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UA Little Rock Graduate Gets Second Chance at Dream Career

Photo of Brandon Huckaby by Benjamin Krain.
Photo of Brandon Huckaby by Benjamin Krain.

A University of Arkansas at Little Rock graduate is getting a second chance at his dream career in the field of computer science.

Brandon Huckaby, a native of Horatio who now lives in Little Rock, will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a second chance to get the career he’s always dreamed of.

The first time around, Huckaby attended Henderson State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology, but he never actually used that degree in his career.

“After getting that degree, I started working in data analytics,” Huckaby said. “It was when I hit about 30 that I realized I liked working with computers. Why don’t I go back and get a proper education in computer science? I got a job in data engineering. I did everything backward. I had the job, but I didn’t have the educational framework.”

So Huckaby joined UA Little Rock in 2021 as a part-time student. After three semesters, he found it difficult to work full time and maintain his schoolwork.

“When I decided to come back to school, I was coming here to ace it, work hard, and do my best,” Huckaby said. “I was really having to juggle a lot. My wife Amy very generously encouraged me to take a break from full-time work and focus on academia. I don’t know of very many people who would support their spouses in quitting their very lucrative full-time job in order to chase a dream, however much of an investment that dream may be, but she did. She understood how much getting an education in computer science and a second chance in academia meant to me and pushed me to go for it.”

Coming back as a full-time student in 2022 gave Huckaby time for new opportunities, such as working as a research assistant for Dr. Mary Yang, a professor of information science. Yang has been working on a research project involving single cell RNA sequencing, and Huckaby has been testing computer programs developed by her doctoral students and setting up the GitHub repository which hosts the program code and sample datasets.

He is also thankful to Dr. Aryabrata Basu and Dr. Iván Rodríguez-Conde, computer science professors, who encouraged him to go to graduate school and pursue research in the Emerging Analytics Center.

“Brandon has been an energetic and productive member of his Capstone Project team,” said Dr. Albert Baker, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “The project requires development of a web application supporting the entry of data for, and the subsequent visualization of, employer genealogies and employees. The graphic representation developed by Brandon’s team required mastering of the technical aspects of utilization of a graphics library and the creative design of a graphic representation of underlying directed graph of employer and employee information. The point of that detail is that we can be confident that Brandon will be a valued contributing member of any organization fortunate enough to retain his services.”

His classes have led to some interesting projects. One of his favorite projects was a team project in an artificial intelligence class with Professor Mariofanna Milanova with classmates Dako Albeik and Luka Woodson.

“I had the opportunity to collaborate with Dako and Luka, and our semester project was a neural network that we designed and trained to play the card game Spades,” Huckaby said. “That further inflamed my interests.”

In January, Huckaby will begin the graduate program in computer science and will work as a graduate assistant in the Emerging Analytics Center.

“I’m very excited for this opportunity, and I want to dig deep,” he said. “In going to graduate school, I’ll be trying to see what the world of research and working in a lab is all about. In coming back to UA Little Rock, I feel like I’ve been able to take academia seriously and find something I’m passionate about.”