Uchenna “Uche” Umoga graduated this spring with a master’s degree in computer science. He worked with Dr. Nitin Agarwal in COSMOS (Collaboration for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies).
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m from Abuja, Nigeria, and have three brothers and one sister. I worked for two companies as a senior software engineer prior to getting my master’s degree at UA Little Rock. I have a bachelor’s degree in computer science in 2016 at Landmark University in Nigeria. I love playing soccer. It has always been my dream to become a professional soccer player and play for Nigeria. In Little Rock, I play semi-professional soccer for the Arkansas Wolves FC. However, my favorite experience was playing on UA Little Rock’s intramural soccer team. Also, I enjoy hiking. Some of my favorite places to hike are Pinnacle Mountain and Emerald Point.
Why did you choose UA Little Rock?
I considered two other universities in the U.S., but I had friends that told me how awesome the Computer Science Program was at UA Little Rock. I contacted Dr. Nitin Agarwal about his research projects, and he gave me an opportunity to participate.
Did you experience culture shock when you moved to the United States?
Yes! I’ve been in the U.S. for just two years. Everyone here goes to bed so early, and they eat dinner at 6 p.m. In Nigeria, I personally have dinner a bit later and go to bed around 11 p.m. Also, eating fried ice cream for the first time was a shocking experience. In Nigeria, we call soccer “football.” People in Arkansas were so welcoming to me. They brought gifts and checked on me.
You were one of Nitin Agarwal’s students in the COSMOS program. What is this program?
The COSMOS research team studies various aspects of social media and online behavior. The primary goal is to combat misinformation. I used data-mining tools that provide actionable information on blogs, keywords, etc., and conduct cluster analyses. As a full-stack engineer, I work on both the front-end and back-end of web applications.
What do you think is the future of social media?
We are still battling misinformation. But I think social media is super useful and does more good than harm. In the future, we are headed toward a better place.
Why did you choose computer science?
Since high school, I’ve always wanted to learn computer science since it is the driving force behind technological advancements. Computer science has an impact on so many different areas (e.g., agriculture, chemical engineering, civil engineering), and I want to do something that makes a difference regardless of the field.
Who were some of your mentors at UA Little Rock?
Dr. Nitin Agarwal (Dr. A) was phenomenal. Dr. Mariofanna Milanova was my advisor and taught a class in machine learning. Nihal Hussein, then a doctoral candidate, worked with me on the COSMOS research team. Former classmate Adewale Obadimu, who currently works at Linkedin, was a big influence.
What were some of your favorite courses?
Analysis of Algorithms was my favorite class. An algorithm is a step-by-step process to achieve a certain goal. This was my most difficult course. In this class, Dr. Jan Springer taught me how to present data to a lay audience and carry out effective presentations in an efficient manner. I also enjoyed Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with Dr. Mariofanna Milanova.
How did you celebrate your graduation?
My mother came to my graduation from Nigeria! Then my friends and I had a picnic at Two Rivers Park. We ate Nigerian Jollof Rice, which is some spicy stuff. And we played soccer, of course.
What do you want to do now?
I already have a couple of job offers. I want to be a full-stack engineer and eventually own my own company. Personally, I want to improve technology in Nigeria and give back to my country.