WYOMISSING, Pa. — When Bridget Baksa first came to Penn State Berks to study information sciences and technology (IST), she said it was a “big step for her and a big learning curve.” But by challenging herself academically and personally, she found more than she could have hoped for at the college: an opportunity to conduct research, to travel abroad, to join a tight-knit community, and finally, a career doing what she loves.
Baksa, who resides in Ephrata and is a native of Hazleton, attended Penn State Hazleton before coming to Berks as a junior. She will represent the Division of Engineering, Business and Computing as student marshal and will graduate summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA during the college’s afternoon commencement ceremony at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 4.
An IST major, specializing in design and development, with a double minor in business and security and risk analysis (SRA), Baksa is one of two marshals and a commencement speaker. Her talk, “Congrats. Now What?” will reflect what she has learned in school, working and via internships and offers tried and true advice: “Make sure you do something you love.”
Baksa also earned a Schreyer Scholar Medal in recognition of completing her thesis — an honor earned by only two percent of the University’s undergraduates. She states that completing her thesis is one of her most fulfilling achievements.
“That meant a lot to me,” Baksa said, “especially because of my interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning, technologies I want to pursue after I graduate.”
In her research, “MOSCH: A Multi-Objective Spatial Clustering Algorithm with Constraints,” she designed a machine learning algorithm that implements objective and constraint handling methods in spatial clustering.
“For example, my algorithm could be used to correct some of the congressional district gerrymandering issues in Pennsylvania by clustering districts 50/50 for Democrats and Republicans to remove biases,” she explained.
Her research was supported by an Erickson Discovery Grant in the summer of 2018, and was featured at Penn State’s Undergraduate Exhibition held at University Park on April 17.
“One of my goals is to make technology more available and accessible to everyone,” said Baksa. “That includes through AI, machine learning, software design and development, website creation and teaching.”
After graduating from Blue Mountain Academy, she enrolled at Penn State Hazleton as a business major. Then, while she was a sophomore, she decided to explore her options: “I had always liked technology, so after talking to friends, I enrolled in a first-year IST course, found I really liked it and switched my major.
“Penn State Berks had a great reputation for IST and SRA. I also liked it here because it was close to home, small and tight knit.”
Baksa also reinforced her desire to travel through her experiences at Penn State Berks. In the spring of 2018, she went on a study abroad trip to China led by Sandy Feinstein, part of an honors humanities course based on medieval literature.
“We visited Shanghai, Beijing, Hang Zhou, Su Zhou and the Great Wall. It was a great learning experience for me,” she said, adding that she had only previously visited Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
She also gained career-related professional experience — working as a data analyst for Weidenhammer, a software engineer intern for Deloitte Consulting and an IT intern for RPA Engineering. After graduation, she will work as a solution analyst, developing software for Deloitte’s Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, office.
In addition, Baksa worked as teaching assistant for two IST courses and served as an executive board member for the Berks Technology Club and a senator for the Student Government Association. As part of a class project, Baksa also designed a new website for the nonprofit Berks Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services and developed a student financial app.
Her additional awards include the Weidenhammer Systems Achievement Award in Information Sciences and Technology for having the highest grade-point average in the degree program, and the Evan Pugh Scholar Award, presented to students in the upper 0.5 percent of their respective classes.