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Student loves challenges of computers

Computer science

Zachary Elakel is a computer science major at Lansing Community College.  Photo by Mallory Stiles

Mallory Stiles

By Mallory Stiles
Editor in Chief

LCC student Zachary Elakel, 21, is a computer science major who prefers to keep to himself, BUT he is also a trilingual dual-citizen who travels the globe as often as the average American grocery shops.

“I was born in Michigan back when my parents used to go to LCC,” Elakel said. “I lived here for two or three years before we went back to Tunisia. It’s an Arabian country in North Africa. I decided to come back by myself after high school to pursue my degree.

“Growing up there, I learned Arabic and French as my main languages. English is my third language.”

Tunisia is breathtaking, but can reach up to 140 degrees during the summer months. Cars often overheat and trees spontaneously combust. Luckily for Elakel, there was always water close by.

“I lived in a city near Carthage,” he said. “I was two minutes from the beach. I had a more Mediterranean life where I grew up with my family and friends going to the beach every weekend. We would sit a lot, play volleyball, bring food. It was just a calm, nice life.”

Elakel is currently taking 16 credits at LCC, one of which is a computer science class taught by Professor Mark Bowman. The professor said Elakel shows a lot of promise in the field.

“In the most of technical fields, there are students that can get things to work without understanding why they work,” Bowman said. “He is one of the students that gets things to work and understands WHY they work.”

Elakel said his need to understand the why’s was more of an accident than anything else, and he still laughs a little when remembering the whole thing.

“I started learning when I was 10 or 11,” Elakel said. “My dad bought me a small desktop and I, being curious, touched some stuff and broke it. I didn’t want to leave the room until I fixed it, so I spent like seven, eight hours unplugging and re-plugging stuff and understanding how a computer works, trying to make it work again.

“From that night, I just kept on going and learning about computers.”

He said although he is in a growing field with a lot of job security, he is constantly fascinated by technology. He said he sees it as something to embrace rather than run from.

“Love it or hate it, computers are the future,” he said, sounding certain. “We are not in the old age anymore and we just have to accept it is what it is. People can either ride the wave or get hit by it.”

After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Elakel said he would like to continue on and get his master’s degree in machine learning, which is a branch of artificial intelligence that focuses on using data and algorithms to imitate the way humans learn.

Elakel said this field of study is the key to making certain critical infrastructure improvements that, in the end, could be life-saving.

“I won’t be the guy cutting other people’s jobs but I will be like, ‘Hey, let’s improve other fields with AI,’” he said. “For example, the medical field.”

Elakel, while trying to improve entire global healthcare system, still finds time to be an attentive son to his two loving parents, as well as an involved big brother to his younger brother, Elyess, age 12.

“We are a very close family,” he said. “We have a group chat and talk there every day. We are a close, small and honest family.”

In his spare time, Elakel plays online games with his friends back home and works almost every day. He can tell you exactly what a jellyfish sting feels like, and how to catch one.

Elakel said his favorite movie is “Interstellar” and his favorite quote comes from Michael Hopf’s post-apocalyptic novel, “Those Who Remain.” It is as follows:

“Hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, and weak men create hard times.”

He likes the quote because he said it will always be relevant and it helps him remember exactly what type of person he is.

“I like struggling,” he said. “I choose the harder paths.”

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