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College of Science and Mathematics

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Math, Chemistry Major Codes Way Into Google Summer Program

Image of man smilling plants in the backgroundChemistry and mathematics major John Detlefs will spend the summer coding for MDAnalysis
as part of the Google Summer of Code program. 


Senior John Detlefs has a lot to look forward to this summer, thanks in part to hard work he put in over spring break. The dual major — mathematics and chemistry — will spend 12 weeks coding alongside industry professionals in Google’s Summer of Code program.

Landing a spot in the program isn’t easy. This year, only 1,206 students out of 5,100 applicants were accepted into Summer of Code, an open-source partnership between Google and about 180 industry organizations.

“This is going to be a huge opportunity for me in terms of learning the smaller details of how to be a software developer,” Detlefs said.

Detlefs had already decided he wanted to apply his skills in both math and chemistry as a programmer. The summer opportunity “seemed like a great intersection of those three areas for me,” he said.

Detlefs’s project focuses on reducing the number of random variables in large sets of data. This would make data analysis much more straightforward and save researchers time.

The software company that accepted his proposal, MDAnalysis, uses computer simulations to analyze the physical movements of atoms and molecules. Detlefs learned about creating digital models of molecules while doing hands-on research in Chemistry Professor Ashley McDonald’s lab.

The coding program was perfect for Detlefs as his skills in computational research had continued to grow, McDonald said.

“John is a great student who is always trying to teach himself new things and expand his skills,” McDonald said. “I think Google Summer of Code will be a great opportunity for him.”

Although the program begins as Detlefs’s undergraduate career at Cal Poly ends, he plans to carry the Learn by Doing spirit with him.

“Google’s Summer of Code is going to be extremely rewarding. I look forward to representing Cal Poly well,” he said. 

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