Valedictorian Seth Ebner shares tips for future WashU engineers

"Some of the best conversations I’ve had with professors were about classes not in my main field of study."

Seth Ebner
Seth Ebner

As Seth Ebner, the 2017 valedictorian for the School of Engineering & Applied Science, plans to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in computer science and electrical engineering, we asked him to give his best advice to incoming Engineering students:


Q: Which professors should I get to know?

A: Talk with professors who seem interesting to you and get to know them outside the classroom. You’ll often find that you get along well and that they’re doing some incredible research. Some of my favorite professors include Ron Cytron, Hiro Mukai, Martha Hasting, and Vladimir Kurenok. Office hours provide a great way to get to know your professors and for them to get to know you. 

Some of the best conversations I’ve had with professors were about classes not in my main field of study. For example, I learned so much from talking with linguistics professors about our course material and beyond. As an Engineering student, don’t hesitate to engage with professors teaching non-Engineering courses! 

Q: What was your favorite class?

A: My favorite class in CSE was Introduction to Formal Languages and Automata (CSE 547T, taught by Ron Cytron). I really enjoyed the theoretical implications of the course material, and I even returned to the class as a TA. 

My favorite ESE course was Probability and Stochastic Processes (ESE 520, taught by Vladimir Kurenok). This class built on concepts from earlier probability theory courses, and it was challenging but rewarding. 

I came out of both of these classes feeling that I had truly learned a lot.

Q: What classes should I take?

A: Choosing electives can be daunting. There are often many more appealing classes than you can possibly fit into your schedule. My rule of thumb is to choose classes that will help you develop the skills that are necessary for what you want to do after graduation. Because I am entering graduate school for natural language processing, I chose to take courses in optimization and linguistics.

However, I’d recommend extending your horizons and experimenting with classes in fields you wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to explore. I took two courses in art history my freshman year, and it was a blast! 

Q: Where should I study?

A: There are plenty of great study spots across campus. Lopata Gallery, the Danforth University Center (DUC), Bear’s Den (BD), and study rooms on the South 40 all provide excellent places for group work and collaboration. Olin Library and the East Asian Library (in January Hall) are nice, quiet locations for when you need to study by yourself.

Q: Where can I get a late-night snack?

A: As an underclassman, BD is definitely the place to go for late-night study sessions and food. The Village and Peacock Diner (open 24/7) are great places, too, for students living north of campus.


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