Brockport Alumnus Continues Success in R&D.
When Marquis Simmons was a boy, his mother grounded him — restricting his field of exploration to his family’s home in Queens, NY. But Simmons’ curiosity could not be bound, and soon he found himself exploring regions further than the confines of his New York borough neighborhood.
“When I was younger, I used to always be outside. Then I got grounded,” Simmons said. “I couldn’t go outside anymore, so I was always on the computer inside my house. I just became fascinated with being on the computer, and trying to figure out how things worked online.”
Had Simmons’ mother known that her punishment would lead to a lifelong passion, software development opportunities, and a promising career, she may have grounded him sooner — the confinement being the catalyst for the 2018 graduate from SUNY Brockport, State University of New York.
Simmons was a long way from home while studying at Brockport. Having grown up in a bustling metropolis, he said getting as far away from his home town was a must when making his college choice.
“I chose Brockport because my first thoughts were that I wanted to go out of state, but out-of-state tuition is insane,” Simmons said. “I wanted to be further from home. I had a couple other schools in mind, but Brockport’s Computer Science program was the best out of all the schools I visited.”
Although Simmons is a technical expert in his field, his down-to-earth personality keeps him humble, sincere, and honest. He doesn’t mince words when he speaks of his fond memories of his college experience.
“I really liked how Brockport is small enough to feel like a family, but it’s big enough where you can meet new people every single day,” he said. “Also, when I visited Brockport, I noticed that the Subway in the Union was being opened. During my senior year of high school, I ate at Subway every day. I said to myself: ‘I’m definitely going to come here.’ That was the icing on the cake. Shout-out to Subway.”
While attending Brockport, Simmons began working on a smartphone app in his spare time. He described the project as a “light-hearted, colorful app for the iPhone.” Unfortunately, Simmons said he was overly ambitious with his vision, and the design ended up failing.
“I ended up bailing on the idea. It did not work out at all,” he said. “This was late in May. In June, I got a call from Sara Kelly, who was the director of Residential Life at the time. She asked me if I was interested in working on the Brockport Amazon Alexa project with Associate Director of Residential Life Craig Ross. That was great because that summer I wanted to make my own app. It failed, but I got another opportunity to make an app.”
Simmons continued working on the Alexa app, alongside Professor Daniel Rogers, during his next semester. For his efforts, Simmons was able to get credit for the project as part of an independent study. He described the app as a “Brockport/Google type of thing,” where students can access of all types of information about the campus using the Amazon Alexa feature on their smartphone or Alexa device.
“It provides information such as the time dining halls open and close, what’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner — brunch included,” Simmons said. “This isn’t just the dining halls: It tells you the time The Square closes, Jitterbugs, etc. It can read the Daily Eagle to you. It can tell you about the events that are happening on campus. It can give you the location of a building, and then send it right to your phone.”
Beyond Simmons’ expertise in software development, the alumnus had experience working as a Resident Assistant (RA) for three years while at the College. This combination of knowledge fit perfectly into developing software that is easy to use and is useful, and that also addresses the needs of student residents on the campus at Brockport. Simmons said his experience as an RA was paramount to his development into who he has become.
“I think in 20 years I will definitely remember my time as an RA, because that’s how I spent the majority of my time at college,” he said. “I was an RA in Thompson Hall — that’s the smallest building. They only had 150 residents that lived there, so being an RA there for three years, I got to meet 450 students. I would have never met that many students if I wasn’t an RA. I think the relationships that I had with those people definitely helped me out so much. Becoming an RA is the reason I was able to do the Alexa project, which could be the reason I got my job today. It opened up so many doors for me.”
Before graduating, Simmons was offered a job at Syracuse Research Corporation (SRC) as a software developer. He started working for the not-for-profit research and development company a month after graduating.
“We’re government-contract based, so we do a lot of work with different government customers,” he said. “Right now, I’m working on radars and sensors. We do electronic work. Security clearance is required.”
Simmons said he always imagined himself working at a “more colorful, fun company,” but his appreciation for the work has developed since starting the job in 2018.
“One thing I like about my company, even though it’s a very serious field, is we help people directly,” he said. “I really like the idea of being able to possibly save someone’s life. I didn’t see myself going into the field, but I’m happy about it.”
As for the future, Simmons hopes to expand into a leadership role at his work. He has also been working on another iPhone app in his spare time — this one focusing on his passion for music.
“This one is going to be less intense,” Simmons said. “My first app idea failed because it was such a big idea, so this one is going to be a lot smaller and more catered to music.”