For many, doing one degree is hard enough - Peter McMahon makes two sound easy.
He has graduated with a master's degree in electrical engineering and has also submitted his thesis for a master's in computer science (though the examination for that has not yet been completed) - degrees he has worked on at the same time.
"One of the motivating factors in my getting involved was that I like to work on more than one project simultaneously," he explained.
"That way, if I get stuck on one project, I can switch to the other one. Usually the diversion will allow me to return to the original problem with a clear mind."
However, this happened "accidentally".
McMahon, who has now received a Stanford Graduate Fellowship to pursue studies at Stanford University, worked on his electrical engineering thesis project from January 2007 until July 2008. For that course, he did his research work with the Karoo Array Telescope (KAT) project in Cape Town, which works closely with the Centre for Astronomy Signal Processing and Electronics Research (CASPER) at the University of California, Berkeley.
After a few months in Berkeley, he heard about a project that aimed to investigate the feasibility of performing genome sequence alignment on a BEE2 computer.
"Since I was interested in this topic and had gained some experience in using the BEE2 from my astronomy work, I volunteered to help the group during my spare time on weekends.After I had spent a lot of time on the project, and the project was achieving some success, I realised that the work I was doing could probably form the basis of a decent masters. So I arranged with Dr Michelle Kuttel in the Department of Computer Science to supervise my thesis."
Writing reports for both theses was draining, however, he admits.
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