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Professor of Computer Science
2 East South Street
Galesburg, IL 61401-4999
At Knox Since: 2001
William and Marilyn Ingersoll Chair in Computer Science
What inspired you to pursue research on the history of cryptology?
I was nearly a history minor in college (one course short) and I like reading history. While in graduate school I read David Kahn's seminal The Codebreakers, which is the classic history of crypto. That started the spark of wanting to know more and dig deeper. When I came to Knox I started by doing an author attribution study of the fiction of American cryptologist Herbert O. Yardley. That got me fascinated in Yardley's life and I've been working in the general area of American crypto between the first and second world wars ever since.
Technology is constantly changing. How do you adapt your teaching methods to remain up to date?
In computer science we are constantly talking about our pedagogy and what we're teaching and how to do it; what are more effective ways of getting our students to learn the discipline. Because things are changing so fast, all three of us are constantly having to be students ourselves, learning new languages and new ways of looking at problem solving using computers. Just in the last couple of years we've been adding topics in parallelism to nearly all our CS courses because all the new computers, tablets, and smartphones all have multi-core processors in them so you can now get the machine to do two or four or eight things at once, rather than just one. This has us really re-thinking many of our courses, and is really an invigorating and exciting new turn in the discipline.
How has the time you spent working in software engineering influenced the way you approach your teaching and your research?
My time in industry gave me a real appreciation for the whole development process and how software is designed, created, tested, and released. It made me appreciate the role of teamwork in many areas. It also convinced me that small teams are the best way to develop software and that sparked my interest in small team process.
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