What are CS Pods?

CS Freshmen Pods are designed to build CS community and connect students to CS-specific resources. Each student will be able to choose a Pod with a small group of other first-year students. Each CS Pod will contain a seminar which is used to teach freshmen about the Computer Science major, the College of Natural Sciences, and University.  Pods also have linked courses that everyone in the Pod take together!  An experienced CS mentor and CS staff facilitator will lead the weekly 1-hour seminar meetings on several topics from time management to how to turn in your CS homework. Each seminar will also have a social aspect planned by their mentor.

How do I join?

During Orientation, you will register for your first semester of classes, including your CS Pod. You will choose either a CS 312 Intro to Programming Pod or a CS 314 Data Structures Pod. Don't worry! The seminar class within the Pod doesn't add any hours to your schedule and we don't assign homework, so you will have plenty of time to focus on your other classes!

Who are the CS Pod mentors?

The CS Pod mentors are exceptional leaders and students at UT! All of them are Computer Science majors who have encountered many of the issues you may face your first year. Your mentors will contact you near the end of the summer to introduce themselves and to set up any activities or events they may have planned for the weeks before classes start. You will also have a CS staff member or advisor that will help to facilitate your meeting. They are an experienced contact person if you have issues that you and your mentor need help solving.


Kiana Alcala

Kiana Alcala

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: San Diego, California

Favorite CS experience so far & why:  Let me start by saying that I wholeheartedly believe that the UTCS department is one of the greatest out there (even if I am a little biased), but there is no doubt that you will receive a great education with wonderful professors, having tons of opportunities and lovely mentors and advisors to help you out along the way! Now, if I had to pick a favorite CS experience, it would be working with Professor Norman to found a mentorship program through Google’s igniteCS initiative! I think once the roots of the program really started to become grounded, I not only became more excited, but also began to feel like UTCS was my home. Starting something bigger than myself and teaching elementary schoolers how to code is such an uplifting experience and I get to work with some amazing people who help make it all happen!

Sonam Benakatti

Sonam Benakatti

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: Plano, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why:  My favorite CS experience has been my involvement with Women In Computer Science. When I first entered UT, I actually knew very little about coding. However, WiCS provided me with support and a community within the CS department. Everyone is extremely helpful and willing to help out. Many of my role models in CS are members of WiCS, and they inspire me pursue my goals. It amazes me how much I was able to learn my freshman year, and I couldn't have done it without the support of others. Overall, I think every organization within the department is welcoming, and they all provide us opportunities to be involved and get the most out of our time at UT.

Scott Cao

Year in college: Junior

Hometown: Sugar Land, TX

Favorite CS experience so far & why: Personally I love hanging out with the friends that I’ve made in UTCS. While CS as a major is often challenging and stressful, it feels so much better to have friends that can relate to your experiences and go through it with you. When you have an accomplishment to share, such as finding a bug or landing an interview, they are there to share your joy. When you are feeling down, such as when you are stressing out about an upcoming exam or a career fair, they can be there to listen to your problems and make you feel better. I have made countless memories with the people I’ve met here, and I’m very grateful for being a part of such a supportive community. Although college only lasts 4 years, the memories I’ve had with the people in UTCS will last a lifetime.

Shreya Chandrasekar

Shreya Chandrasekar

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: Coppell, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why:  My favorite CS experience would be attending First Bytes, a Computer Science summer camp at UT for high school girls. It was an inspiring environment that helped intensify my interest in the field; I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was a motivational experience to spend my days with like-minded, tech-savvy female peers. We practiced C++, Java, and Python, talked to companies companies that championed technical women in their workplace, and made computer science puns. We even sang a computer science parody of “Let it Go” created by our camp counselors! In just one week, I was at my apex. First Bytes gave me not only lifelong knowledge, but also many lifelong friends.

Helen Gai

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: My favorite part about CS so far has to be meeting the people here. I've had wonderful professors and I've made many great friends in my classes and organizations like WiCS and ACM. There are a ton of opportunities to meet students with similar interests, explore different fields within CS, and connect with people in the industry through career fair and corporate events. The community here is so welcoming, and I'm lucky to be learning alongside so many talented people.

Lucas Kabela

Year in college: Junior

Hometown: Victoria, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: The best experience I have had in UTCS is without a doubt taking CS314 with Mike Scott.  I was fortunate enough to have a class reserved with a lot of my friends that I made through the POD program, and although the class was a lot of hard work, the projects such as Huffman Coding were super rewarding to complete!  Plus Mike's lectures are fantastic, so every day in class was fun and engaging.  Overall Mike's 314 class has been my favorite CS experience at UT because it was a fun, engaging and highly informative experience!

Siwei Mao

Year in College: Junior

Hometown: Plano, TX

Favorite CS experience so far and why: I've had so many positive CS experiences after coming into college, but my favorite would be attending my first HackTX, the annual hackathon held in the Omni Hotel! The simple idea of having you and your team work hard to produce a product after 24 hours was so thrilling and allowed me to really bond with my team as well as learn a lot of new technologies that I wouldn't have touched in a classroom setting. Walking around the hotel and seeing the other teams work so hard on their diverse projects really showed me the vast directions CS can take you. There were also so many companies there, which gave me the thought that I had so many potential opportunities available. Oh, and all the swag and food was a big plus too! 

Ramya Prasad

Year in college: Sophomore

Hometown: Plano, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far and why: On my first day of school, I was scared out of my mind and was unsure if CS was for me, but after meeting all the rockstars in my 312 class and my pod, I couldn't have felt more at home. My girl group that formed in pod was a blessing in disguise, and they were the reason I was excited for class everyday. We all would laugh together, cry together, and just be there for each other when no one else was. These girls became my home away from home, and we probably wouldn't have met if it wasn't for Pod!

Amit Samuel

Year in college: Sophomore

Hometown: Plano, Texas

Favorite part about CS and why: Ahh I remember it as if it was just last year. I'll never forget the times I had stealing shirts and sunglasses from from tech company stands at GDC (ehhem…I mean exchanging pleasantries with business reps). But if I'm being honest, the most exciting part about my 1 year so far at UT has been bonding with my professors. Though they may seem very daunting at first, they copy and paste code just like you and me! I had the pleasure of becoming close with one of the CS professors Mike Scott. He made the intimidating experience of being a first time Computer Science major at a prestigious school feel like being a seasoned CEO at "insert Big Flashy Tech Company". Being a CS Freshman was a new and riveting time in my life that I can't wait for you all to experience!!

Nila Selvaraj

Year in College: Sophomore

Hometown: The Woodlands, TX

Favorite CS experience so far and why: I think my favorite CS experience so far is WiCS Hacks 2018. The theme was magic, and the decorations were awesome. It was my first hackathon ever, but it was only 12 hours so it wasn't too stressful. I just had fun messing around with my friends, using IBM's IoT platform, eating free food, collecting all the swag, making a cool color-changing magic wand with an Arduino, and learning a lot. We messed up our final presentation due to technical difficulties, but we still managed to win first place in Ed Tech! I had a lot of fun.

Ji-Young Seo

Year in college: Sophomore

Hometown: Seoul, Korea

Favorite CS experience so far & why: My favorite aspect is the supportive, talented community I’m blessed to be a part of. Coming into UTCS hardly knowing anything, I was wholeheartedly welcomed by classmates, upperclassmen, and professors who helped me understand even the simplest concepts and encouraged me through challenges. It’s such a privilege to have friends whom I can share programming assignment struggles with, as well as make homemade pizza together while watching Netflix. My hope is to build this amazing community up further and help others experience such fruitful friendship!

Neha Srikanth

Year in College: Senior

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Favorite CS Experience so far and why: Being a part of this department has been one of the most enriching experiences I've had to date. Everyone is incredibly welcoming and wants to see you thrive. This department gives its students a strong sense of community and values students' success.

That being said, one of my favorite CS experiences so far has been my experience as a UTCS Ambassador! Ambassadors give tours and coffee chats to prospective UTCS students and answer any questions they have about the department. I love meeting people from all across the country and sharing what I love about the department! 

Kalpana Vaidya

Year in college: Junior

Hometown: Sugarland, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: Honestly, becoming a part of the UTCS family has been a true blessing. I could not imagine furthering my computer science journey than right here at UT. However, my passion for computer science really started when I attended UT's computer science camp for girls, First Bytes. I had the opportunity to work at the UT facilities for a week over the summer and participate in several talks from many women in industry. It was the first time that I knew for certain that I wanted to pursue this field. It was inspiring to hear how computer science could be used in many scenarios and how applicable it was to almost every facet of life. Now, I could not be more excited to continue learning here at UT!

Bri Vargas

Year in college: Senior

Hometown: Cedar Park, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: I realized that I wanted to study CS when I took my very first programming class during my Junior year of high school. I had no idea what computer science was beforehand, but once I got started, I realized that I love the feeling of solving a puzzle with code. Since then, my love for coding has only grown, especially after joining the UTCS community and realizing how many opportunities and possibilities there are in the field.

Andrea Youwakim

Year in college:  Junior

Hometown: Nederland, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: Hi Guys! First of all, welcome to UTCS! I know things are definitely scary at first, but hopefully once classes start, you'll begin to feel right at home. This brings me to my favorite part about CS- the people. Coming from a small town, it's hard to find a group of friends that compliment your personality and life interests however, at UTCS I was able to make amazing friends that did just that. I've had really awesome professors and met a lot of cool people through my jobs and organizations. Coming to college is definitely different than high school, but with the amazing staff and UT population there are so many opportunities to be a part of something that is bigger than yourself - Don't be afraid to ask around!

Serena Zamarripa

Year in college: Junior

Hometown: Palacios, Texas

Favorite CS experience so far & why: I love the people in CS. I absolutely adored the friendships that were created through my Pod my first semester here and all the memories I have made with those people since then. From late night shenanigans at the PCL or GDC to in-depth discussions about time travel or memes, the people I have met here have helped give me a home on the Forty Acres, and I am so grateful for that. I am so excited to continue my studies here for the next few years so that I can continue to explore my interests and abilities within CS alongside some of my favorite people.