Justin Z Elli is one of a pair of twins born to a first-generation Persian immigrant father and a loving, supportive, Midwestern mother. He first took an interest in programming in the 8th grade and developed that interest into a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Sacramento State University, and ultimately a career in software development. He currently lives and works in Folsom, California; at his job with Trimark Associates, he works with .NET to maintain a web application. Justin actually works on the same development team as his twin brother, though his brother works closer to the hardware level.
"The soft prerequisites and low cost [of OMSCS] allow me to make free and low-risk decisions when creating my academic plan. On top of that, the thesis option is rare in online programs, and it was not something I was willing to sacrifice in my pursuit of a master’s degree."
Justin loves computer science because it is a space where he can solve problems and be creative, often simultaneously. He knew he would pursue it academically since he was first introduced to it, and it is certain to continue to be an area of intellectual interest for him in the future. “I enjoy being able to follow wherever my creativity leads me, whether it’s in creating websites, simulations, or software platforms for creativity/creative development. I want to have the skills necessary to create both local and global solutions to address the interesting computational problems I come across in my future. I also want to have a general understanding of novel innovations across the discipline as they come about and contribute to innovations where I see fit. This discipline offers those things for me.” Beyond computer science, the list of disciplines he would like to know more about grows by the day, but one field he knows he would enjoy learning about is architecture. “I like design and engineering, and architecture blends both of these in such a way that one cannot be ignored while considering the other.”
"My current hope is to complete a project or thesis where I can contribute in some way to landing humans on Mars. I already have some ideas for what that could be"
Throughout Justin’s education, he has had a genuine interest in learning that outgrew the scope of his assignments, and he often found himself developing creative solutions that expanded beyond their requirements. “As one can imagine, my enthusiasm for learning did not stop at the receipt of my bachelor’s degree, and I was soon in need of an academic outlet outside of my job. So, naturally, my desire to learn led me to a master’s degree at a place where I can write a thesis.” This led him to OMSCS, which allowed him to learn freely and pursue a master's thesis. “The soft prerequisites and low cost allow me to make free and low-risk decisions when creating my academic plan. On top of that, the thesis option is rare in online programs, and it was not something I was willing to sacrifice in my pursuit of a master’s degree.”
In terms of research, Justin is looking at something space-related since he recently developed a newfound passion for studying space technologies. “My current hope is to complete a project or thesis where I can contribute in some way to landing humans on Mars. I already have some ideas for what that could be; one example is an artificial intelligence that engineers the inside of a space rocket and optimizes its cost in terms of the parts required.” In terms of who he would love to collaborate with, it would be “my Uncle Ed, who had a proclivity towards mathematics like myself. I didn’t get much of a chance to know him as he passed when I was very young; he worked in space technologies and would have been a blast to collaborate with now that I’ve found my passion in the field.”
So, who is Justin’s favorite professor thus far? “In my first semester at OMSCS, I have not had much interaction with my professors. However, the class discussions in the Futurism Seminar have given me a respect for both Professors Rusch and Ianni.”
"I also like to check in with classmates when possible to engage with the course material or chat about whatever we find interesting; I suggest others build networks with their classmates in a similar way."
Justin has no definite post-graduation plans yet. He wants to tell a deep and interesting story with his life, leveraging the skills he learns in this program to add meaning to his career, and he hopes to keep an open mind.
An interesting fact about Justin is that he has been writing music from a very young age. “My brother and I were learning piano until we picked up the guitar at age 13. Throughout high school, we forged an identity in music influenced by artists such as Klaypex and Explosions in the Sky. I also started making music electronically during that time, and we would play live guitar performances where the synths, bass, and drums were handled by the computer. Now I invest a lot of my time into music, whether playing around with my song ideas or interacting with songs I find interesting.” As for hobbies, “Recently I have enjoyed ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, and other AI technologies as a way to escape and fuel my creative drive. Other than that, listening to music or podcasts while I cook or lift weights has been a good way to relax between work and homework. I also like to check in with classmates when possible to engage with the course material or chat about whatever we find interesting; I suggest others build networks with their classmates in a similar way.”