Making Better Algorithms for DNA Compression

Meet computer science major Caden Corontzos.

October 11, 2023

Hometown: Redding, California

Thesis adviser: Prof. Eitan Frachtenberg [computer science]

Thesis: “Optimizing LZW for DNA Compression”

What it’s about: Storage and transfer of long DNA sequences means very large files, high wait times, and an overall bottleneck for biological research. My thesis looks at the Lempel Ziv Welch compression algorithm and attempts to specialize and optimize it to compress DNA.

What it’s really about: How can we make a fast, efficient algorithm to compress DNA?

In high school: Everyone knew I was a nerd despite my best efforts to conceal it. I played basketball and was on the robotics team.

Influential Reed professor: I took several creative writing classes with Prof. Pete Rock [creative writing] and really enjoyed the experience. The Realistic and the Fantastic let us explore the boundaries between the believable and the unbelievable in writing fiction. It was a blast, and I felt like I really improved as a writer. I also loved the classes I took with Prof. David Ramirez [computer science 2020–22]. David is a great teacher who really takes an interest in his students. He has given me some great advice, career and otherwise.

Influential book: The Pragmatic Programmer made me think critically about the way I write code and taught me how to approach software as a craft rather than a job.

Cool stuff: Reed Residence Life, Reed basketball, Center for Life Beyond Reed. I also went horseback riding, whitewater rafting, windsurfing, skiing, and to many Trail Blazers games.

Challenges faced: Computer science is a relatively new major at Reed and deals with a lot of theory, so I found it difficult to find jobs and opportunities. I went to a public school in a small town, so I didn’t come with much knowledge about or connections to the software industry, which can make it harder to get noticed. B Hunter, a rockstar adviser for the Center for Life Beyond Reed, helped me learn how to reach out to alumni, whom I have found to be very receptive and helpful to other Reedies. I met a bunch of cool alums who ended up in the software industry from all sorts of other paths, and was able to get great advice and build connections through our shared Reed experience.

How Reed changed me: I’ve learned how to approach solving problems that are hard or confusing, and how to discuss my reasoning with others and work collaboratively toward a solution. I also think I’m more open to trying new things and exploring new experiences.

Help received along the way: If it weren’t for financial aid, I wouldn’t have even applied to Reed. I wouldn’t have visited had they not provided me money to fly out. Financial aid made my whole experience possible.

Awards, fellowships, grants: Commendations for academic excellence, grants from the Career Advancement Fund.

What’s next: I’m joining Box as a software engineer. I’m also interested in eventually studying computer science in grad school. I definitely want to keep in contact with CLBR and hopefully provide guidance and mentorship to students as other alumni did for me.

Tags: Academics, Students, Thesis, What is a Reedie?