The realms of the liberal arts and sciences are often thought of as being at odds with one another, but the truth is that we need and use both disciplines every day. Take it from Joseph Wong, a fourth-year UCI student studying computer science and violin performance.
“I’m originally from the Bay Area, and I went to a STEM-focused high school. I took two programming classes in high school (an Intro to Java class and AP [Computer Science A]), and I really enjoyed both of those courses,” says Wong, who was admitted to UCI as a computer science major.
Wong describes his experience as an ICS student to be “positive” because of the opportunities and events he has been involved in to further his interest in computer science. Over the summer, Wong was a software engineer intern at Syntiant Corp., and he currently supports his peers as a lab tutor in various ICS courses.
He has also participated in the International Collegiate Programming Contest with ACM @ UCI and multiple hackathons, including HackUCI, the largest collegiate hackathon in Orange County. The winning project at HackUCI was a web application called Listen that Wong helped build.
While Wong boasts several accomplishments in his computer science endeavors, his talent, commitment and passion for music aren’t something to overlook.
“In middle and high school, I was heavily involved in music — I won various awards at competitions in the Bay Area. When I was 12, I was awarded the opportunity to perform in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall on two separate occasions,” says Wong. “In addition, I was invited to perform as a soloist with various orchestras, including the Peninsula Symphony, Fremont Symphony, and Bear Valley Festival Orchestra, to name a few.”
Wong shares that despite playing music for long, he initially didn’t plan to study both computer science and music in university. However, after joining the UCI Symphony and later the chamber music program, Wong decided to double major in both subjects.
“When I got to UCI, I auditioned to join the UCI Symphony, and one of the professors at the audition invited me to join her chamber music class, normally a music major restricted class (which serves as the chamber music program at UCI),” says Wong. “While scheduling issues didn’t allow me to stay in the UCI Symphony, I ended up participating in the chamber music program, which made me realize that I wanted to do more with music.”
When he played music in the Bay Area, Wong was also the concertmaster of the Peninsula Youth Orchestra. He is currently the concertmaster of the UCI Symphony.
“My time in the music program has forced me to be more creative — whether it is with thinking about how to interpret a piece in performance or analyzing music,” says Wong. “My time in ICS has taught me to solve difficult problems logically.”
Wong plans to graduate during the 2022-2023 school year and wants to work full time as a software engineer. On the side, he hopes to continue playing in an orchestra and discover ways to integrate his STEM and music experiences in his life.
“Having both creativity and communication skills from arts combined with logical reasoning skills from STEM makes me stronger at both, and while I’m not sure that I will be able to combine these experiences together after graduation, the skills I have gained from both fields of study will serve me well in my career,” he says.
To students who are interested in double majoring, especially when both majors are in different schools, Wong suggests doing thorough research about each major to create a four- or five-year plan, talking to upperclassmen, and working with undergraduate counselors.
“You will have to deal with a lot of bureaucracy (a lot of back-and-forth emails between both schools), and it might seem overwhelming — but the end result is worth it, if you really enjoy both fields of study you’re trying to pursue,” Wong said.
This past fall, Wong performed Dvorak’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra with the UCI Symphony. He will be playing in the UCI Symphony Orchestra Concert at the Barclay Theater on March 4 and in the Chamber Music Concert at Winifred Smith Hall on March 14.
— Karen Phan