Computer Science: AJ Aizpurua
Growing up, AJ Aizpurua always wanted to do the pre-med track, but his passion never matched his performance. Despite excelling in all the right classes — biology, chemistry, physics — he only ever enjoyed the latter.
Coming into his freshman year at Wake Forest, Aizpurua continued on the path to medical school. His lack of interest in the subjects he was taking remained unchanged, and so did his love for video games.
Aizpurua had always been an avid gamer, and he decided to take his first computer science class because he wanted to program video games. Although that wasn’t what he found in CSC 111: Intro to Computer Science, what he did find was what he really wanted to do with his life.
“It’s really satisfying when everything works,” Aizpurua said when describing why he initially committed to the major. “You spend hours and hours with one single problem in your code, and when you finally get it done…well, it’s the most satisfying thing I have found here at Wake Forest.”
Aizpurua didn’t stop there — he wanted to share that feeling with others, so he started working as a teaching assistant. When he was a pre-med student, Aizpurua found it difficult to get help from his peers. However, he slowly realized how individualistic a major in computer science was, and he decided he wanted to do what he could to be present for younger students.
“I like being a mentor to kids going through the department, similar to how my professors helped me out,” Aizpurua said. “I like being the helping hand.”
For Aizpurua, Dr. Errin Fulp was that helping hand, or in Aizpurua’s words, his “best friend in the department.”
Fulp is famous in the Department of Computer Science for rick-rolling his students and relieving stress during exams by making jokes throughout them. Aizpurua described sitting in Fulp’s office for hours just to talk — most of the time about everything but the class itself.
“He welcomed me with open arms and never said no,” Aizpurua said. Fulp helped him get research opportunities in a field where research is integral to securing jobs in the future. Fulp’s mentality is what Aizpurua carried into his own teaching and hopes to continue to do so in his future endeavors.
After graduating, Aizpurua plans on going to graduate school to get his master’s in computer science, followed most likely by getting his Ph.D. to continue to support the next generation.
“At a point, you realize how powerful knowing how to program is,” Aispurua said. “There are crazy things you can do with programming that I never thought was possible. It’s a very powerful skillset to have.”
But Aizpurua also acknowledges that he has a lot left to learn and looks forward to furthering his understanding after graduation.
Although Aizpurua is graduating without having spent a single second programming a video game, he has never looked back. He never thought majoring in computer science at Wake Forest would be what was waiting for him, but he can’t wait to see where it takes him. To him, the department has made him believe in himself more than he thought possible.
“I’m capable of things I never thought I could do before,” Aizpurua said.