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Summer 2013 interns at HP Labs – Fred Douglas


Contributed by Simon Firth, freelance technology journalist


Fred-Douglas_web_June-2013.jpgFred Douglas has been writing code since he was in grade school just outside Boston, Mass. “I was mostly just trying to learn new things,” he says of a passion that took him first to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, for a BA in math and computer science and then to the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, where he’s currently a rising third year Ph.D. student in computer science. This is Douglas’s first internship at HP Labs, and his first time in California.


HP: Tell us about that coding you were doing in high school.

It was my main hobby outside of class. I wrote a first person shooter game for the PC with multiplayer support, for example. I wasn’t really trying to make anything to sell. The idea was more to learn programs like C and OpenGL and also how to write networking code.


HP: How did you learn about the HP Labs internship opportunity?

Our professors hear from people in research labs around the country when they are looking for interns. Earlier in the school year, one of the professors in the UIUC Systems Group sent out a message saying HP Labs was looking for data center research interns. That was exactly what I was interested in, so I got in touch.


HP: So you’re working on data centers?

I’m working in the Networking Lab on integrating recent innovations in multipath networking into the operation of cloud-type data centers. The idea is to see how we can help data center customers use the network’s capacity more efficiently.


HP: Do you think your work here might influence your Ph.D. research?

I do. I’m hoping to get an idea of what my Ph.D. thesis could be about. It turns out to be pretty hard to find interesting research topics that people haven’t already solved.


HP: Any promising ideas yet?

There’s already been one thing. In trying to solve a problem we were thinking about I came up with one technique that might work. We decided not to use it, but I think it might be worth looking into on its own.


HP: What have you appreciated most about working here so far?

Industrial research is great because you’re not first thinking of solutions and then looking for problems. Instead, you’re working alongside people who have been developing products for a long time, and from doing that they know about specific problems that we need to solve to meet genuine practical needs. It grounds you in reality much more than you might be if you were just in an academic setting.


HP: Anything you like to do when you aren’t working on your research?

Sure. I’ve started to realize that I need to stay in shape to do good work, so I like to run and I just recently discovered that I love rock climbing. I also play the bass clarinet and I'm starting to learn piano. 

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