Bachelor of Science in Computer Science

Computer science professor has dream job

Computer science professor Michael Stewart

By Caleb Ayers, CISE

Computer science professor, Michael Stewart, finally has his dream job. “I really enjoy teaching and working with students who have an interest in computer science, said Stewart. “I want to find where our interests overlap and work on projects together.” Stewart, who joined the Department of Computer Science in the fall of 2017, says JMU has provided him an opportunity to do just that, with the support of colleagues who are also passionate about teaching Computer Science and working directly with students to explore their interests.

Stewart discovered his passion for computers at an early age. In middle school, he interacted with media assistants and learned about different computer programs. Particularly, he remembers learning to use Hyperstudio—a precursor of PowerPoint—a program that allowed him to create his own content, initiating his the desire to create with computers. He even went on to help with the middle school’s website. His interest in computers increased in high school so it was only natural to further his studies in college.

Stewart received his bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina (UNC) in 2007, where his experience as a student drew him to the teaching profession. “My professors were great mentors, they really made an impact on my life,” said Stewart. His professors at UNC helped him find opportunities to serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant, research assistant, and to develop and assistive technology.

After graduation, Stewart worked as a traveling consultant, improving his knowledge and skills; but his desire to return to school—and ultimately to teach—remained strong. After two years of consulting, he enrolled in the Computer Science Master’s Program at Virginia Tech because of its focus on teaching. He obtained his Master’s Degree in 2013 and is in the process of completing his Ph.D. Degree, specializing in Human Computer Interaction (HCI).

As the focus of his dissertation, Stewart created an app called “Colisten” which allows users who are spatially distant to simultaneously experience the same music. His goal is to see if this connection between people, even though it doesn’t involve direct communication or physical nearness, can foster feelings of togetherness. (The local NPR station, WMRA, recently did an in-depth story about Colisten.)

Whether for research, conferences, a study abroad program, pleasure, or a combination of these, Stewart relishes every opportunity he has to travel internationally. He has visited five of the seven continents—excluding Africa and Antarctica—and has been to countries such as South Korea, Australia, France, Ecuador, Canada, Spain, and India. In the future, Stewart hopes to create and coordinate a CS-oriented study abroad program.  

In addition to his responsibilities as a new professor and finishing Ph.D. student, Stewart is also a family man. He enjoys time with his wife, three-year-old daughter, nine-month-old son, and a dog named Barfi. He also likes spending time with his broader family playing board games and video games, cooking and eating, and creating software and hardware with his friends. 

The world of technology has changed drastically since Stewart first became interested in computer science, but he appreciates the fast-paced nature of the field. Even more than that, Stewart enjoys the collaboration and relationships with his colleagues. “It’s just a community of people that are building these new tools that you can utilize, and they’re just passionate about sharing it with other people.”

Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2018

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