About the Instructor
CSC 261 Artificial Intelligence Fall 2009

My answers to the questionnaire

  1. My name is Jerod Weinman. For this course, I prefer to be called any of the following: Professor Weinman, Dr. Weinman, or (in egalitarian Grinnell College style) Mr. Weinman, whichever you prefer.
  2. I studied Computer Science and Mathematics (double major B.S.) at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a similarly-sized school in Terre Haute, Indiana that focuses on teaching engineering, math, and science.

    My PhD in Computer Science came from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I specialized in computer vision and machine learning. My dissertation research involved designing algorithms for a system to help the blind navigate by reading text from images (such as street signs and storefronts).

  3. In addition to this course, I am teaching CSC151, "Functional Problem Solving in Scheme."

  4. Unlike today, when I started with computers, it was still unusual to be first exposed to them as a one year-old, which I was when my dad brought home his first Apple ][. This is the same computer I first learned to program on in junior high. (My first was a quiz program about baseball trivia.) I was excited by the opportunity to practice creative thinking and problem solving that could be applied to whatever other interests were at hand. As an undergraduate, an introductory course on image processing led me to my research area where I am often faced with reverse engineering a different kind of "computer"--the human visual system.

  5. As always, I look forward to getting to know my students and their approaches to learning about computation.

  6. Even if you are not a Computer Science major or choose not to take any further CompSci classes, my biggest concern is that you will have a greater understanding of the fundamental problems faced by intelligent agents and their designers, and how to go about analyzing such problems and potential solutions.

  7. You can ask me about the landmark of my hometown in Nebraska, my earlier involvement as a college radio DJ, my stint as a frontman for a punk band in a previous life, or whether I've managed to resuscitate my hobby of playing fingerstyle guitar, which has been dormant since writing my PhD thesis.

  8. What questions do you have for me that have not already been answered?

    Did you learn any smalltalk in college? I dabbled a bit in ruby this summer and am leaning towards smalltalk but my brother says JAVA is better. Should I learn smalltalk anyway?
    I didn't learn Smalltalk in college, and I still don't know much about it, unfortunately. You will learn Java in CSC 207 (should you take it). After seeing the third major paradigm we teach, picking up a new language is generally pretty straightforward, with the major differences being how particular concepts are implemented or the particulars of their syntax, in addition to what libraries or capabilities they provide by default.
    Why are you teaching this course (e.g. why are you interesting in AI from a computer science stand point?)
    Software that learns is intrinsically interesting to me, and I find it a useful way to solve many important and interesting problems using computation. (Such as those I address in my research.)
    I have not heard the name "Weinman" before, what is the origin of that name?
    It's German. My great-great grandfather emigrated to the U.S. in the 1880s, (when we also lost a second "n" from the end of our surname).
    Why did you decide to specialize in computer vision and machine learning? What drew you to these particular fields?
    I first got interested in image processing by taking a math course in college. I loved the duality of the concreteness of seeing the pixels, but also the abstract representations through which they might be understood. I quickly learned that some of these representations may not be intuitive, however, and they often are best when some form of learning is applied to them. In short, I love being able to "see" what I do, and trying to "teach" a computer to understand. I'm driven by the fact systems exist that solve this problem; we just haven't figured out (yet) how to build (or perhaps teach) them.
    What's your favorite programming language?
    That's difficult to answer without a context, so I'll say the one I use the most: Matlab. Sure, it has its quirks, but it is generally speedy (for the right operations), is getting better at using higher-order (first-class) procedures, and is fantastic for rapid development and testing, which is key in my area of research.
    What drew you to Grinnell?
    I wanted to teach and work at a small liberal arts college with sharp students like all of you. I also love living in a small town where people know and care for each other, and this is doubly true of the college community, too.
    How was your post-MAP summer?
    All too short! (I spent most of it preparing for this class). I did, however, get to visit the farm my great-great grandfather (on the non-Weinman side) settled in the 1860's in eastern Nebraska. My uncle lives there now.
    Front man for a punk band, eh?
    Indeed.
    Jerod Weinman
    Revised 1 September 2009