First Graduate to Earn New “Internet of Things” Degree is “Born Hawkeye”

Text by Gary Galluzzo

If you were to learn that Caitlin Danielson — a December 2016 UI College of Engineering graduate and the first to earn the new Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering with a major in Computer Science and Engineering — comes  from a committed Hawkeye family, you probably wouldn’t be surprised, would you?

But if you also knew that she found out about the new degree only months before graduation, then took steps to meet degree requirements and now looks forward to making her mark in the world by analyzing computer data, you might want to learn more.

First of all, she grew up in Iowa City as the daughter of two UI graduates — her father is a College of Engineering alumnus, while her mother continues to work in the UI Admissions Office.

Danielson recalls: “I grew up dancing, and the first time I saw the Iowa Dance Team (IDT) perform at a homecoming event, I knew I wanted to be on that team. I was a part of IDT for two years and it was an amazing experience. After two years I saw how many different opportunities the university offered and I couldn’t help but want to try out everything I could before I graduated. After that I got two student jobs, as a reservationist in the admissions office and as a teaching assistant for the course EPSII (Engineering Problem Solving II) and joined STAR (Students To Assist Recruitment), a student organization on campus.”

Danielson says that she learned of the new degree from Professor Gary Christensen in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) during a spring 2016 teaching assistant meeting. She subsequently learned that she would need to take only two additional Computer Science courses to meet degree requirements.

One of those courses is “Programming Language Concepts,” a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) Department of Computer Science course that teaches students how to write their own compilers, interpreters and virtual machines. She says, “These are things that I have been using for a few years now and it is so interesting to see how they are made. This course isn’t required for those graduating with an Electrical Engineering degree, and so if I hadn’t switched my major to this new degree, I would have never taken it. It’s one of the many reasons this new degree has been so beneficial.”

She says that the new degree already is helping her to understand our increasingly interconnected world, sometimes referred to as "the Internet of things.” She says: “My degree has been very beneficial to me in that it has taught me the importance of focusing on innovation while also maintaining stability through efficiency. Allowing people to send and receive data across the world has added so much to our knowledge and culture. Becoming innovative through my engineering courses has taught me how to create a system from scratch. Meanwhile, my computer science courses have helped me improve my skills of inventing a system that will handle a multitude of users sending unlimited amounts of data efficiently.”

During her senior year, Danielson’s senior design group created an iOS App that compiled all events happening in Iowa City, including both city and UI events. She describes it as more than an academic exercise.

“As students, we saw the need for something to bridge the gap between the community and the university. Events are posted in many different places —throughout campus, the community and online — but having one place where all events are listed would make it easier for people to see all the offerings, no matter if they are a student or a member of the community,” she says.

Immediately following graduation, Danielson began work on a freelance web development project.  However, her future looks unlimited.

“For my future career plans, I am looking to pursue a career working with data. I would really like to extend what I have learned with my research position and see how data can be beneficially used. I am also really interested in learning more about machine learning,” she says.

Finally, in addition to thanking her family and professors for their support, she is especially grateful to her engineering department. “I feel so lucky and so grateful to have been a part of the ECE department, where the professors go above and beyond in helping their students. Without their help and encouragement, I would definitely not be where I am now,” she says.