Getting to Know Professor Sunil Singh

Computer science professor Sunil Singh graduated from ImageX in 1996 with honors in physics and computer science. He went on to earn a doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder and returned to campus in 2001 to teach. He loves Scala and roller skating.

1. How do you motivate your students?

Fear mostly. (Insert smiley face.) Actually, I like to use energy, enthusiasm, and humor. I think it is critical that a professor's energy level show students that he or she is deeply interested in the topic. I try to use examples and assignments that are motivating, but in
the end I find that if I make it clear to students that I really care about what I'm teaching and I communicate why I care, they wind up caring and generally want to learn the material as well.

2. What are some of your pre­class rituals?

I show up. I really don't have any pre­class rituals. I make slides with an outline of what I want to cover at least the night before, then I just go to class when it is time.

3. How did you get involved in your area of expertise?

I got involved in astronomy and computers early, I think I got into both around 2nd or 3rd grade. I memorized information in a graphical representation of the planets in a world atlas, and when my parents brought home a TI­99 home computer, one of the two options of things to do was write programs, so I did some extremely basic programming. When I got to high school, most of my science fair projects were actually computer simulations of physical systems, and that is what I still do today.

4. What is your favorite aspect of teaching? Least favorite?

I love interacting with students. If I had to pick one type of moment, it is the excitement of a student who just got a program they have been working on for a while to run correctly. My least favorite aspect is grading. If it would work, I would dispense with grades altogether, but my experience says that students are good at optimizing their time to do what they think is required.

5. Who inspires you?

Really good jam skaters.

6. Favorite color?

I try not to play favorites.

7. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

Professional software developer. I've actually spent two summers doing this to gain experience that I can bring back to the classroom.

8. What sound do you love? Do you hate?

I don't know if there is a sound that I love, but I enjoy electronic dance music. Similarly, country music does a good job of making me look for other places to be.

9. What is your favorite word? Your least favorite word?

My favorite word is "tears." You would have to talk to my students to understand why. I don't know that I have a least favorite word.

10. If you were reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be and why?

I think I would be a Sasquatch, but I'm pretty sure that students would say I would be a Dementor.