Nafis Zaman – B.S. in Computer Science
Nafis is from Norman, Oklahoma. Since he was young, he knew he wanted to be an engineer. He couldn’t choose a specific field until he joined Botball, a robotics competition, in middle school. Although his father, Dr. Mohammed Atiquzzaman, is a distinguished member of the OU Computer Science faculty, Nafis didn’t learn how to code until his involvement in Botball. His team won 1st place at the regional competition in 8th grade and 3rd place at the global competition in 10th grade. He worked with a team of CS all-stars who attended OU: Kevin Cotrone, Braden McDorman, Jeremy Rand, Marty Rand, and Jeffrey Terry. In order to pursue his education in CS and math, Nafis attended the Oklahoma School for Science and Mathematics. By doing so, he was able to take more advanced courses, such as Data Structures and Operating Systems. Many of these credits transferred to OU and helped him get ahead on his bachelor’s degree.
With a National Merit Scholarship and family ties in Norman, OU was the obvious choice for Nafis. He enjoys the CS program and the classes it offers. His favorite class was CS 3053 (Human Computer Interaction) taught by Nic Grounds. Nafis thought it was a great class because students had a lot of freedom in choosing their project. He and his partner, Kevin Cotrone, decided to develop a virtual Rubik’s Cube. Nafis felt that these kinds of classes helped fill the gap between academia and the industry by encouraging students to work on real-world applications. He is grateful for accessible and supportive professors, like Dr. Hougen, and encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities around them.
Nafis followed his own advice during his time at OU. He was a member of the CS Programming Team for three years, leading the team for the latter two years. This group, coached by Dr. Fagg and Dr. Cheng, placed 3rd at the ICPC regional competition and was invited to participate in the North American Invitational Programming Contest. He also worked as a teaching assistant for CS 2603 (Applied Logic for Hardware and Software) for four semesters. Nafis enjoyed this experience because it was lot of fun and allowed him to see a different side of academics. He enjoyed helping students and seeing how people think differently. Nafis also participated in research with REAL Lab, led by Dr. Hougen. There, he worked on exploring various evolutionary algorithms applied to bipedal locomotion, evolving two-legged robots to walk without explicit instructions. He used his findings in his Honors Thesis.
Furthermore, Nafis worked for the KISS Institute for Practical Robotics (KIPR), the organization behind Botball. He developed the software that students use to program robots for Botball competitions. During the summer after his first year, Nafis interned with Fidelity Information Services and worked on an application to monitor the status and resource utilization of other applications. Although it was a bit overwhelming at times, Nafis learned a lot on the fly. The following summer, he left Oklahoma to intern at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. There, he was on the Developer’s Experience team. He worked with clients to develop creative solutions using Microsoft’s products. He was exposed first hand to “technology evangelism” and the policies of a multinational corporation. After graduating, he will return to Microsoft to work full-time on the same team.
One of his greatest accomplishments came this year. Nafis organized the first OU CS Annual Programming Competition. This event, on April 9th, saw 10 high school teams from across the state race to complete problems. Nafis was motivated by the lack of such events for high schoolers. He wanted to give students the opportunity to experience competitive programming, especially those who attend high schools without CS classes. He describes this experience as stressful but rewarding.
With all these accomplishments, it will come as no surprise that Nafis was named the CS Outstanding Senior for 2016.
During the few hours that Nafis is not working, he enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, board games, video games, and solving Rubik’s Cubes. On top of English, he is fluent in Bengali and has working proficiency in Spanish. He also loves cats.