Alumni in Action

RJ Nowling

Computer Science & Engineering Ph.D. student

RJ Nowling
Class of 2010
Majors: Computer Science and Mathematics
Where are you now and what are you doing?

Computer science & Engineering Ph.D. student at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana. My research involves developing new simulation methods for studying protein folding.

If you are employed, what does your job entail and how has your Eckerd experience impacted your career?

My job consists of doing research and assisting with teaching classes. My day-to-day research activities including reading and writing papers, implementing mathematical models in computer programs, and running simulations to verify whether the models are correct. Eckerd provided a strong foundation for my work in graduate school. My thesis work with Professor Mauch and research work with Professor Debure allowed me to work very closely with both professors and receive significant personal attention through which I was able to develop important research skills. I became acquainted with reading research papers, writing formally, and giving presentations on my work to general audience, which has proven invaluable for graduate school. Through my math courses, I became comfortable interpreting and analyzing mathematical equations and models, which has enabled me to do the work I'm currently doing.

When I assist with classes, I develop and write assignments and solutions, give lectures, grade students' homework, and tutor students one-on-one. My professors at Eckerd provided invaluable role-models whom I often think of and try to mimic when preparing materials for classes or working with students. My experience at Eckerd has instilled respect for a quality education for undergraduates in me, and I try to bring those same principles to my teaching at Notre Dame. As a result, I've won an award from the Kaneb Center and my department for being an outstanding teaching assistant. I also encourage my students to think about the interdisciplinary nature of computer science and try to instill interests in fields outside of computer science such as math, the other sciences, and humanities. I want my students to see the larger picture and how everything fits together - an attitude very much reminiscent of the education I received at Eckerd.

What unique or special opportunities did your Eckerd education provide and how have they impacted your life?

I was given multiple opportunities to conduct undergraduate research and lots of guidance and advice. I also had the opportunity to take classes with Dean Chapin, the Dean of Faculty at the time, and Dean Annarelli, the Dean of Students, both of whom are excellent teachers and fountains of wisdom. In some cases, even the staff such as Walter Moore in ITS provided as much guidance as the faculty! As I said previously, Eckerd provided many wonderful role models whose influence affect me on a daily basis.

Eckerd also provided wonderful opportunities to build friendships which have lasted beyond college. I'm still very close with my friends Robyn, Kris, and Gena, all of whom are in different fields and living very different lives. Their friendships help me to see the world in a broader way, which can be very beneficial when focusing on such a narrow range of topics and way of life as is common in PhD programs. As a result of those friendships, I find myself learning about new and interesting things everyday that have nothing to do with my career.

Overall, Eckerd made me feel like part of a family.

What makes Eckerd so special or why does it stand out to you as a great college? What does it mean to you now that you have been away for awhile?

Eckerd offers students a broad view of the world, compels students to think about how they can contribute to the world (locally and globally), and gives them the courage to make those contributions. Eckerd not only gives their students valuable skills, but shapes the person and their character as a whole.

Why did you choose Eckerd? What advice would you give students who are considering Eckerd?

I chose Ecked over University of Florida because I wanted a smaller school where I felt like I would be able to get to know everyone else, it was close to home (Ft. Lauderdale), and it had the programs I wanted.

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