This semester, Brian Wong is researching artificial intelligence, building a computer, and volunteering as a student photographer, all while maintaining a 3.82 grade point average.
The College of Staten Island sophomore is a Computer Science major with the Verrazano School honors program who plans to attend graduate school to pursue a Master’s of Science degree in Computer Science and even a PhD so that he can continue research in the field of natural language processing and voice recognition, which enables computers to interface better with humans. His career goals include becoming a computer programmer and technician and a part-time professional photographer.
Mr. Wong does not struggle academically; however, in the social arena, he does have some difficulty.
“I tend to be isolated, and I find it difficult to communicate with peers,” he commented, adding that he is not ashamed of his disability: Asperger’s Syndrome.
Asperger’s Sydrome (AS) is an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) that is characterized by difficulties navigating social situations. Individuals with AS often significantly excel in specific areas of interest.
This particular student finds it challenging to stay focused and “on task.”
“Self-control is hard in general, though things have improved somewhat in college. I find myself more confident when talking with others,” he said. “The CSA (Center for Student Accessibility) has allowed me to make the most of my existing abilities and helps me cope with my problems. There’s a real sense of support there.”
The photography enthusiast, who has also fostered connections with the Communications Office, has found a role as a volunteer student photographer for the College’s online magazine, “CSI Today,” working closely with Director Ken Bach.
The tech savvy student also spends weekends collaborating on a special project with Vice President Michael Kress’s office. The project, which is lead by Center staff members Maryellen Smolka and Nicole Dory, involves building a cluster of six motherboards that will culminate in one high-performance computer, dubbed “Little Fe.”
Wong notes that he enjoys these connections and opportunities in which he is engaged at CSI.
“Being a CSI college student means being part of a vast community. I have access to a huge, beautiful campus with loads of great resources like state-of-the-art labs and sports facilities and excellent professors,” commented Wong, who is also an ALPHA Club member.
Wong recalled that one of his favorite professors has been his Computer Science professor, Emile Chi, who is “very understanding and helpful” and also has interest in photography.
Indeed, many of this student’s professors are working closely with Wong to support his efforts as he approaches graduation and eventually graduate school.
Faculty and staff who are interested in more information about ASDs can contact Sara Paul at the Center for Student Accessibility at 718.982.2513. She will provide information about workshops and seminars that can help in working with students with Asperger’s Syndrome and other ASDs.
As part of the Center for Student Accessibility’s (CSA) “My Story” campaign, the Center will regularly highlight high-achieving students who have overcome challenges and exhibit student success, including academic advancement, co-curricular engagement, and pre-professional training. The Center for Student Accessibility is a part of the Division of Student Affairs.