CAS Corps Feature of the Month: Senior Computer Science Major Preston Wilson

The CAS Corps are chosen to serve as representatives to all constituents of the College of Arts and Sciences and to create, promote and execute opportunities for academic and professional growth. These students represent a variety of departments from across the College of Arts and Sciences and will represent the College at events through interaction among current students, future students, parents, donors and alumni. Each month of this year we will be introducing one of our eleven students representing the college in a question and answer format. This month, meet Preston and learn about her study abroad and research experiences. For more about the CAS Corps, visit:

Preston Wilson

Major: Computer Science

What clubs or organizations are you a member of?
Health Professions Club, McKinney Innovation Scholar, CAS Corp, Honors College and Honors Vanguard

What sports or hobbies do you participate in?
Hiking, target shooting, aquariums, reading and playing video games.

What scholarships have you received from Appalachian or while studying at Appalachian?
McKinney Innovation Scholarship in Conceptual and Physical Sciences, Joe Daniel Severt Scholarship for Ashe County Students

What research have you been most passionate about?
Predicting future honeybee behavior based on the audio signals they're producing, and developing software to aid in determining these audio signals.

What are you most excited about this semester?
Applying to dental school, continuing development of my S-STEM group's mobile game, and hopefully presenting my research at NCUR 2018.

What is one of your favorite memories at Appalachian thus far?
Over the summer of 2016, I continued to work as a research assistant for the computer science department while taking an online english course. I managed to develop an application with a language and framework I previously had no experience with, thanks in no small part to a graduate student who was incredibly patient with me. I got closer with the other student researchers that summer, and I distinctly remember us writing out problems on the board, talking about our future plans, and trying out new places to eat. I’d often visit one of my on-campus friends after work, and we’d usually toss a Frisbee around, play basketball, or go on short hikes. It was a very relaxed, enjoyable summer, and I feel like I was able to become more deeply immersed in my research and side projects without the pressure of difficult courses hanging over my head.

What do you like most about Boone and the surrounding community?
The mountains are beautiful and protective, and the people are very warm and eager to help. It's not too crowded to feel constricting, and not too rural to feel isolating. There's plenty of beautiful sights and hikes close by, and the town as a whole doesn't feel too urbanized.

What do you feel has been valuable in your education at Appalachian versus another institution?
In taking a New Testament course to fill a general education requirement, I learned that religious studies is a field I'm quite interested in. I'm now pursuing a minor in the subject. I may have never found that interest if I went to another institution.

Tell us about one faculty member that has made an impact on your life and how.
The chair of the CS department, Dr. Rahman Tashakkori, has been helping me even before I entered Appalachian State as a freshman. I first met him when interviewing on Scholars Day, and his friendly demeanor immediately calmed my nerves. As a part of the S-STEM/McKinney program he heads, I've worked in multiple group research projects, developed an interest in game design (leading me to publish my own game), and made many friends. During my sophomore year, he approached me and invited me to get involved with his honeybee research project. Through this research I've developed my programming and technical writing skills, and presented at multiple state and national conferences. His daughter just graduated dental school, and now I'm the beneficiary of his advice for getting in. Dr. Tashakkori genuinely cares about every student he meets, and he's been a mentor and friend to me every step of the way.

Tell us about one other connection you have made while at Appalachian- a friendship, mento, colleague, a new found hobby or interest.
Other computer science majors helped me develop an interest in building computers, to the point that I now have a PC that I upgrade and modify regularly. Prior to that I didn't know the first thing about them, and did all of my browsing and gaming on pre-built computers or game consoles. Computer science as a field primarily focuses on software rather than hardware, so adopting computer building as a hobby has allowed me to better understand what goes in to running the software that programmers develop.

What is your understanding of “liberal arts” education and do you believe Appalachian has provided that?
A well-rounded education that seeks to develop knowledge in multiple areas of life. A degree in chemistry might not emphasize public speaking, and a degree in computer science has little focus on knowing historical events. A liberal arts education seeks to strengthen any areas that a student might be weak in, and I certainly believe Appalachian has provided that.

What do you think you will miss most when you graduate?
The variety each day brings. Different classes involving different subjects, club and organization meetings, research; it makes longer days considerably easier when you're constantly switching between different things.

Senior Computer Science Major Preston Wilson. Photo by Ellen Gwin Burnette
Published: Oct 5, 2018 9:05am