Major: Computer Science
This week, the Quest had the opportunity to sit down with Spring/Fall computer science senior Aadit Bagdi to learn more about his thesis. His research attempts to generate music using a specific kind of coding language.
In math, everything is a function or variable. The same is true in functional programming. Functional programming only allows functions. Coding in functional programming languages like Haskell means that you deal directly with the variables that you’re coding. Everything that exists within the language is a mathematical function. The difference between Haskell and other coding languages is that in other languages, there is a literal language and grammatical system that allows the coder to write. In Haskell, the language and grammar is that of math.
Bagdi is using Haskell to create electronic music. His goal is to show a method of using functional programming in a creative sphere. In his thesis he plans to include his process and a few pieces of music that he will create using his code. Bagdi was interested in including music in his thesis, but was prompted to take the functional programming route after taking Jim Fix’s Principles of Programming Languages class.
While Bagdi has always been fascinated by computers, they weren’t always his main interest. Bagdi started his Reed career as a chemistry major, but finding that he wanted a more supportive department, he switched to computer science. Despite the department’s few professors, Bagdi has found a tight knit community among other computer science students. As a group they spend hours in Polytopia, the computer science department’s student lounge. Together, they help each other grind out immense amounts of work. “It’s a lot,” Bagdi says. “It’s kind of like group suffering.” Stuck in the coding trenches, they’ve bonded into a unit.
The primary mentor that helped Bagdi along his way was Professor Jim Fix. Both his academic and thesis advisor, Professor Fix helped Bagdi adjust to the computer science department. He also helped to shape and narrow Bagdi’s research interests into a workable thesis.
Reflecting on his years at Reed, Bagdi has mixed feelings. Bagdi says that he “had a lot of good times, and a lot of bad,” but that he wouldn’t change a thing. For him, Reed was an interesting and challenging experience that allowed him to meet many amazing people.
While Reed was an overall positive experience, Bagdi expressed frustration with Reed administrators’ lack of support while the computer science department struggles due to lack of well paid tenure track positions. While there has been progress made to make the department more stable, including a 30k pay raise for the current open position, Bagdi says that this is not enough. He is voicing the opinions of many computer science students. “The changes are good, but I really wish Reed would offer us more of a helping hand.” Bagdi points out that Reed benefits from the existence of STEM departments, but does little to help keep them functioning. “Functioning departments help foster Reed’s values,” he says. “The department exists, so support it.”
Bagdi doesn’t intend to continue his research after finishing his thesis. Post Reed, he intends to look for a solid job within his interests and settle down for a while. Over the course of his life, Bagdi has lived in seven different countries. He is excited to find a place to call home and stay there for a while.