Payton Ireland
Computer science major, Payton Ireland.
Michael Mercier | UAH

Fall 2022 graduate profiles

For Payton Ireland, a special internship at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has resulted in an exciting fulltime job opportunity for the soon-to-be alumna of the UAH College of Science (COS).

This December Ireland will be accepting her diploma for a bachelor’s of science degree in computer science from UAH, a part of The University of Alabama System. The student reports this new path she is embarking on came about through an important decision she made that has literally changed her life.

“This is my second degree,” the student explains. “I completed a B.S. in biology in 2017 at UT Chattanooga. However, after working in the biology field as a lab technologist for a few years, it never felt quite right. STEM as a whole has always been my interest. I knew I wanted a career change, and after researching different fields, computer science really stood out to me. I've always had an interest in programming, and after completing a few online programs, I decided to pursue this degree in Aug. 2020.”

With the help of Lauren Perkins, assistant director of communications for the COS, Ireland soon landed a gig as a student worker for the COS in March 2021.

“She [Perkins] was always bringing different internships to my attention and wanting to help me get experience that would benefit me long-term,” Ireland explains. “With her help I was able to secure a NASA DEVELOP internship which allowed me to perform research while maintaining my full-time student status. I would also like to recognize Dr. John Beck from the Information Technology and Systems Center (ITSC), who hired me as a student worker to assist on a project for him as well.”

Ireland’s path to graduation has not been without its bumps and obstacles, however. “It seemed like many of the students were so far ahead of me!” she admits. “I didn’t have any coding classes with my first degree, and they were not offered at the rural high school I attended in Tennessee, so I felt very behind initially. Also, I began classes in 2020, and the university was still remote learning due to COVID. Taking purely online classes was difficult at first, but the professors were really helpful, and I was able to catch-up with everyone eventually. Balancing work, school and home life was difficult in the beginning as well. However, I was truly lucky as my student worker positions were very flexible with my school schedule and allowed me to take time as needed.”

After graduation, Ireland says she already has her near-term goals well in hand. “In October, I was offered and started a position as a Research Scientist II at the Information Technology and Systems Center (ITSC) here at UAH. I worked there as a student worker from May to Oct. and have really enjoyed it. I'll continue my position there and transition to fulltime after graduation. This would not have been possible without Dr. Beck!”

The student believes attending UAH has made all the difference in her success. “UAH has been wonderful! I was worried that I would have difficulties, being a second bachelor student, but the advisors helped make my transition smooth. The Computer Science Department has several faculty members who have years of industry experience, and learning from them has truly helped prepare me! Since beginning this degree, I have narrowed my focus to data science specifically, and I absolutely love it!”