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LA News Archive The Schoolhouse

A Natural Selection
Posted 09/16/2016 11:26AM

by Aliie Goodrich '13

Philippe Lessard, Graduation 2016Groton, MA — This past spring, in recognition of his hard work and effort in the classroom at LA, Philippe Lessard ’16 received an AFCEA Lexington-Concord Chapter scholarship and 10-week summer internship.

The program’s purpose “is to stimulate an appreciation [for] and desire to pursue a career in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines,” and offers hands-on experience at a local company (such as, in the past, Raytheon, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Draper Laboratory, General Dynamics, and MITRE). Each school involved in the program may submit one nomination for their “top qualified STEM student” — and when it comes to Philippe, there’s no doubt he fit the bill.

“I was impressed with his intelligence, curiosity, and work ethic,” says Michelle Ruby, who was Philippe’s advisor for four years, emphasizing how, during his freshman year, Philippe started planning to take at least two years of a second language. At LA, he studied Spanish and French, and as he begins to pursue a major in computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), Philippe intends to continue his studies in language, this time in Mandarin.

“Ever since I was young, I’ve been good at languages,” he says. “It might have something to do with the fact that my dad spoke only French to me for the first few years of my life.”

As for his interest in computer science, “I’ve always loved computers,” Philippe notes. “[At LA I] had the chance to take computer science in my senior year.

"I loved it.”

From then on, Philippe says, there was no doubt: “I knew that I wanted to study computer science in college,” and his internship at MITRE this summer “only reinforced that feeling.”

MITRE is a non-profit organization funded by government sponsors to do research and development work in science and technology. For his internship, Philippe worked on two different projects: “One of [the projects] is basically writing a program to replace Windows search that is more efficient and can search in more types of files,” Philippe explains. “The other project has to do with geospatial image analysis. My group re-wrote and improved a program that our sponsor was using to keep track of what parts of the world they had pictures of. The program takes in a set of images with geospatial metadata embedded in them and creates a coverage map to show what areas of the world they have or don’t have imagery of.”

Although acclimating to the work environment proved to be challenging at first, Philippe says that what he enjoyed most about his experience “was the chance that I got to do some real, interesting work in areas that I am really interested in, and getting to meet so many people who share the same interests as me.”

With his senior AP Computer Science class at LA behind him and the amount of technical experience he has gained through his MITRE internship, Philippe says, “I know for sure that this is the kind of work I want to do in the future.”

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