It was clear from an early age that LSU student Stephen Doiron and computers were a match. Even his elementary-school teachers would occasionally turn to him for help with computer issues when support staff wasn’t available.
“They would grab me out of class to take a look,” he says. “Computers always fascinated me.”
That affinity for computers and fascination with what they could achieve continued into Doiron’s early days at Vandebilt Catholic High School in Houma, where he tinkered with writing rudimentary programs on his TI-84 graphing calculator. He says it was constructing those basic computations with the quadratic formula and other math processes that sparked a love for coding that eventually led him to LSU’s Division of Computer Science and Engineering.
He’s scheduled to graduate in May, but he took some time out recently to talk about his path and his future.
EMBRACING A MENTORING ROLE
Doiron is no ordinary senior. He has served for multiple semesters as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a handful of courses in the College of Engineering, passing along his knowledge to the next wave of programmers at LSU.
Doiron has played an integral role in three classes: Introduction to Java I, Introduction to Java II and a numerical methods course. He pushed for a teaching assistant position as soon as he wrapped up his own time in the courses, even though he was still an undergraduate.
“I kept emailing and talking to a few people in the department until it just kind of worked out,” he says. “It had always been something I wanted to do since after I took the classes myself. I was in their shoes, I know what they’re going through. I know how tough this can be and that it gets better. I also enjoy being able to show underclassmen a better way to do things. If they learn it better, they teach it to someone else and everyone gets a little better.”
Doiron, who is the only undergrad TA in the department this semester, immediately took to teaching. He says he especially enjoyed forming strong working relationships with some younger students he helped mentor over the course of multiple semesters as they were beginning their computer science journeys.
“I loved getting to meet the new kids in computer science and helping them figure out if this is the right path for them and where they go from here,” he says.
Doiron also found time to serve as a code mentor to students at McKinley High School through the university’s Geaux CS program, designed to promote enthusiasm for computer science in local communities.
‘TEACHING IS DEFINITELY SOMETHING STILL ON MY RADAR’
After graduation, Doiron will head to the Houston area to work in ExxonMobil’s IT department. Doiron said that while he’s not able to discuss the specifics of the position, he is excited about the opportunity. Still, he says, returning to school or another stint at teaching could be in his future.
“Teaching, going back to get my master’s or my Ph.D. is definitely something still on my radar,” he says.
Doiron is adamant that the computer science curriculum at LSU helped him develop programming skills and knowledge well beyond the nuts and bolts of coding. He urges budding programmers to explore coding resources on the internet to see if it is something they want to explore. After that, he says, think bigger.
“Once you try a few examples then look into a computer science program,” he says. “Anyone can code. You might not be able to make the next big video game, but anybody can get basic programs running. There is plenty of information out there on the internet. Anyone can go out there and get a basic coding background. It’s when you want to do those bigger projects — your video games, your large-scale applications within a company — that’s where the art of computer science is useful. You learn about how efficient you can make your code run. Different data structures, different algorithms, which in a large scale help it run better.”