Triple major ASU graduate charts his own course to success

May 14, 2018

John Cava is a rare college student to complete not just a double major but a triple major in his studies at Arizona State University.

Cava graduated this spring with a degree in computer science from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and degrees in mathematics, and molecular biosciences and biotechnology from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. John Cava graduated this spring with a degree in computer science from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and degrees in mathematics, and molecular biosciences and biotechnology from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Download Full Image

Before arriving at ASU, Cava wanted to be a molecular biologist, but he decided to take his education further.

“I was fascinated how natural processes created complex molecular machinery that makes the diverse set of organisms in the world,” he said. “Then I saw a documentary showcasing how artificial evolution was used as an algorithm for artificial intelligence and I switched focus into wanting to understand AI. My interests in AI helped me get into computer science.”

While the California native was not accepted by any other university, he found a place to thrive at ASU. His recent achievement epitomizes the ASU Charter: “ASU is a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed.” Cava’s success is a reminder of the power of inclusion.

Cava attributes part of his success in the Fulton Schools to the academic advising team.

“For my computer science degree, there was a set paper that detailed the paths to finish my degree,” he said. “For my other majors, they didn’t have that so I had to look through the classes, their requirements, and see what I wanted to take and how did that relay to my graduation.”

Cava also appreciates the opportunity to learn from the astute faculty in the Fulton Schools.

“It was a very amazing experience,” he said. “Being able to take classes under extremely talented professors and trying to pick their brain. Even taking a graduate Statistical Machine Learning class as an undergraduate was an enlightening endeavor.”

While Cava doesn’t know where his future will take him, he has some goals.

“I really want to pursue going to graduate school,” he said. “I want to understand new mathematical theory and applications to create machine learning/artificial intelligence algorithms to solve biological problems.”

He hopes to earn both a master’s and doctoral degree before heading into industry.

“I would like to work for a biotechnology company that utilizes machine learning,” he said. “Though working for tech companies revolving natural language processing, computer vision, etc. would be something I would also enjoy.”

Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU alum combines law, Spanish

May 14, 2018

Katherine Nelson is an alumni of Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures. Now she is studying law at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ASU.

Here, she answers some questions about her time at the School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC), her reason for studying a langauge, and how her degree from SILC and law go hand in hand. Download Full Image

Question: You mentioned that you were now studying law. Are you studying law here at ASU? What specifically drew you to study law?

Answer: I am studying law at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. I came to law school because I wanted to be an advocate and make a positive impact in my community.

Q: Has your degree in Spanish helped you in any way when it comes to law?

A: Absolutely. The skills I developed while studying Spanish also helped prepare me for law school. Learning a foreign language made me a more critical thinker, and reading Spanish literature made it easier for me to understand legal opinions from the 1800’s. All of the practice I had in class also made me a more confident public speaker. For example, I had to give presentations in several of my classes in a foreign language — this made the oral argument I had to do second semester of 1L seem easy in comparison.

Q: What are your goals for the future? Do you plan on continuing to merge law and Spanish together in your professional career?

A: I am planning to be a public defender after I pass the bar. My knowledge of Spanish will help me connect with clients because I will not need an interpreter to communicate with them.

Q: Let’s talk about your time here at SILC. Did you major in anything else besides Spanish? What drew you to study Spanish?

A: I wasn’t entirely sure when I was coming to ASU what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to continue studying Spanish because I took it all four years in high school. I knew if I majored in Spanish I would improve my fluency and be able to explore other courses of study. I graduated with a Spanish major and a minor in justice studies.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory of SILC?

A: It’s hard to pick just one, but all of my favorite memories from SILC are connected to being involved in the language student organizations. Volunteering at Night of the Open Door, playing in the SILC Soccer Cup, and eating at new Latin restaurants with classmates and practicing conversation are some of my favorites.

Q: Did you study abroad during your undergrad? If so, how did going abroad help you understand the language better? Were there any chances here at ASU for you to continue to sharpen your Spanish skills outside of the classroom?

A: I studied abroad in León, Spain in the summer of 2012 with Professor [Carlos] Garcia-Fernandez. This was easily the best experience of my life and I encourage everyone to study abroad if they can. The summer I was there the European soccer cup was going on, and Spain won the final when we were all there. Although I was only there for five weeks, my fluency went up significantly because I could only communicate with my host family and the locals in Spanish. At ASU, I was involved in OLE, the undergraduate Spanish club, and helped create EntreAmig@s. The conversation practice clubs are really helpful for learning and meeting new people.

Q: One piece of advice to those students wanting to study Spanish and/or law?

A: For Spanish — get involved! Practicing your speaking skills with EntreAmig@s or reading books in Spanish outside of class will really help improve your fluency. Also, talk to the SILC advisers. I could have found out about Justice Studies earlier and gotten a double major in something I loved, instead of just a minor because I found the program too late. For law — make time for your family, your friends, and your hobbies. You have the time and you’ll be happier and better off if you do.

Kathleen Leslie

Student communications specialist, School of International Letters and Cultures