Valdosta Daily Times


March 31, 2014

Computer scientist develops love of teaching

VALDOSTA — Growing up in India, Krishnendu Roy didn’t have much programming experience when he graduated from high school outside of playing DOOM and Diablo, but he knew that’s what he wanted to study.

“Computer science was not that big in high school, but at the same time, computer science was taking off as an industry in India,” said Roy.

As he was finishing up his undergrad degree in Calcutta, technology companies came to the school to recruit. One of the largest, TCS, a computer services provider, wanted to hire him, but the tradeoff for Roy was too much.

“I wanted to learn more about computer science ... once you start working, you get more focused into whatever project you’re working on and you can’t branch out that much, especially in services companies.”

Instead of taking the job, Roy applied to graduate schools in the United States, eventually being offered and accepting full funding at Louisiana State University, where Roy stayed all the way through his PhD.

There, he focused on reconfigurable algorithms, along with networking and distributable algorithms, but it was a three-year stint as a teaching assistant at LSU that completely changed Roy’s career plans.

“The experience of being a TA made me interested in teaching.”

He applied for a number of teaching positions, but there was something about Valdosta State University that clicked with Roy.

“I’m interested in being a really good teacher. That was one of the primary things I was looking at ... interacting with students and teaching them starting from the basic computer science sources all the way to the senior level courses.

“I wanted to be in a department that’s supportive of its faculty. It’s not always any one thing you can put your finger on and say ‘Ah, that makes a department good,’ but when I interviewed here, I had a good feeling about this place.”

So Roy graduated on the first Saturday of August in 2009, received his doctorate degree, and then packed everything up and drove to Valdosta the next day to start teaching.

While he’s still interested in programming and app-building, most of his time now is split between keeping up with new developments in the computer science world and working with his students.

His passion for education has only grown since coming to VSU. One of his focus areas in education is diversifying the computer science student population, especially when it comes to pulling in more female students.

“Right now in the United States, the computer science workforce is very homogeneous ... If you can’t attract women to your field, you’re missing out. The majority of college students now are women and the majority of the users of most personal computer devices and social networking are women ... women are using technology more than men, but they are not creating it that much, which means we’re losing out on the talent pool which can develop more creative things.”

Part of his push to encourage more female computer science students is teaching summer camps at VSU for elementary and middle school kids, teaching them basic computer programming and giving them skills they can continue to develop after the camp is over.

The kids are taught how to create basic Android apps, using App Inventor, a program that streamlines a lot of the behind the scenes coding, and also learn to use programmable LEGO robots.

It’s something he’s done every summer since he came to Valdosta and this summer no different, with the Elementary class scheduled for July and the Middle School camp scheduled for June. It gives students an important chance learn about a field that is mostly absent in many schools

“All other sciences, in some shape or form, are taught in schools, but computer science, for the most part, is absent.”

All those years ago when Roy decided to move to the United States to go to graduate school, teaching wasn’t even a blip on his radar. Now, education forms the majority of his work in the computer science field and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Being able to see the difference I’m making when I see students doing something they couldn’t do a month back, getting that sense is very satisfying ... When I get to see that students are doing what I just taught them, that’s a very fulfilling experience. That’s what made me interested in teaching.”

So it should come as no surprise that some of Roy’s favorite classes to teach are the basic level computer programming classes, the ones geared towards students who are coming to the computer sciences fairly fresh.

“It’s a very spontaneous, in the moment thing. You’re teaching something and then you see your students applying that knowledge to do something cool. That aspect is very important to me.”

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