On Teaching

Teaching is one of my passions; I consider this a requirement of any university professor. Via teaching, I grow stronger in my understanding of the field. Teaching courses has provided me with deeper insight into visualization, and has generated new directions for my research. In turn, I bring my research results back into the classroom where they are disseminated and refined. This tie between teaching and research is a theme in most of my classes; several projects from courses I have taught have either been presented at international conferences or published as journal papers.

Since coming to Mississippi State in August of 2003, I have worked with the other new visualization/graphics faculty to reestablish a computer graphics and visualization curriculum within Computer Science and Engineering (CSE). In Fall 2003, I started with a fresh set of topics for the Principles of Computer Graphics course (CSE4/6413); I followed with introducing a new course in Information Visualization (CSE8990) in Spring of 2004. In Fall of 2005, I reintroduced the Scientific Visualization course (CSE8413), followed by State’s first Illustrative Rendering and Visual Analytics courses (CSE4/6990) in 2007 and 2009. My largest impact has been, with J. Edward Swan II, the introduction of CSE’s Game Design course in 2008; every Spring since, students have pushed the envelope and demonstrated their efforts at our annual Game Demo Night. I also chaired the effort to redesign our introductory course sequence, requiring an overhaul to the beginning of our curriculum. This modernization was necessary to address current trends in industry and to foster an environment conductive to learning and student retention.

I strongly feel that “doing” is essential to learning any skill; theoretical fundamentals are needed to ground this practice. Thus, my courses focus on both principles and practice. For undergraduate courses, programming assignments—the “doing” element—are not considered done until students complete the requirements 100%. Thus, a student cannot turn in partial work and expect it to pass—only a working program demonstrates the gained skill. For the fundamentals of a course, students must write on-line, collaborative notes summarizing a topic; this forces a student to synthesize the material in order to gain a firm grasp of the concept. These two methods, combined with collaboration via online message boards, have created a successful learning environment: My teaching evaluations have a composite median value of 4.52/5.00 during my tenure here, significantly above the department and college’s values.

As demonstrated above, I am not content with “good enough” in my teaching. I am always keeping an eye out for how to improve courses, and I am willing to try new methods. Each offering of my courses has been different, and I incorporate elements from professional development activities in which I participate, including the prestigious ASEE National Teaching Effectiveness Institute. These efforts have paid off: In 2008, I was inducted into the Bagley College of Engineering Academy of Distinguished Teachers, its highest award in teaching. In 2010, I was also inducted into our university’s Honors faculty, another invitation-only recognition.

Educating my students is only part of my program. I cannot stress enough my belief that my research area—visualization—can play a large role in many disciplines. The human visual channel can be used in many fields to quickly present and understand data. Towards that end, I make it a point to foster cross discipline collaboration in my courses and to perform outreach education to other classes. I have performed several “visualization lecture units” in different courses, including several lectures in Computer Security visualization and a lecture in Power Engineering visualization. I plan on continuing this outreach, with the goal of reaching at least one “outside” course every semester.

Classes taught

32 courses taught since 2001.

Directed theses, projects, & student mentor

Committee Member on 16 graduate committees past and present; advisor to 13 undergraduates past and present.

Dissertation Director

Graduate Major Professor

Undergraduate Research Advisor

Undergraduate Student Program Mentor

High School Research Advisor