A Day in the Life of Senior Computer Science Major Nik Vanderhoof

Posted by Jackie Eizak on May 15, 2018

Senior Nik Vanderhoof used a class project to blend his passion for computer science with his love of music to create a new algorithm. And as a band member and player of eight different instruments, he’s just the person to do it. Throughout his years at Binghamton, Nik has performed in the Jazz Ensemble, helped coordinate hackathons and played the occasional board game.

Nik Vanderhoof

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Hometown: Goshen, N.Y.

Year: Senior

Major: Computer Science

Clubs: HackBU, Board Game Club

A day in Nik's shoes

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Could you break down your typical day for me?

That's hard, since schedules are so different semester to semester and day to day. Mondays are my busiest days, and this is roughly my schedule:


9:30 a.m.: I wake up, shower and make breakfast.

10:50 a.m.: My first class begins.

12:15-1:15 p.m.: I go to the gym.

1:15-4:40 p.m.: I shower, make lunch, and work on homework or some side project.

4:40 p.m.: I go to my second class.

6:15 p.m.: I go home for the day, make dinner and relax a bit.

8 p.m.: I usually do some more homework, work on a side project or watch Netflix until I fall asleep a few hours later.

Journey to Binghamton

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How and when did your first band form?

One of our band members knows someone who helps plan Great American Weekend, a flea market/fair-type festival in downtown Goshen around the Fourth of July. Somehow, we got a spot to play a few years ago, and we've played at that every year, and also at a few charity events, a graduation party, a festival at the middle school, and at New Year's eve in Goshen once.

When did you first discover your love for music?

In third grade, my school’s band director went around to each classroom to show kids the different instruments to get people interested for next year. I asked my parents if I could try it, and thankfully they let me. We were allowed to pick two instruments so everyone wouldn't choose the same one. I picked trombone and drums, since I figured everyone would pick drums and I would get to play trombone.

How did you end up at Binghamton?

I visited my friend Dalton here one weekend during spring break in my senior year of high school. I really liked the campus and the feel of everything here. A nice bonus is that I actually love the rain and snow.

Now that he's here

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When/how did you end up joining the Jazz Ensemble?

My schedule's only allowed it twice, sadly: second semester freshman year, and also first semester junior year. I read about it online and auditioned!

Where else have you played instruments at Binghamton?

I played in the Low Brass Ensemble one semester, and recently I agreed to play trombone in the pit for the Hinman Production Company's production of It Shoulda Been You.

What are some of your favorite classes you’ve taken?

This is hard; I like a lot of classes! OOP (Advanced Object Oriented Programming) with Professor Chiu and High Performance Computing (also Professor Chiu). No one else can teach like him; he goes on a lot of tangents, but they are never a waste of time. Compiler Design with Professor Umrigar was awesome, too. The course is all about how programming languages are implemented and the theory behind it.

What computer science project are you most proud of?

The one that's most visually appealing I think would be my solar system model. It's not super technical or even accurate as a model, but it’s fun to fly around space and watch the planets move around. The one that gave me the most headaches was modifying the Python language to add support for two new kinds of statements, but I think it's pretty neat, since I got to apply what I learned in the compilers course.

More about Nik

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What instruments do you play?

Mostly trombone and tenor saxophone. But I've played the baritone, tuba and bassoon in band during school, too. I can play a bit of guitar, bass and piano, as well. I've played the trumpet and French horn a handful of times, since it’s just like a baritone or trombone but pitched higher, but my range and tone on those two is pretty abysmal.

Can you explain what your brass fingering optimization project is and how you came up with the idea for it?

Last year in my algorithms course, we were assigned a group project where we had to study an algorithm and give a presentation about it. I thought it would be more fun to try and come up with a new one instead. I teamed up with my friend Andrew for the project. We developed an algorithm that helps you figure out how the valve combinations with the least amount of finger movement necessary to play a sequence of notes.

What are the best and worst things about being a senior?

Everything! I’m excited and nervous to graduate. I’m excited to be done, but nervous about what comes next! I'm less nervous now that I have a job lined up, especially since I worked there last summer and it was a great experience.

What are your hopes/plans for after graduation?

I'm taking about a month off and starting work at Shore in NYC in July. My friend Jack Fischer was working there last summer, and brought me on to help on a project. It was a great experience last summer, and I am thrilled to be working with everyone again!

Jackie is a senior English major who will be starting her career as an assistant teacher in the fall of next year. Her hobbies include eating an unadvisable amount of mozzarella sticks with her housemates and trying not to cry about her inevitable graduation.

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