Northeastern student Raymond Huang is pursuing a combined major in Khoury College of Computer Sciences and the College of Arts, Media and Design (CAMD), studying Computer Science and Media Arts. From animation to augmented and virtual reality technology, he’s explored the many intersections between artistic expression and computing. Having just completed his third co-op in AR/VR at Facebook, Huang is a regular student volunteer for ACM SIGGRAPH, a computer graphics conference. Before Facebook, he also worked at Intuit doing front-end software engineering and at Pison, where he examined the power of technology in biomedical science. We chatted with Raymond recently about his three very different co-ops, why he loves his combined major, and more.
Why did you choose to pursue a combined major in this field?
When I was applying for college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I’d always been interested in science and technology, but most of my extracurricular interests were in creative fields, so when I saw Northeastern offered my major, it was a big draw for me. I ended up specializing in animation within the Media Arts side of my major, and quickly discovered how well the two sides complemented each other and made me better at both 3D art and computing.
What do you love about your combined major?
I love the perspective that I now have in both my computer science and art skills. Computing is so pervasive these days, and animation is an extremely technology-driven field. Technical skills I’ve had to learn have all been informed by the way I’ve learned to think about data and computing. Oftentimes programming is directly applicable, enabling me to use coding-based features of many programs that I’m not sure I would’ve touched coming from a different background. At the same time, studying art and loving video games really unlocked the passion I developed for interactive technology and emerging computing media like augmented and virtual reality.
Before coming to Northeastern, computer science seemed like this very technical and logical discipline, and while it certainly can be that at times, studying art alongside it made me realize how connected it is with everything else in the world, and how for me, the power and joy of computing is in the tangible things you can create that would be otherwise impossible.
What is the coolest experience you’ve had that relates to your program?
The coolest thing I’ve done relating to computer science and animation has been volunteering at and attending SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group for Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques), an annual conference that ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) has every summer. I applied for the student volunteer program in my freshman year at the suggestion of the Northeastern Animation Student Association’s president, and it really solidified my feeling that I’d picked the right major. Seeing breakdowns of all my favorite movies and the breakthrough technology making it all happen was amazing, and I’ve gone on to volunteer every year since! When you’re not volunteering you have full access to the conference, which normally costs $2,000, so it’s a pretty good deal.
After my first time, I started becoming a team leader, where you get a more in-depth experience with the conference. I don’t really know what I’m going to do after I graduate, but I’m hoping my involvement will keep getting more intense. I really love what it stands for and everything that goes on there.
Where have you worked on co-op?
I’ve done three. The first one was at Intuit, doing software engineering and front-end programming for Quickbooks online. The second one was at Pison, a small startup in Boston, doing interaction design and engineering, which was a position they made up for me! I was basically doing interaction design for a wearable watch. It sits on your wrist and measures your electrical signals to act as an input device that you can use for AR/VR purposes. The original purpose was for ALS patients or people with motor-related disabilities that prevented them from using traditional input devices so they would be able to lift their finger to click instead of what they currently use, eye-tracking software, which can be tedious. After Pison, I had an internship over the summer at Facebook, so I took a return internship offer this spring for my third co-op, and I just finished it.
What makes your field of study unique?
I think most people don’t think about how much work goes into the movies that come out every year, so knowing and practicing all that has been eye-opening. At Northeastern, I think my major is really unique in that, as digital media artists, we’re focusing on making people feel things with our work, which isn’t necessarily the focal point among other computer science students. Among more traditional artists, things like the computational complexity of a scene or the underlying mechanics of rendering are more at the forefront of our minds.