I grew up in the small town of Erath in rural southwestern Louisiana as the eldest of six children. I am the first of my family to complete a four-year degree and the first to earn an MS and a Ph.D. On my father’s side, I am descended from the French Acadians who once lived in Nova Scotia. My mother’s family hails from Unión de Tula in the Mexican state of Jalisco.
While growing up, my favorite pastimes were reading, running, quiz bowl, and drawing and I imagined one day becoming a hand-drawn animation artist. During high school, I discovered programming for the first time and began to experiment with using computers to make art. I studied Computer Science at the then University of Southwestern Louisiana. During my junior year, I interned at Los Alamos National Lab where I developed a program to render animated visualizations of molecular obrital interactions. It was so much fun to code a Silicon Graphics workstation and learn about marching cubes to form 3D surfaces of the molecular orbitals. My advisor encouraged me to seek out graduate programs in computer graphics, which led me to North Carolina State University.
For my masters thesis, I worked in the NCSU Precision Engineering Center to develop an interactive 3D simulation of counter grinding. During my doctoral studies I joined James Lester’s IntelliMedia group, in which artists, educators, and computer scientists created immersive learning environments. My dissertation applied a combination of Artificial Intelligence planning operators with constraint-based optimization to automatically generate animated 3D explanations.
Two memorable moments from my past professional career include working at a startup company in the North Carolina Research Triangle and teaching half of the computer science curriculum in a two-person department at Millsaps College. At LiveWire Logic, I worked alongside former grad school colleagues to apply machine learning and natural-language parsing to produce a highly accurate customer-self service chat bot. At Millsaps College, I learned how to apply active learning to challenge and engage students.
I currently enjoy teaching at College of Charleston, where my research has evolved from computer-aided cinematography and art to using the act of creating movies to motivate excitement to study mathematics and computing, especially in underrepresented populations including women and minority students. It gives me great joy to help young people find their vocation and place in Computer Science.
In my free time, I delight in exploring the Lowcountry of South Carolina camping with my wife and two children.