Student Stories: Robert “R.J.” Hickok

Robert "RJ" Hickok

Major: Computer and Information Science

Robert “R.J.” Hickok turned a bad encounter with a computer into useful knowledge.

“When I was younger, I disassembled a computer and ended up breaking it. Specifically, I fried a handful of parts from not grounding properly,” he said. “My dad forced me to fix it. Since then, I’ve had a knack for computers.”

After visiting several colleges and universities, Hickok discovered that College of DuPage had more to offer for less money.

“COD is a blessing in disguise, a low-hanging fruit, the holy grail in the Chicago suburbs,” he said. “I was able to stay at home, save money and work – it looks good on my resume that I was working. I also worked with great faculty members who all have incredible resumes. I was startled when I found out some of my professors’ previous work histories. For me to work with such talented people for as little as I pay in tuition shows the power COD has.”

While at COD, Hickok landed a summer internship at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) researching the intricacies of biophysics. During the internship, Hickok worked with IIT Ph.D. student Sam Bowerman and examined how the tertiary and quaternary structure of a protein changes under certain conditions, such as temperature and sample solution. He said the internship provided a great experience to prepare for his career.

“Internships like this one teach students how to behave and conduct themselves in a safe, professional environment,” Hickok said. “Industry is very unforgiving, so internships like these give a helping hand in the transition from being a student to being a professional in industry.”

Hickok earned his Associate in Science degree with honors and transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Mathematics and graduated summa cum laude. He successfully completed a co-op at Argonne National Laboratory as a support systems/software engineer and advises any young developer to take advantage of the experience. 

He now works for Trend Micro and is excited about the opportunities ahead of him. His advice to prospective students is to think of COD as not “just” a community college. 

“I put COD in my back pocket and almost went to a university thinking, ‘If the university doesn't work out, I could go to COD,’” Hickok said. “I couldn't begin to tell you how happy I am that I decided to stay. I’ve saved a lot of money and have been able to work with and meet some incredible people.

“Whatever you’re interested in, take a class at COD. If you like the people you're working with and you like what you’re doing, you could be potentially taking the first steps into your career field. Whether you’re a 36 or 21 ACT score student, there is an avenue where you can be academically challenged at College of DuPage.”

More about the Computer and Information Science program