Computer science major named top scholar

brandon GannicottBrandon Gannicott ’13 has been named the 2012 Sommerville Scholar, the highest academic award given by the College in recognition of a distinguished academic record.

A computer science major with a minor in philosophy, Brandon says those courses of study fit together well. “I like the combination because it suggests that I’m a thoughtful engineer,” he said.

A Westover Honors student, Brandon sees technology as a means of improving humanity. That belief helped steer him toward his senior thesis, which he describes as investigating “the current dysfunctional state of U.S. patent law.” Brandon believes, perhaps somewhat counter-intuitively, that intellectual property law actually stymies creativity.

“When you can freely copy ideas, it can lead to more innovation,” he said. Brandon cites the example of the fashion industry, where existing ideas are freely built upon to inspire new designs. He said Bill Gates believes the software explosion could not have occurred if intellectual property laws had been aggressively enforced.

His senior project for computer science will be to design and publish an Android application that will allow college students to access student databases through their smartphones. At LC, for example, it would allow students to go to MyLC and check their financial accounts, class schedules, or make an appointment at the Writing Center.

Brandon plans to go to graduate school to study human computer interfaces, a discipline dedicated to improving the human experience with computers.

He carries a cumulative GPA of 3.90 and has been on the Dean’s List every semester of his LC career. Brandon is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi national honor societies, the Association of Computing Machinery, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

He participated in a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program at the University of South Carolina in 2011, where his research led to a published paper titled, “A Multi-Agent System for Parking Coordination and Management.” The paper, which was presented at the IEEE SoutheastCon 2012, works on an Android smartphone platform using GPS technology to help motorists find available parking spots. While the technology cannot pinpoint a specific parking space, it can tell you where there are more likely to be free spots, Brandon said.

A resident of Appomattox, Brandon has also done some less challenging computer work. Since his freshman year, he has been a member of the Information Technology and Resources staff doing “grunt work,” which primarily involves moving computers and installing software. He got a jump start on the ITR job thanks to his local connection; his mother, Dr. Priscilla Gannicott, is a professor of chemistry at LC.

For the last three years, Brandon’s was a familiar face on the student-run campus television news program, “Eye on LC.” He served as president his junior year and said he learned a lot about video editing, leadership, and getting volunteers to work on a time-consuming project.

When he’s not pursuing academic endeavors, Brandon enjoys hanging out with friends, listening to underground rap musicians including Atmosphere and Aesop Rock, or playing Magic: The Gathering, a deck-building card game.

Four other seniors were finalists for the Sommerville Scholarship. They are: Abigail Burnette, a Westover Honors economics major from Chatham, Va.; Brogan Franklin, an English major from Madison Heights, Va.; Samantha Meiser, a chemistry major from Keysville, Va.; and Shelly Milks, an exercise physiology major from Orange, Va.