Career Profiles

Explore profiles of real professionals and students to learn how they got started, what they love about computing, and all about the fascinating work they do.
Robert Aboukhalil

Robert Aboukhalil

Ph.D. student, Cold Spring Harbor, United States

Degree(s):

B.Eng., McGill University
Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (in progress)
“Computing is not so much about computers as it is about solving problems.”

My first encounter with a computer was in 1999: I was 10 years old and my parents had just bought our first PC. Once they pressed the “on” button, the monitor lit with the "Windows 98 Setup” screen; I’ve been hooked on computers ever since.

Reading books and websites, I came to understand how computers work and how to write software. I also enjoyed reading about evolution and genetics, which led me to work on summer projects during my undergraduate degree. There, I explored diverse topics in the life sciences and applied my computational knowledge to interesting biological problems.

During my undergraduate degree, I enrolled in a ‘Design Principles & Methodologies’ course, teaming up with 4 other students to build two robots that collaborate to perform a delicate task: lifting a heavy object.

One of our robots navigated a field autonomously while avoiding obstacles and looking for the red balls scattered across the field. Once a red ball is found, the first robot communicates via Bluetooth to the second, and arranges that they meet.

Once the second robot joins the first one, they lift the ball together, after which one of them drops the ball into a designated container.

I believe that science without communication is irrelevant, which is why I made it one of my endeavors to communicate science to the public in an engaging way. When I’m not “computing”, I'm the Editor-in-Chief of Technophilic Magazine, a science/engineering magazine published at McGill and CSHL.

I'm also a Science Writing Mentor for the Journal of Young Investigators, where I guide students in creatively communicating science to the public. I have taught interactive classes at the DNA Learning Center to middle and high-school students about the science behind common molecular biology experiments, while guiding them through laboratory experiments they undertake.

Technophilic Science Communication Conference organizers

Robert giving talk about antimatter at NASA Headquarters

Robert giving talk about antimatter at NASA Headquarters

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Turing machine
Alan Mathison Turing
Alan Mathison Turing

Did you know that computing has been used in military espionage and has even influenced the outcome of major wars? Alan Mathison Turing designed the code breaking machine that enabled the deciphering of German communications during WWII. As per the words of Winston Churchill, this would remain the single largest contribution to victory. In addition, he laid the groundwork for visionary fields such as automatic computing engines, artificial intelligence and morphogenesis. Despite his influential work in the field of computing, Turing experienced extreme prejudice during his lifetime regarding his sexual orientation. There is no doubt that computers are ubiquitously part of our lives due to the infusion of Turing’s contributions.

Cursor
James Dammann

If you have used a word processor today, moved your mouse on your laptop, dragged an object around on your smartphone, or highlighted a section of text on your tablet, you can thank Jim Dammann. In 1961 during his second year at IBM and just one year after completing his PhD, Jim created the concept of what today we all take for granted -- the cursor. This idea he documented in utilizing the cursor within word processing operations.

After retiring from IBM, Jim went on to inspire future generations of software engineers at Florida Atlantic University. His work there too demonstrated his creativity for he spent considerable effort enhancing their software engineering program by integrating ideas and feedback from local industries into the University curricular. Today, Jim lives in the Westlake Hills west of Austin Texas and spends most of his time in his art studio. He wrote and published The Opaque Decanter, a collection of poems about art, which provided a new view at part of art history.

King's Quest
Roberta Williams

Video games immerse users in a world of high tech thrills, stunning visuals, unique challenges, and interactivity. They enable users to become a warrior princess or a gruesome ghoul, create a virtual persona, or even develop worlds that other gamers can play on. But before the games of today became reality, they were the dreams of a few innovative individuals.

Roberta Williams is considered one of the pioneers of gaming as we know it today. During the 80’s and 90’s along with husband Ken Williams through their company On-Line Systems, she developed some of the first graphical adventure games. These included such titles as Mystery House, Wizard and the Princess and the popular King’s Quest series. Williams also helped introduce more girls and women to the world of gaming by bringing games developed from a woman’s perspective to mainstream market.

Gordon and SenseCam QUT
Gordon Bell
Gordon and SenseCam QUT

Gordon Bell is a pioneering computer designer with an influential career in industry, academia and government. He graduated from MIT with a degree in electrical engineering. From 1960, at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), he designed the first mini- and time-sharing computers and was responsible for DEC's VAX as Vice President of R&D, with a 6 year sabbatical at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1987, as NSF’s first, Ass't Director for Computing (CISE), he led the National Research Network panel that became the Internet. Bell maintains three interests: computing, lifelogging, and startup companies—advising over 100 companies. He is a Fellow of the, Association of Computing Machinery, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and four academies. He received The 1991 National Medal of Technology. He is a founding trustee of the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA. and is an Researcher Emeritus at Microsoft. His 3 word descriptor: Computing my life; computing, my life.

First computer mouse
Douglas Engelbart
Douglas Engelbart

In 1967, Douglas Engelbart applied for a patent for an "X-Y position indicator for a display system," which he and his team developed at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park, California. The device, a small, wooden box with two metal wheels, was nicknamed a "mouse" because a cable trailing out of the one end resembled a tail.

In addition to the first computer mouse, Engelbart’s team developed computer interface concepts that led to the GUI interface, and were integral to the development of ARPANET--the precursor to today’s Internet. Engelbart received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Oregon State University in 1948, followed by an MS in 1953 and a Ph.D. in 1955 both from the University of California, Berkeley.

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