Why I Study...Computer Science and Its Many Applications

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jorge Silveyra shares how he came to his current field of research.

By: Jorge Silveyra, as told to Meghan Kita  Thursday, March 26, 2020 08:17 AM

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Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jorge Silveyra. Photo by Gaylor Photography.

When I was young, my sister got a Nintendo, and I fell in love with video games. I got a computer around eighth grade, which was uncommon at the time in my native Mexico. Soon after, I started taking computer classes. It felt natural for me to work with computers

In college, I trained as a computer engineer—more focused on hardware—because computer science, which is mostly programming, wasn’t offered in my hometown. I spent a year as an exchange student in the U.S. I enjoyed it so much that I returned as an international graduate student in computer science.

I needed to do research, and a computational epidemiology professor asked me, “Would you be interested in joining my lab?” I said yes because I’m very attracted to the multidisciplinary aspect of computer science. My work involved investigating the role of an individual’s immune system in an epidemic, so I had to take classes in immunology, biology, biostatistics and genetics. Coming up with computer models to replicate immune responses and different epidemics was fascinating.

When I came to Muhlenberg, [Professor of Political Science] Chris Herrick approached me about collaborating to analyze the rhetoric of speeches by Chinese government officials. It sounded fantastic because I’m interested in politics, too. I’ve been using language processing algorithms to try to discover patterns.

There are so many different ways to apply this kind of language analysis. For example, we could do studies about newspaper articles on Brexit or other controversial topics. From the reception Chris and I have gotten at political science conferences, it’s clear that there is a lot of interest in these types of studies.