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Gateways 2017 Student Blog: Travel Award Recipient Thomas Johnson

Each year, SGCI offers travel support for the annual Gateways Conference series. We are pleased to be able to offer an opportunity for students and future science gateway developers to attend. This year, we offered travel support to 13 students, 2 educators from Minority-Serving Institutions, and an additional 10 attendees. One of the students we funded was Thomas Johnson, a student at Elizabeth City State University. We asked him to share with us his experience of traveling to Ann Arbor to attend Gateways 2017. 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Thomas Johnson and I am a sophomore double majoring in Computer Science and Mathematics at Elizabeth City State University. After graduating with my two Bachelor’s degrees, I seek to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science so that I can become highly involved in technological development. I then want to enter the industry to apply my craft so that I can have a hand in crafting the future rather than merely being a bystander to it.

What experience did you have with science gateways prior to attending the Gateways 2017 conference?

My only experience with science gateways was the introduction of the terminology of science gateways due to classmates applying for internships that focused on science gateways.

What did you learn at Gateways 2017? Did you have any favorite presentations, tutorials, or sessions? 

At the Gateways 2017 conference, I was formally introduced to the Jupyter Notebook which could be a valuable tool for when I am coding in Python. Jupyter Notebook emphasizes documentation in coding to such a degree that arguably the code can be dissected at any length for better comprehension whether for the original author or an audience.

My favorite presentation was made by Elyse Aurbach, “Your Audience Comes First: The Key to Communication and Engagement.” She mainly emphasized that the importance of understanding your audience to become a successful entrepreneur or business owner. The audience extends beyond the target market, investors, and the competition. The audience overall encompasses all persons that will come in contact with a product or those who are connected to the product directly or through other people. To ignore any part of the audience intentionally can lead to major mistakes in the planning that affects the business’ overall capability to survive.

Did you make valuable connections while at the Gateways 2017 conference? Did you have a mentor? If so, tell us about the experiences.

Yes, I made connections and had a mentor. The most valuable connection I made at Gateways 2017 was with my mentor. He reminded me that behind the title, the academia, the network were human beings. Anyone could become an authority or key component to the advancement of a field. In many ways, my mentor chose his path from recognizing the barriers that caused him to rethink how to best apply his skillset. It reminded me so much of my own personal journey considering that I have been thinking as to what would be the best pathway to support my future in STEM.

Thomas pictured with his mentor Rion Dooley at Gateways 2017

How has the travel support that SGCI provided impacted your progress toward your academic and career goals?

The Science Gateways Community Institute reaffirmed my pursuit of graduate studies by displaying to me the impact that higher education has on the capabilities of a person.

Are there ways in which you hope to engage with the Science Gateways Community Institute in the future?

Possibly through internships that I can obtain.

Any other thoughts or additions? 

At future Gateways Conferences, it would be nice to allow time for student attendees to explore the graduate studies and ongoing research at the host University.

Thanks to the organizers, my mentor, fellow attendees, and the University of Michigan for providing me with this opportunity.