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Brainerd native distinguishes himself at NDSU while working full time

Peter Wells of Brainerd was recently named a “student of distinction” by the North Dakota State University computer science department -- an honor bestowed to 15 of the department's 600 students -- while working full time as an Android software engineer in Fargo. Submitted photo

Peter Wells can add another accolade to his resume when he graduates from North Dakota State University, a resume already including working full time as a software engineer.

The Brainerd native and Brainerd High School graduate was recently named a "student of distinction" by the NDSU computer science department—an honor bestowed to 15 of the department's 600 students.

"I plan to work in mobile development when I graduate," said Wells, who was on the high school robotics team. "I feel the market for Android developers will continue growing for a while."

Between his sophomore and junior years at the university, Wells was selected for an internship at a software development company in Fargo making Android applications. He did so well he is now a full-time Android software engineer while continuing to attend classes at NDSU.

"I started working full time at the end of this last summer and with the balance of school and work, it was really stressful ... so it validated all the hard work," Wells said of the award.

The Bachelor of Science program at NDSU was the first in the region to be nationally accredited by the Computing Science Accreditation Board Inc.

"My oldest brother, John, went to NDSU, and my second-oldest brother, Joseph, was at Notre Dame, so those were the two schools I applied to because when they went for a tour, I went and toured with them, and it was close enough to home without being too far away," Wells said.

The NDSU junior is the third oldest in his family—he has six siblings. His mother Cathleen is a housewife and his father is Rockwell Wells, an attorney with the Crow Wing County Attorney's office in Brainerd.

"I was in swimming up through about ninth grade and then I joined robotics after that," said Peter Wells, who graduated from high school in 2015. "We went to the regional competition each year, but we never actually won ... but it was fun though."

Wells was a programmer on the robotics team, which he thought was "cool" despite admitting he did not know exactly what he was doing at the time.

"When I randomly got stuff to work, it just was super satisfying, so I decided to go college and learn what I was actually doing," he said with a chuckle.

Students of distinction will receive a certificate, but there is no monetary award. The students were notified weeks ago but their announcement to the public was made Thursday.

"They are recognized by their peers and instructors as student leaders—in a variety of areas—and this award serves to acknowledge their accomplishments," Professor Jeremy Straub said.

Straub manages the student awards program for the department, which offers doctorate degrees in computer science and software engineering, three master's degrees and two bachelor's degrees. Wells is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science.

"What we are kind of looking for is kind of the star students that may not be perfectly hitting the criteria of lots of other awards that the university has," Straub said of the selection process.

"There's no real specific criteria. It's not something where you do 'X' and 'Y' and 'Z,' and it's automatic. It starts with somebody on the faculty or administrative staff nominating the person and then we review all of the people that were nominated."

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