When John Egan was 15, panic set in. The right side of his face was suddenly paralyzed. He could not speak, the muscles of his face were motionless – he wondered if it was a stroke.
He then recalled his mother’s condition, which caused facial paralysis: Bell’s palsy. While many people fully recover from this nervous condition in a matter of weeks or months, some take longer or never fully recover.
For Egan, the onset of this condition overnight changed his life. The right side of his face noticeably sagged and he lost control of his lips and mouth. The most profound change, however, was the loss of the ability to communicate. In the prime of his youth, Egan could not speak, and yet he faced an endless stream of glances and questions about his condition that he literally could not answer.
“It turns out he nods, and ‘um-mm’ can only get you talking,” Egan said.
It took Igan years of hard work to re-learn to speak – to relearn muscles that have not restored their full nervous function. Even now, this experience haunts Egan. While his condition is now almost impossible to notice, any hiccup in his speech in his mind sends him right back to those days of the initial struggle.
“Accidental speech impediments or the inability to say a word instantly make me twitch and frown to make sure it’s still moving,” he said.
Although Egan’s hardships were challenging, he said it also helped positively shape his future – motivating him to truly find his voice while working in Fresno.
“This experience gave me a deeper understanding of the importance of communication through the frustration I felt when I was misunderstood,” he said. “Personal expressions and conversations with others are now a significant movement in my life as I try to make up for all the lost ideas and topics that I never had time to talk about. My time is in Fresno and within Department of Informatics gave me plenty of opportunities to discuss things with colleagues and build a sense of confidence while communicating. ”
Egan will graduate from Fresno in May with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He achieved a 4.0 grade point average each semester and was listed as president for four years in Fresno. His studies end with College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics opening ceremony in 5pm Friday, May 20thin the center of Save Mart.
But for Egan, finding his voice is the biggest victory here – and he uses computer science to help others find their voice.
Big plans in graduate school
After graduating from school, Egan plans to earn a master’s degree in computer science in Fresno by studying natural language processing and real-time communication using artificial intelligence. He is also interested in combining facial image processing and hardware acceleration to provide real-time lip reading.
After vocal lessons as a student, Egan was able to discuss group projects with his colleagues and present their work to a wide audience. Egan’s design team worked on creating a new algorithm for multiplying matrices that could use a computer’s graphical processor to speed up calculations. He has co-authored a research paper on a project he hopes to publish. He also recorded a presentation of the group’s work for the High Impact Practices Symposium on campus, “something I never thought I would be able to report a few years ago,” he said.
At the same event, Igan’s group presented its website (word of mouth) that is designed to connect employers with potential contractors, self-employed people and local businesses through personalized profiles and reviews. The project received a certificate of “Excellent Performance” at the symposium.
A key component is Egan’s natural language processing model, which uses machine learning to determine feedback moods as positive, negative, or neutral.
“Even without knowing exactly what someone said, you could still understand their general mood and what they thought,” he explained. “This study of machine learning and language processing has opened my eyes to the possibilities of creating and improving communication between people who use computer science and human agent teams.”
Egan’s professors were impressed by his work and dedication. Dr. Shi-Si “Alex” Liu, professor and chairman of the Department of Computer Science, noted that Egan “is a diligent student with good academic ethics. His performance is among the top 1% of the class in 2022 … Under [Eagan’s] Leadership, his team always completes all aspects of software development in excellent quality and serves as a role model for other teams ”.
Liu also notes that Egan’s work is at the forefront, his latest project integrating NFT (irreplaceable tokens), the first project in the department to do so.
Dr Athanasios Aris Panagopoulos, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, said Egan “demonstrated excellent problem-solving skills and analytical skills, as well as excellent academic drive and curiosity”.
Although communication is still sometimes a challenge for him, Eagen is committed to finding ways to help people communicate more effectively through technology.
“It’s still hard for me to communicate,” he said. “I never know what exactly to say and how best to articulate my thoughts, but now I see it as a positive contribution to my understanding of how people struggle with communication and how computer science can correct awkward silence.
Celebrating the 2022 issue
In the coming days, FresnoStateNews.com will cover the stories of inspiring students who will graduate this spring. Opening ceremonies will be held on May 20 and 21 at eight universities and colleges of the university, as well as several festive events. commencement.fresnostate.edu for more information.