Spotlight on Engineering Alumni: Kiana Ross

Name: Kiana Ross
Age: 32
Occupation: Mathematician
Education: B.S. in Computer Science, University of Rochester, 2001; M.S. in Mathematics, University of Washington; PhD in Mathematics, University of Washington
Location: Los Angeles, CA

When and how did you choose your major?

I decided to major in computer science after taking my first programming class. I loved the creative problem solving aspect of programming, as well as the satisfaction of building something useful and concrete. Unfortunately I didn’t discover computer science until the end of my sophomore year, so I had to overload my schedule and take summer school to finish on time! But it was well worth it.

What skills, tools, or knowledge from your major have been most useful to you since graduation?

Having a background in computers has been indispensable, (and very marketable), post-graduation. I regularly use my programming skills and algorithm design and analysis knowledge on the job. The most useful tool I’ve gained from my major, however, is the ability to think clearly about complex and abstract problems.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I work at a space systems research and development center for the US government. My responsibilities vary widely, from orbit design to developing simulation software. I chose this career because I enjoy interdisciplinary, science-based environments; I can make use of both my skills as a mathematician and as a computer scientist, and because space research is just cool.

How are you still connected with the University?

I loved the time I spent at U of R, so staying connected, even from the West Coast, is really important to me. I always swing by the computer science department for a visit when I’m in the Rochester area. From Los Angeles, I conduct alumni interviews for prospective students, contribute to the University’s Meliora Challenge initiative, and attend the occasional alumni social event.

What advice do you have for current students?

College is really such a wonderful, transformative time in your life, so be bold and make the most out of it: Explore something completely foreign to you. Get involved on campus at the risk of over-extending yourself. Be academically adventurous. Cultivate big dreams.