Last Call: Nabeel Gillani

As the semester progresses at the speed of light, the senior class is beginning to make peace with that fateful day in May: Commencement. Until the class of 2012 up and leaves us, BlogDH wants to highlight all the interesting things the class has been up to. To this end, we are (re)starting a series, Last Call, featuring seniors reflecting on their experiences at Brown. Each featured senior will tag another senior for the next installment. Find this year’s other “Last Call” chain back here on Saturday!

Then & Now

People might know me as… someone who spends a lot of time in the CIT… But not just doing CS stuff! I’m mostly talking to people; it’s just like a family. [Edit: He’s also a Rhodes Scholar!]

What’s your favorite computer science language? No matter what I say I’ll sound like a nerd! I like Python, because the focus is on creating something, not understanding syntax, and it doesn’t have a lot of overhead, so people can just get started whenever they want to.

In my time at Brown, I am most proud of… co-founding Learning Exchange, an after-school program that helps middle schoolers get excited about math through the use of technology. It’s especially been awesome to see younger students at Brown serve as teachers and really grow in their passions for helping kids see the beauty of learning new, challenging concepts. I am most proud of helping to create organizations and courses that help other people discover and act on their passions.

On a Friday night, you might find yourself… going to Boston for mosque. It’s nice to leave Brown every once in a while, and it’s especially fun driving with a few other friends, listening to the Backstreet Boys. (laughs)

The best class/professor at Brown is… Can I give 2? Pascal van Hentenryck, who teaches lots of CS courses — he’s super, super animated when he lectures, which I think is really important because you want to get people excited in the material; and Matt Harrison, who teaches statistics in the Applied Math department — he does an awesome job of giving visuals of what statistics and problem sets look like. Both are awesome mentors.

Three things you wish you knew freshmen year… (1) There are no right answers: There’s so many opportunities at Brown and everyone wonders “What should I pursue to be ‘successful’?” but there’s no best practices — it’s all about finding the right people and mentors to support your growth. (2) Everyone struggles with stuff: There are lots of brilliant people here, but everyone has their own challenges. (3) Anything you lack in intelligence or talent you can make up for with hard work.

Ratty vs. V-Dub? Ratty. I like the open space, despite the better food at the V-Dub.

One thing you wish you had done… There’s so many… I think a lot more performance arts, like spoken word or theater, because I have a deep admiration for people who do that and the happiness they bring to others.

After graduation, you plan to… hopefully be a good person to my family and friends. (More specifically?) I’m going to Oxford next year, so trying to learn more about how learning and technology can come together. And hopefully getting better at intramural basketball!

Who are you tagging next? Amit Jain. Amit’s one of the most committed, socially conscious and emotionally intelligent people I know. He’s incredibly hard working and dedicated to everything he does. He’s been an MPC coordinator, my co-founder and co-coordinator for Learning Exchange, co-developer/-TA for an education and technology course we started this semester, etc etc. I’m constantly inspired by the humility and passion with which he serves everyone he comes into contact with. He’s the epitome of a BAMF.

Next up: Amit Jain
Nabeel’s Question: Who has had the greatest influence on you at Brown?

Check back next week for BlogDH’s Last Call interview with Amit Jain and his answer to Nabeel’s question!

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