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Student Profiles

Sam Sanjabi


I was born in Iran, fled to France at the tender age of 3, and finally settled in Vancouver where I did most of my pre-university education. I'm currently a research student at the Oxford University Computing Laboratory, and have been for the last 2 years working on my doctoral dissertation. Broadly, I'm interested in studying programming languages as formal mathematical objects, and specifically to how that formal analysis can be used to understand practical languages. I didn't always start out this way though, honest!

I first got to McGill in 1994 eager to start studying Theoretical Physics and Cosmology (I had read one too many popular science books in High School I think). After an appointment with an advisor I decided to take an introductory course in computer science -- just to try it out. I was completely new to computers at the time, but found that I quite enjoyed manipulating these strange machines through programming. After doing well in the intro course I decided to try my hand at majoring in computing and was hooked. I went on to complete my Bachelor's in Honours Computer Science (with a minor concentration in Philosophy I picked up due to some early interested in Cognitive Science), and even did a 16 month internship at Nortel Networks in the process. Even in those days, when the the School of Computer Science was much smaller, I found that the range of courses offered were so broad that I could tailor my degree to meet whatever specialist area I was headed towards.

After my Bachelor's, I worked in industry for a couple of years, but I couldn't stay away long. I returned to McGill to do an MSc in the hopes of landing a more research-oriented job in security, and during the degree I had another complete turnaround when I became hugely interested in programming languages as a formal area of study. I decided to apply to Oxford half way through my Master's, and now here I am doing what I love in a beautiful place!

I often look back on my undergraduate years at McGill as being instrumental to getting me here. The program allowed me to foster my interest in the theoretical side of computer science, and in many ways formed the way I approach problems I meet every day here in England. I'm truly a testament to the flexibility and supportive nature of the CS program at McGill: I've changed my career path so many times I've started to lose track.

Like most people with computer-heavy careers, I do quite a bit outside of work to remind myself that the universe doesn't begin and end at the microchip. I try to take advantage of the English countryside by cycling on weekends, and on weekdays I do some boxing to release any pent up frustration I might have with my research. When I have time, I try to travel as much as I can, using the various discount airline services available from the British isles to all destinations in Europe.