Ascoli Has Earned a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science with a Minor in Mathematics

Activities at UVA: Ping pong club, board games club

Q: Looking back to the time when you applied to UVA Engineering, why did you choose this school?

A: I chose UVA because when I visited, I really liked the campus. I originally applied as a chemistry major, and I really liked the chemistry facilities. However, I switched to computer science, and it’s been a great experience for me.

After your time here, how are you different now – how have you grown as a person?

I’ve changed tremendously. I first came to UVA as a student who was completely unsure of what I would do after graduation. I figured, “Oh, this is the logical next step in my life.” However, after going through all the coursework and rigor of college, I’ve learned that what I really want to do is pursue a Ph.D. in computer science. I found my passion for research through UVA Engineering.

What was your favorite or most memorable educational experience at UVA Engineering, and why? Was there someone who helped you along your journey?

My most memorable educational experience at UVA Engineering is definitely doing a [National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates project] with professor Kevin Sullivan. He helped me tremendously with my first introduction to computing research and how to build machinery and software that could eventually be used in the real world. I really enjoyed our back and forth, and found myself really enjoying the whole process.

What’s next for you?

I’ll be going to Emory University for a Ph.D. in natural language processing, starting this fall.

What positive impact do you hope to make in the future? Is there a big societal challenge you’d like to help solve?

I’d love to be a part of improving syntactic parsing, or how syntax is analyzed, in natural language processing. I think this problem is a huge one in the area of natural language processing, with tons of applications to various other fields, notably in medicine.

How has UVA Engineering prepared you for your future, for following your dreams or personal mission?

UVA Engineering is what kickstarted me into following my passion. I’m incredibly stoked for my next few years as a Ph.D. student, and UVA Engineering is the reason that I’m doing this.

What advice would you give to engineering students who are just starting out?

My advice would be to dip into several areas that interest you. You never know what section of engineering is going to be your favorite, and there are so many to choose from. Think about what problems there are in the world, and remember that solving them can come from more than one field, and most of the time will require more than one field. So choose a field that interests you – not one that you think is best for your career!

Class of 2022: Benjamin Ascoli

Benjamin Ascoli has earned a Bachelor of Arts in computer science from UVA Engineering's Department of Computer Science, with a minor in mathematics.