Every other week we spotlight an OMSCS TA, so you can get to know who's behind the screen. Here are four questions for Dalton Bassett who TAs CS 7646: Machine Learning for Trading.
What do you do professionally?
Over my two and a half years in OMSCS, I’ve done quite a few different things. I worked full time as a mechanical engineer in the aviation industry, I interned and volunteered at several different animal welfare nonprofits, and I did some freelance web development (but not all at the same time!). One thing I love about OMSCS is that it gave me the freedom to try things that I never would have been able to try in a more traditional brick and mortar school.
Why do you TA for OMSCS?
As a student, the shift to 100 percent online classes was a big adjustment for me. I think my biggest strength as a student is persistence — I don’t understand things the first time, or even the second or third time, but I’ll keep trying until I do. In undergrad, this meant treating office hours like a second lecture and asking questions incessantly. I struggled to communicate in the same ways when all the communication takes place online, and this is why I TA for OMSCS. I want to provide opportunities for students who are like me and need to explore their ideas conversationally before it clicks. Hosting my office hours is my favorite part of TAing because I get to talk to students and help work through their problems in real time.
What's your advice for future students in OMSCS?
Don’t get discouraged by the chatter on Piazza, Ed, or Slack. It can be frustrating when you’re stuck on a homework assignment and everyone else on the class forum seems to get it. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling, but remember that for every star student answering all the other students’ posts, there are dozens more who have the same questions that you do. Don’t be afraid to be wrong — get involved in those discussions and follow the class forums the same way most of us follow social media. They’re a very valuable resource, both for finding answers to your questions and connecting you with your classmates.
What's your best study hack?
Plan out your week in advance. Designate a day as “lecture day,” a day as “reading day,” and when you sit down to study or work on homework, set a specific goal. My most successful study time is when I decide “I’m going to review lectures 1 and 2, and do 3 practice problems,” rather than just trying to force myself to study for X hours. And if you don't meet your goal, that’s okay! Use that as information to set more achievable goals for next time.