Computer Sciences and across the School of Computer, Data, and Information Sciences more broadly, our students are already making their mark on the field of computing. From edge computing to dairy cow AI, you can expect big things from our graduates.

Congratulations to each of the latest Computer Sciences Badger alumni!