49: Non-traditional route to computer science PHD – Dr. Witty of UNL

Dr. Witty earned a PHD in Computer Science from the Illinois Institute of Technology and is an Associate Professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and prior to that was a researcher at Iowa State University.

Dr. Witty grew up in Thailand and has had many jobs prior to becoming a professor, he worked in restaurants, as a mechanic, and as a translator and speaks Thai and English. One of Dr. Witty’s core strengths is always being curious on how things works.

His undergraduate degree is in Philosophy and after buying a $3000 computer in 1994, he decided he wanted to learn how they worked so he took a class in Computer Architecture, specifically for what he wanted to know and that got him hooked. He had no real background in programming languages and was difficult and challenging. He received a lot of mentorship and guidance from Dr. Morris Chang, a professor at the University of South Florida. One of the main reasons Dr. Witty got his PHD is that he likes to educate people.

What really has Dr. Witty fired up is AI and now having compute power to really implement the dreams of AI.

Many time students come into college with one idea and then end up changing, college allows you to change. Many students lack clarity on what they want, but don’t quit college because there are classes you don’t like it helps to build who you are. If you decide to get your masters, one thing that is different is all the students there tend to be very smart and one of the main differences between grad students is some have perseverance and grit and major challenges do not get them down, and that is a critical trait to be successful.

Dr. Witty’s best advice is to have clarity in what you do and a personal habit for success is being detailed orientated.
His favorite phone app is YouTube and the book he recommends is Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

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