Computer Science, Business, and Dance: How Viterbi is Helping Me Make Sense of My Passions

Natalie Monger Computer Science, Natalie, Research, Viterbi Plus, Why USC, Women In Engineering

Up until I entered USC, I thought of my two main passions, dance and computer science, as two separate entities. I have been programming since my sophomore year of high school, which led me to declare a major in Viterbi, and I have been dancing since I was three, so I picked up a minor in Kaufman to keep up my training.

In the midst of handling challenging programming courses and learning new dance styles, a connection was waiting to happen. But I didn’t see it yet. I would go to my Data Structures and Algorithms class, put my books away, throw on a leotard and tights, and then waltz into the dance studio, unaware of the interdisciplinary possibilities right in front of me.

However, my professors, mentors, and friends saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. Little things started to happen that led me to believe I could combine engineering and dance. For example, after a sweaty Pilates class, my professor asked me to use my programming knowledge to collaborate with the dance school and brainstorm ideas for live performances. I accepted a research position with ICT’s Vision and Graphics Lab, where I learn about the ways dance can impact computer graphics using different kinds of capturing technologies. I am making friends in my classes that are excited about the intersection of the two fields and want to collaborate with me on projects. I spend my weekends working on my own side projects (check out the video below!), and I plan to put some of these projects into VR at the Break to Make hackathon this weekend. And, just a few weeks ago, I was offered an opportunity to work with the USC Choreographic Institute, a brand new initiative on campus dedicated to working with dance and technology for health and disease.

The list of people and spontaneous situations that lifted me up during a confusing time goes on. While at first I felt like I did not possibly have the potential to make a connection between two seemingly opposing fields, I am now motivated to fight hard to carve my own path. During this process, I realized there are so many people here that care about me, my passions, and my future, no matter how different my passions may be. Because of the support I have from my professors, mentors, and friends at Viterbi, I know that I have the resources to do something meaningful with both of my talents.

Making the discovery of what I want to focus on during my undergraduate career and, hopefully, beyond makes me feel so proud to be a Trojan. I am motivated to take the risk of creating technologies and jobs that don’t even exist yet.

If you feel like your passions are “random” or “unimportant” like I once did, you might reconsider that thought. Ceramics can be combined with game development, or theatre can be combined with Industrial & Systems Engineering. Working interdisciplinarily is what drives innovation, especially in this rapidly-changing world. USC is the place that will help you make sense of your interests and push you to carve new paths that aren’t even out there yet. You just have to be ready for the amazing opportunities that will come your way with hard work in your chosen areas of study!

About the Author

Natalie is a junior studying Computer Science/Business and Dance. Click the photo above to find out more.