Online Graduate Computing Student Travels a Route Less Taken: The Thesis Option
Written by: Michael Giorgio
Joseph Patchett, a third year M.S. in Computer Science student, thrives on individuality. Whether pursuing his NJIT graduate degree as one of the few online students to actually visit campus or choosing the unprecedented option of completing his degree with a research thesis, he welcomes challenges on the road less taken.
A master’s candidate in NJIT’s Ying Wu College of Computing (YWCC) may satisfy their degree requirements either completely through coursework, a mix of class credits and final project, or, as is the case with Patchett, with a research thesis. Few students choose the more challenging thesis option. For an online student, Patchett’s decision is a first.
“I wanted to do something unique and independent. Research has always been a desire of mine, and this is an opportunity to identify and formulate solutions on my own,” he said.
His thesis titled “Efficient and Scalable Triangle Centrality Algorithms in an Arkouda Framework” explores the implementation of different triangle counting methods for graphs using parallel computing. Triangle centrality is a method of ranking how central a vertex is in a graph using connectedness as the measure of importance. Arkouda is a distributed framework that lowers the barrier for access to supercomputing and empowers personal computers to manipulate massive datasets. Running the algorithms on this computing framework allows the user to quickly analyze how connected different vertices are in a given graph and rank those most connected.
Though Patchett graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s in Material Science & Engineering, computing had long been an interest, and the computer-oriented elements of engineering inspired him to make a career transition full-time.
“I love driving insights and finding patterns. Computing is like Lego. You can build almost anything with it,” he said.
YWCC’s online M.S. in Computer Science makes it easy for students to transition into computing while earning a graduate-level degree. But, in the meantime, while pursuing his new career path, Patchett still needed to earn a living. He chose NJIT because it was the only online graduate program that was flexible enough to accommodate the need to frequently travel for work at the last minute. NJIT also featured two key people whom he credits for making his experience that much more manageable and rewarding – and one relationship was the conduit for the second.
“Anything I achieved at NJIT is because of [Tim Hart],” he said. Hart is the enrollment services manager for YWCC who kept in constant touch with Patchett to coordinate and guide his application process and onboarding while he was traveling (on several other roads) across the country for Infosys. Hart also introduced him to professor David Bader of the Department of Data Science, who became very influential in Patchett’s future.
Bader, a distinguished data scientist, became Patchett’s thesis advisor and introduced him to Arkouda, which is supported by the Department of Defense. Bader’s research group works closely with the Arkouda developers, which enabled Patchett to get first-hand support from the Arkouda team. His collaborators on this project are NJIT researcher Zhihui Du and Ph.D. students Fuhuan Li and Oliver Alvarado Rodriguez.
Patchett also recently presented his research on Scalable K-Truss Implementation in Arkouda at the New Jersey Big Data Alliance 2022 Symposium held at NJIT.
When asked what was next on his journey ahead, he responded, “I’ll start figuring out my next move when I have more free time!”