To most, the job of a professor involves nothing more than going to class and giving a lecture. Many would even argue that they don’t even bother grading assignments, as this is often the job of a Teachers Assistant. However, this is because in reality, most faculty members have many behind the scenes responsibilities that they spend their time with.
For example, most professors, across all disciplines, perform some sort of research. For some fields, such as biology or chemistry, this research is explicit; they research new concepts and applications of their field. Yet for computer science, research still occurs. Professors spend their time analyzing data structures, new security tactics, and new coding languages.
In addition to research, many professors release their knowledge through other programs, such as special talks or papers that detail the subjects that they have learned about, or the new concepts they are working on. For computer science professors, this seems to often include work towards new software and protocols, as well as talks at large events to speak on their area of expertise.
One faculty member at UCSD that seems particularly interesting is Serge J. Belongie, whose work focuses on visual analyzation by computer systems. For example, his work in progress will be able to take data from video camera recordings and make it searchable and categorical, much like how we have databases of other content. Serge’s ultimate goal for this type of system would be to work with homeland security to analyze recordings of events in warfare, thereby helping the army gather information and eventually help put an end to the war on terrorism. This would greatly increase the capability to bring security to public places like airports, making the world a significantly better place to live in. I find this work particular interesting due to it’s bridge between disciplines; the idea that you can analyze visuals with just a machine seems mind blowing, and reminds me that machines are becoming as capable as human when extraordinary humans put their efforts into such machines.
Another faculty member with an interesting expertise is Russell Impagliazzo, whose work with cryptography focuses on using mathematical implementation to make complicated problems for computers to crack that thereby increases security. In theory, there are types of math that can be solved intuitively by human logic, and types that can only be completed by challenging sequences of steps. Russell’s job is to create complicated problems that can be solved trivially, but when analyzed by a cracking program, will be simply too hard to actually analyze and crack. In a sense, his field is a game of making riddles; what can be solved, but is so hard to solve that no machine could?
With such focuses in mind, I would like to ask some of the faculty how they ended up getting into their specific area of expertise? Did they simply take classes until something sparked their interest and then followed it, or did they know what they wanted the whole time? Did any of them predict that they would be professors, or did they expect to use their degree elsewhere?
In the end, there is so much to wonder… and most curiously of all, it reflects so many questions I have about my future to ask as well. Hopefully, the answers await.