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National Engineers Week student feature: Jeremy Ruth

February 21-27 is National Engineers Week, and WVU Tech is celebrating by sharing the stories of students who are preparing to launch their careers and alumni who are doing great things in theirs. Part 3 of our 5-part series covers all things computers, and introduces Golden Bears from WVU Tech’s computer engineering and computer science programs.

Computer science and electrical engineering student, Jeremy Ruth.

Computer science and electrical engineering student, Jeremy Ruth.

For as long as he can remember, WVU Tech student Jeremy Ruth has been pulling things apart and putting them back together to see how they work. He’s a tinkerer with a passion for computers and electronics, and he’s working to turn those interests into a full-time career.

A double major in computer science and electrical engineering, Ruth grew up in Beckley, West Virginia. He spent a number of years in Florida, then a few more in California where he pursued a career as a professional musician before returning to his home state. Back home, he decided to take his interest in electronics a step further and enrolled in WVU Tech’s electrical engineering program.

“I like to build and modify things. I started with the electrical engineering degree originally since the type of work electrical engineers do sounded interesting,” he said. “As I got more into the degree, I realized that, in order to do the things I really wanted to do, I would need to have an understanding of electrical components as well as how to program or control them.”

His inquisitive nature is a powerful motivator, so he added a major in computer science to his career plan.

“I have always had some interest in computer science. I had done some programming in a very basic sense in previous jobs, and that was self-taught. Being exposed to programming in that setting made me realize that I wanted to know more about it. I find it amazing how much we can accomplish with ones and zeros. With ever-increasing options for making programs that can do more, it’s a pretty exciting field to explore,” he said.

He said studying the two disciplines has opened his eyes to the interconnectedness of many STEM fields, and that he’s uncovered a surprising amount of overlap between the programs.

“Electrical engineering provides the physical frameworks that are used to allow all of this programming magic to happen. The process of translating a concept in someone’s mind into a set of instructions, which is then interpreted by hardware that is essentially reading high and low voltages at incredibly fast speeds is pretty amazing to me. Much of our modern society is dependent on that chain,” he said.

Ruth said he’s excited about the opportunities his major choices will open up. He plans to start the job hunt soon, and is searching for opportunities in the region.

“Ideally, I would like to be in a situation where the goal is to solve problems by developing new devices or hardware. Something where I can mix research and design and really put what I’ve learned in both fields to work,” he said.

Regardless of where he winds up, Ruth said that he and his fellow computer science and electrical engineering up-and-comers could be working with some revolutionary new technologies in the coming years.

“Society will definitely need many computer scientists and electrical engineers to create the technologies that we envision as ‘the future.’ There are so many things that you can end up doing in either field,” he said.

He said the future he looks forward to seeing includes developments in areas like artificial intelligence and 3D printing, which have powerful and widespread applications in everything from manufacturing to medicine.

He’s also interested in advancements in how computers think, including fuzzy logic (a type of computing logic that assigns values to the degrees in between binary’s ones and zeros), ternary computing (which uses three values instead of binary’s two) and quantum computing.

“Just those few topics have the potential to have a huge impact on where the industry goes in the future. Not just in developing new technology, but also how we interact with it. I think both fields will only continue to expand as modern life becomes more and more dependent on the things that these two fields together create.”

While he finds the notion of working with emerging technologies exciting, Ruth’s interest in computer science and electrical engineering comes down to improving the world around him.

“The demand for these fields comes directly from a need to overcome challenges to ultimately improve life for people,” he said. “As the problems we want to solve have become more and more complex and detailed, many times the accuracy and capabilities required to solve these problems can only be achieved through computers or automated systems. Computer scientists and electrical engineers will play a critical role in meeting those needs.”

He said the biggest challenge in his field will be creating these systems while keeping up with shrinking technology and finding cleaner, more efficient ways to power all this tech.

Now in his junior year, Ruth said he’s working hard to stay on schedule.

He commutes to campus from his home in Beckley, where he lives with his wife, Gina. When he’s not mastering the principles of circuitry or testing the waters in a new programming language, he spends his time reading and gaming.

Ruth is a multi-talented musician who sings and plays guitar, bass and piano. He likes to spend time building and repairing things, and more often than not, those interests collide. Right now, for instance, he’s building a guitar from scratch.

It’s a lot of work, balancing life and two rigorous majors, but Ruth said he’s excited about everything he’s learning. His advice for students studying computer science or electrical engineering is to do the same – dig into it wherever they can.

“So far, my experience has been that the best way to learn is to spend time working with the tools of the field. Write programs in several languages, and try to solve problems that you have in your life, even if a program already exists for it. Get your hands dirty with electrical components and devices. Learn about them, build them and take them apart,” he said.

“These things provide a great context for what is learned in the classroom and really help the concepts stick and relate to each other. It also helps you realize the challenges that you might face in your career and where your personal weaknesses may be so that you can strengthen them,” he said.