For Brennan Lockinger, academic excellence is all about having the right attitude.
“Easily the most important thing to doing well is to actually like what you’re doing,” said Lockinger, who is graduating with two degrees and three major awards at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) Fall Convocation on Nov. 8 at Merlis Belsher Place.
Lockinger’s cumulative average of 95.4 per cent is the highest of any student completing an undergraduate degree program this fall, an achievement that earns him the President’s Medal. He will also be presented with the Dean’s Medal and the University Medal in the Sciences from the College of Arts and Science.
Lockinger will receive a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in computer science and a Bachelor of Science in mathematics at next week’s ceremony.
During the five years of his undergraduate studies, he was motivated by a love of both subjects. But no matter what course he was taking in the College of Arts and Science, Lockinger made sure to show up to class with an open mind.
“Coming in with a respect for the subject can help motivate you. Come in with the mindset that you want to hear about the subject. During my undergrad, I knew I wanted to take computer science, so even when I wasn’t taking computer science courses, I would say, ‘OK, this is my chance to learn about this,’” he said.
The combination of rigour and creativity he found in computer science and mathematics was what drew Lockinger to those subjects.
“It’s just so satisfying to know that something’s right, and that’s what math is. You prove that if this happens, then this must be true. But there’s still an element of creativity in how you can produce new results.”
In computer science, he loved the feeling of creating something from scratch, along with the relentless logic of programming. If a program works as intended, you know you did everything right.
“You can sit down, you can write some code and produce a program that does something. It’s sort of cool to say, ‘I did that. I made something.’”
For his honours project in computer science, Lockinger worked on a deep learning model to simulate realistic sounds of heavy machinery, such as a backhoe. The idea was to produce sounds that could be used in training simulators. The model never quite worked correctly, but it was a great learning experience.
As a student research assistant, Lockinger also had the chance to contribute to USask research projects over three summers under Drs. Ian Stavness (PhD), Kevin Stanley (PhD) and Ray Spiteri (PhD) of the Department of Computer Science.
Lockinger is now a Master of Science student in the Department of Computer Science specializing in the math-heavy field of theoretical computer science. Supervised by Dr. Ian McQuillan (PhD), he is doing abstract research on models of computation.
Lockinger is grateful to his family, friends, and professors for helping him succeed.
After his master’s, the computer science student hopes to get a PhD and then a professorship. He enjoys both research and teaching, and he won the computer science department’s Teaching Assistant of the Year Award in 2022.
“I really like it when I can help someone else understand something. Being able to teach people about the subject that I like is awesome,” he said.
In the classroom or in the lab, Lockinger is right at home.
“I just generally like being a student, I guess. I am usually pretty happy doing assignments, groupwork, showing up to class. Maybe I’m weird, but I’m just happy with all that.”