James Hughes

photo of James Hughes

Program: Masters of Computer Science Alumni

Program Entry Date: 2013

Advisor: Dr. Sheridan Houghten

I studied Evolutionary Algorithms by incorporating improvements into the algorithms and by applying them to a variety of problems. A major application area was the DNA Fragment Assembly Problem. The Evolutionary Algorithms were used to recombine many small DNA fragments into larger sequences.

What made you choose Brock?

There are many reasons I chose Brock University for my MSc degree. First, I completed my undergraduate degree there, so I was already very familiar with the university culture, facilities, and professors. This allowed me to hit the ground running as a big part of the learning curve was already done for me and the professors were comfortable with my abilities. Additionally, the department was smaller so I knew it would allow me to be a larger proportion of the team when compared to larger universities. I also really liked Brock because I felt that I didn’t get micromanaged; the faculty really allowed me to be independent. Lastly, and probably most importantly, unlike many universities in Canada, a number of the professors in the department had expertise in the areas I was particularly interested in.

What makes Brock stand out for you?

Having spent time at multiple universities, what makes Brock stand out to me is how they make graduate students feel like a part of the team. You were not just another one of the many students within the department. At Brock it always felt that you were an integral part of the department and you really did add value to the university. Not only that, you could easily see the value you were adding to your community.

Brock also stands out as a hotspot for evolutionary computation and other types of computational intelligence research.

What are your tips for thriving in grad school?

Get involved in everything. Grad school is going to be very boring if you just do the basics. Go look for challenges and don’t be shy about volunteering. Specifically, get involved in the Graduate Student Association. The amount of social support they provide is critical for anyone’s success. Additionally, the volunteering almost always directly affected the community, so you could really see the value in your work.

Graduate school comes with a lot of independence and freedom, which is great; however, it can be a curse. It’s easy to let your responsibilities slip here and there if you don’t stay on top of things.

Thesis writing was probably my biggest concern going into graduate school. In the end it ended up being pretty easy to write. Don’t let it scare you away.

What do you wish someone warned you about being a graduate student?

I wish people framed graduate school a little better for me. As a graduate student, you are really a research apprentice. The word ‘student’ in ‘graduate student’ is a bit of a misnomer — it’s a job. Unlike many jobs though, you get a lot of freedom to explore what you’re interested in. Take advantage of this time. Don’t let any of this scare you though. Sure, it’s a ‘job’, but it’s a great job!

Do you feel your degree has prepared you for your plans academically and otherwise?

I absolutely feel that my degree prepared me for my plans. After I finished my degree at Brock I went on to complete my PhD and I am now an assistant professor.