Nathan Hernandez: My name is Nathan Hernandez. I’m a graduate student here at Appalachian State and I am studying Computer Science.
Dr. Rahman Tashakkori: My name is Rahman Tashakkori. I’m a professor of Computer Science and I have been here since 2000. As far as the location for the Department of Computer Science, Since December of 2015, we moved to Anne Belk Hall. The research labs are also in the same building on the third floor of Anne Belk Hall. The area of my research and the main emphasis is Image Processing Data Science Visualization and now more of the Data Acquisitions of Natural Systems especially regarding honeybee behavior and honeybee studies.
NH: I have been working with Dr. Tashakkori on various research projects since summer of 2014. We mostly focus on beehive data acquisition and more recently are processing the data we have acquired to gather insights from it.
RT: The honeybees in particular are one of the best pollinators in nature. We rely on them to pollinate our food and crops. In recent years they have been dying at a very alarming rate through what we call Colony Collapse Disorder. We wanted to study the bees and find out what is actually causing their death. The natural way was to create a data acquisition system to allow us to observe their video and audio.
NH: A Beekeeper normally to maintain his beehives has to go out to his hives and open them up and look at how the hive is actually doing. That requires a lot of overhead. They have to put on this big suit and go out there and risk getting stung. An ideal system would be an electronic system where we could gather information and be able to access all of that from some sort of portal. Even better we would have a system where the insights are told to them immediately so they don’t even have to think about it. They know the beehive is good.
RT: We wanted a system that had some intelligence on it. It wasn’t just simply a camera and microphone. It was basically a computer that was programmed to do different tasks for different purposes.
NH: When I came to Appalachian State I was not expecting to study bees at all. The funny thing about computer science is that it’s very interdisciplinary. Learning computer science is not sufficient for most things. Usually you will have to learn something else in order to build whatever you want to build. The Computer Science Department Here at Appalachian has a lot of research going on around bees. I happen to get involved with that. It is a lot of fun.
RT: So when we were about to start studying bees and monitoring them, we were looking for different talent with different skill sets to come and help us out. Of course Nathan Hernandez had a lot of experience in undergraduate studies with software development and embedded systems so he was a natural fit for our research group. In the summer time he went to IBM and that was great because he gained some experience there and then joined us a graduate student to help us continue our bee monitoring research.
NH: I chose Appalachian State mostly for the outdoor activities. The location here in the mountains is great. Everything is beautiful. Dr. Tashakkori…he has been like a father figure to me. We go out to his house and cook food and it’s wonderful. We also go out there and that’s where all of the bees are. Really the outdoor environment is what I like about Appalachian State more than anything. The education is wonderful. I learn a lot. The professors are challenging and ask good questions. That pushes you to push yourself to learn more.
RT: For graduate students I know it’s always a hard decision which school to choose for Computer Science. Perhaps our best-kept secret here is that the students have a chance to work with faculty all the time. They do not get the second hand treatment. They work with faculty during their research periods. They work on every step of the way together. My own son actually went to school here. I encouraged him to go to school here. He graduated and is doing what he wants to do as a computer programmer. Therefore, I want the best for everyone that comes through the program. It’s personal to me and I love the program. I love the students and more importantly I learn as much from them as they learn from me during the process. You get to know each other very well and build trust. Based on that trust you work hard and there is an outcome. You get the chance to work with faculty one on one because it’s a small group. We only have 20 students and you have daily contact and work spending time on different problems. Of course you go out and grab a bite and spend time together outside as well. That helps us all build a strong community along with the set of skills that we have among the entire faculty. We have 11 faculty members with 11 different skillsets. We are all different at the core of our research. Therefore we have 11 or 12 different areas of research that students can peruse. That makes us very unique.
NH: the small class sizes are wonderful. You get a lot of personal communication with your professors. That is probably my favorite bit about the whole department.
RT: if students are interested in areas of research, we have the resources here to accommodate them. That’s through our own faculty sources and also through a large pool of our alumni that stay connected with us throughout the years. That’s really providing some unique opportunities for students to pursue what they would really like to do…and to create new areas of research based on their interests and pursue it here.