By Elea Levin
“Since both subjects offer methodological approaches that allow me to explore ideas freely, declaring a double major is like a dream come true,” said Annabelle Zhang, a junior from Beijing, China majoring in Computer Sciences and Philosophy.
Zhang has discovered many unexpected connections between her two majors throughout her studies. She said that computer science and philosophy have more in common than it might seem, as studying philosophy has allowed her to have a better understanding of various ethical issues that can arise in the computer science industry.
“Both of these two subjects work collaboratively to help me become conscious of people’s needs, thus later producing desirable features that enhance user experience,” Zhang said.
Almost half of the students majoring in Computer Sciences are currently pursuing a double or triple major. Although the most common majors to pair with Computer Sciences include Data Science, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, and Statistics, many students also double major in the humanities or social sciences. In fact, over fifty other majors are represented in the list of CS double and triple majors.
Madeline Juillard, a Computer Sciences Department undergraduate advisor, believes that double majoring can be highly beneficial in that it allows students to pursue a wider range of subject areas or career paths.
“I think it’s sometimes too easy to see majors as completely separate fields. But once a student starts studying two areas in depth, they will likely find connections they didn’t anticipate,” Juilliard said. “I also think it benefits our greater student population to work with students studying other fields.”
Anna Iwanski, a senior from McFarland, WI studying Computer Sciences and Computer Engineering with a certificate in Physics, had a similar experience to Zhang. She entered UW-Madison as a Computer Engineering student and added on a Computer Sciences major her junior year after realizing that she could do so without adding too many extra classes. Iwanski quickly realized that although it made sense logistically to add the major, it also gave her a much broader range of knowledge
“I really have enjoyed double majoring in these two degrees as it has allowed me to work at all levels of abstraction of computer systems and explore which level I enjoy working in the most,” Iwanski said. “I also have found in certain situations that having a better holistic understanding of how a computer works has made solving problems easier.”
Iwanski is currently taking a semester off from UW-Madison to work as a Hardware ML Engineer Intern with Micron’s Advanced Computing Solutions group. She plans to finish her degree next fall and hopes to eventually work in the AR/VR industry.
Benjamin Masson, a senior from New Glarus, WI majoring in Computer Sciences and Environmental Studies, has faced some challenges balancing his two subject areas. He decided to add an Environmental Science major after taking a few courses in the area and finding it especially interesting.
He is hoping to find a career path that allows him to combine these two fields.
“I’m taking a careers class that helps me find lots of ways to combine the two, particularly mapping and analyzing data for environmental issues like endangered species and things like that,” Masson said. “There’s a technical side to pretty much everything.”
Juillard believes that pursuing a double major can have many benefits for students who are interested in multiple fields. But she cautions that students shouldn’t feel obligated to pursue more than one major. The most important thing is that students study something that will lead them to a career they are passionate about.
“College is not simply about checking off a list of courses – it’s learning how to approach challenges from various angles,” Juillard said. Zhang agrees: “Double majoring grants me valuable opportunities to understand how people would react to information coming outside of the subjects they are familiar with,” she said. “[It’s] a good way to keep things dynamic and interesting at all times.”
More profiles to come!