Amy Isvik

Studying in Budapest helped solidify my path

NAME: Amy Isvik 



MAJOR: Computer science and mathematics

INVOLVEMENT ON CAMPUS:  Phi Eta Sigma and Alpha Chi executive teams, Kappa Mu Epsilon member, student organizations liaison for the Volunteer Action Center, Service Trips, Student Senate, Vagina Monologues, St. Elizabeth’s Chorale, Kantorei, Wartburg Scholars, Academically and Civically Engaged Scientists program (ACES), Honor Council, Outfly planning committee

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE WARTBURG: I choose Wartburg College because of the campus culture—which allowed me to be involved with multiple activities—the faculty in the math, computer science and physics department, and the amazing study abroad opportunities. Looking back, I’m so glad I chose to come to Wartburg.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO MAJOR IN COMPUTER SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS: The Wartburg math major requires an introductory programming class. Through this requirement, I found out that I enjoyed programming and was good at it. Originally, I picked up a computer science minor as I felt it would complement my math major and provide some useful skills for the future. In the winter term of my junior year, I studied abroad in Budapest in a math-focused program. This was a great experience, however, I found that I missed my computer science classes and that math graduate school wasn’t the path I wanted to take for my future. After this experience, I decided to pursue a computer science major. 

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS AFTER GRADUATION: After earning my doctorate, I want to use my knowledge to help improve the world (cliche I know) by pursuing one of two paths: working as a professor or working at a government lab or agency, like NASA. 

DID YOU COMPLETE ANY INTERNSHIPS: I worked with the Formal Methods Group in the Safety-Critical Avionics Systems Branch at NASA Langley Research Center. The NASA Langley Formal Methods Research Group helps to develop mission-critical and safety-critical digital systems by applying ”mathematically rigorous tools and techniques” to the specification, design, and verification of these systems. The tool I used was called PVS. My work focused on formatting mathematical proofs in a way that a computer could understand. This helps verify the safety of various programs by showing that we understand exactly what their output will be in various situations by use of formal mathematical proofs which required us to look at every aspect and not overlook anything. The problem-solving skills I learned at Wartburg were extremely helpful when addressing these problems. Computers and people often look at things in different ways, and being able to approach a problem from multiple angles and understand them prepared me for my work at NASA. Without the support and encouragement of my professors, I would have never applied to and participated in an internship at NASA.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CLASS: My favorite in-major class was Software Engineering. I enjoyed this class because of the semester-long project portion of the class. We worked collaboratively to create a backgammon game. This project was great because it allowed us to practice the design techniques we learned in class and to create an interesting final project which we could show to others. My favorite class outside of the MCSP department was my May Term trip to Japan with Dr. (Kuni) Terasawa. His enthusiasm in any class is infectious (I also loved World Religions), and Japan was absolutely stunning. I was impressed by the architecture and gardens we saw throughout the country, and I always enjoy travelling. 

WHAT WAS YOUR MOST DIFFICULT CLASS: One of the most difficult classes I took at Wartburg was Computer Organization with Dr. (Josef) Breutzmann. This class focuses on the very low-level workings of a computer, such as the circuits. I am not very mechanically minded which made certain portions of the class difficult. This class was additionally difficult due to the fact that I decided to pursue a computer science major very late in my college career (not until the end of my junior year/beginning of my senior year), which lead me to take this class independently as it is a required course for the CS major and wasn’t offered during my senior year. However, Dr. Breutzmann was incredibly helpful and understanding. 

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU NEVER IMAGINED YOU WOULD DO BEFORE COMING TO WARTBURG: I never thought I would/could give a message in church. However, since coming to Wartburg, I have helped lead prayers one Sunday, participated in Pastor Ramona’s sermon one Sunday, and gave my own chapel messages, one for senior chapel and one during St. Elizabeth’s Week. Faith has always been a part of my life, and I didn’t want that to change as I entered into college. For this reason, it was important for me to be involved with spiritual life at Wartburg. Involvement with Spiritual Life & Campus Ministry also gave me the opportunity to engage with and experience Christianity on my terms, outside of my family. This independence and support from the campus pastors has strengthened and deepened my faith.