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Thoughts of a Recent Graduate: Andy Berns

Image of Berns; Computer Science assistant professor - University of Northern Iowa; in Real-Time Embedded Systems Laboratory

Andy Berns is a 2012 PhD graduate. He is currently an Assistant Professor in Computer Science at University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa. He also manages the Department's Real-Time Embedded Systems Lab. As a PhD student, Berns was a UI Presidential Scholar.

Can you tell us what you've been up to since graduating with a PhD in 2012?

After spending the spring of 2013 teaching at the University of Iowa, I became an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UWL) in the fall of 2013. At UWL, I had the chance to work with some great faculty members and students, I taught a variety of courses from introductory computer science to algorithms to software engineering, I supervised several Masters of Software Engineering projects, and I helped advise students groups like the cybersecurity club. In the fall of 2016 I moved to my undergraduate alma mater, University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and became an assistant professor there. Here also, I  have the pleasure of teaching a variety of courses, as well as managing the Real-Time Embedded Systems Laboratory. I really enjoy working at a regional comprehensive university where I have the opportunity to teach a variety of courses while still performing my own research with the assistance of our students.

Can you tell us a bit about your dissertation?

My dissertation (Self-Stabilizing Overlay Networks) looked at how we can build overlay networks (networks built using logical links) that are capable of eventually operating correctly no matter what transient fault occurs, or what arbitrary initial state the distributed system is in. Common examples of overlay networks include BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer file sharing programs. With the growth of the Internet, many overlay networks now consist of a large number of computers, and these computers are of course prone to failure and lack a central point of control. Self-stabilizing overlay networks aim to give systems such as these a way to quickly form a correct network to allow, for instance, efficient communication or resource discovery. My dissertation presented a generic framework for self-stabilizing overlay network creation, as well as a time- and space-efficient algorithm for creating a particular network.

What advice can you give current graduate students in the CS department?

My first piece of advice is to start thinking about your goals early on in your graduate school career and work at tailoring your experience towards these goals. For instance, many regional comprehensive universities would like to see evidence that you can be a good teacher and also evidence that you have a growing research agenda that can involve the students at their institution. Some other types of schools may look for more evidence of a strong research agenda, or may care more about evidence of good teaching. My advice is to think about what you want to do, and then talk with your advisors to help them guide you in reaching those goals!

My second piece of advice, though, would be to be open to other opportunities that you may not have thought about! While in graduate school you may find your goals change. While you are searching for jobs, you may find openings from a variety of institutions in a variety of places, and might even find industry jobs that sound more appealing to you than academic jobs. Don't hesitate to explore these opportunities, even if they aren't exactly what you were planning on earlier.

Advisors: Sukumar Ghosh | Sriram Pemmaraju

Other "Thoughts of Recent Graduates" at this link.