Back in high school, I had a whole plan set out for how college would be for me:

I was going to major in bioengineering or biomedical engineering for my bachelor’s degree and be super involved in research, then get a master’s degree in nanoengineering, then work for a super cool biotech firm developing new medical devices. Needless to say, that’s not at all how it’s worked out for me so far. But I couldn’t be happier.

I came into USC as a biomedical engineering major (BME). After a few months into the curriculum of BME 101, Introduction to Biomedical Engineering, I started to realize that even though I had planned for so long to study biomedical engineering, maybe it just wasn’t for me. I found the things we were learning interesting, but they weren’t the parts of biomedical engineering that I was personally interested in. And so I set off on a quest to see if I could find a new major to better suit my specific interests.

I did a lot of coding in high school and the main club I was in was a computer science club, but I had never felt passionate enough about software engineering to major in computer science. I spent a lot of my free time coding, but it was always for things I was interested in: the medical field, artificial intelligence, video games, graphic design. I was worried I wouldn’t find the CS coursework any more personally fulfilling than I found BME. So I talked to my friends, my club mentor, my freshman engineering academy coach, and even my professors; I went to BME department events and Viterbi speaker series. The more opinions I got, the more it seemed like CS was the way for me to go. I finally talked to my advisor and declared it — in November of my freshman year I was officially a computer science major.

It was hard for me to leave BME. A lot of my good friends from my first semester of freshman year were staying in the major and would get to continue in classes together for the rest of their four years. But I knew I had a lot to look forward to in CS: new friends, new skills, new opportunities! And it corresponded with the research I was doing outside of class. It was a little bit daunting at first, but I learned to fit into my new major!

A few months into being in CS, I found myself in a bit of a slump again. I didn’t have any issues with the CS curriculum, but I was missing studying biology and having small seminar classes. I missed discussing current research developments and possibilities for the future of the medical field. I thought about switching majors again. Luckily, when I mentioned my conundrum to a friend of mine, he gave me the best piece of advice: to look into Quantitative Biology. The more I looked into the major, the more it resonated with me. The best part: I didn’t have to switch out of computer science; there was enough class overlap that I could fit both majors into my schedule. This way, I could still learn all of the computer science skills I wanted while learning the biology concepts that interest me.

It’s a bit of a tight squeeze to fit in all the classes, but I’ll manage just fine. Here’s looking forward to being able to take classes that suit all of my widespread interests!

Shannon Brownlee

Shannon Brownlee

MAJOR: Computer Science & Quantitative Biology YEAR: Class of 2023 HOMETOWN: San Diego, California PRONOUNS: she/her/hers INSTA: @shannon.mb144 On campus I'm involved with the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS++) and the Corpus Callosum arts + tech club! I also conduct neuroscience research within the Biomedical Engineering department. Outside of school, I enjoy singing, painting, gardening.

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