Spotlight on new faculty — an interview with Gurjot Singh

Interview by Kaidi Ilves

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Becton College of Arts & Sciences welcomes Gurjot Singh to the Department of Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics. Singh holds a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering from Mississippi State University.

Gurjot Singh
FDU: Why Fairleigh Dickinson University?

Gurjot Singh: The focus of my research has been on enhancing learning through the use of technology and I wanted to apply those principles to an institution with a good-sized undergraduate population. FDU was an excellent fit, because it is more focused on student learning, rather than research, and I felt I could make a significant impact by joining the University.

FDU: Tell us a little more about your position…

GS: I am an assistant professor in computer science. Because of my background in augmented reality, as well as in game design, I will be getting more involved in leading department growth in this area, and teaching FDU students about these specific fields.

FDU: What got you interested in this field?

GS: In 12th grade, I saw this movie—“The Matrix.” I thought it was the most amazing thing to enter virtual realities and play with artificial things, which ignited my interest in computer science. While searching for master’s and doctorate programs, I got connected with a professor at Mississippi State who specialized in augmented and virtual realities. I worked mostly on perceptual issues, designing better interfaces, creating models of augmented reality systems and figuring out problems they may face. I later did post-doctoral work at Virginia Tech with Trinity Interaction Group, shifting focus to cognitive and human interaction issues. Even with a perfect system, there are reasons for people not to like these applications, and I wanted to understand this better.

FDU: You mentioned that using technology could improve student learning. Could you tell us a little more about that?

GS:  When students are active participants in “walking through” a lesson, and not just passively observing a lecture or reading a book, they retain and understand materials much better. In one of my studies, we had students walk through a historical building and collect “artifacts” that were relevant to the lesson, and there were major differences in comprehension against students who went through a typical lecture. People are becoming more and more screen-focused (think iPads, smart phones, etc.), and I am hoping we can deploy some of these techniques to enhance classroom dynamics at FDU, and hopefully ignite similar change in other educational institutions as well.

FDU: What are you hoping your students take away from your classes?

GS: Common sense and creative problem solving. You really need to pay attention to me in class, because everything builds upon the previous materials. If you stop paying attention, you’re going to get lost… and I will also be calling on you more! I am trying to set my classes up to empower my students to think about the most logical ways of doing things on the computer and finding answers to problems they’re facing.

FDU: What is one piece of advice you would like to give to your new students?

GS: This is where your life begins! Be confident in yourself – it doesn’t matter what your background is, whether your parents went to college or not, or if you come from a renowned private school or a rural high school. What matters is paying attention and working hard now.