Luther College Chips

Miller and Ranum to retire from computer science department

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Professor of Computer Science Brad Miller ('86).

Professor of Computer Science Brad Miller ('86).

Photo courtesy of Luther.edu

Photo courtesy of Luther.edu

Professor of Computer Science Brad Miller ('86).

Dirk Umbanhower, Staff Writer

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Professor of Computer Science Brad Miller (‘86) and Professor of Computer Science David Ranum (’83) are set to retire at the end of this academic year.

According to Miller, the interactions with students are the most enjoyable part of his job and what he will miss most.

“I have really enjoyed getting to know the students over the years,” Miller said. “Watching them grow and seeing them start out with no computer science experience and ending up with amazing skills is really gratifying and humbling.”

Data science major Aaron Zerfas (’19) enjoyed his time in Miller’s classes.

“I had [Miller] for Data Science 120, and he did a very good job at being there when we needed him but also giving us the space to do our own work,” Zerfas said. “He was nice to talk to and approachable both in and outside of class. He’s very smart and he can bring a lot to the world with that.”

Brad Miller graduated from Luther in 1986 and came back to teach in 2003. Before teaching he had worked as the Vice President of Product Development for Net Perceptions, a system software supplier whose customers included Amazon and J.C. Penny. The company led the field until the internet bubble burst back in 2001. In retirement, Miller will still work on technology projects and plans to focus more on his latest project, the Runestone Interactive.

“The Runestone Interactive is an online interactive textbook environment that we use here at Luther for some classes,” Miller said. “In addition, around 20,000 students a day use it in both high schools and colleges all around the world. My goal is to make that two million. I like to think the mantra of Runstone is democratizing textbooks for the 21st century.”

Photo courtesy of Luther.edu
Professor of Computer Science David Ranum (’83).

Ranum is officially retiring after nearly 40 years of being involved with Luther, both as a student from 1979 to 1983 and as a professor for 28 years beginning in 1990.

“During that almost 40-year period, I’ve had the opportunity to be taught by; to teach with; to work with; and to teach an amazing group of faculty, staff, and students,” Ranum said. “We have four generations of Luther alums in my family and I am excited that my youngest daughter will be starting her time at Luther in the fall, so I’ll still be around campus as a parent.”

Ranum has not been teaching for the past two years, however, as he has been on sabbatical leave. During that time period, Ranum has been working with IBM in Rochester, Minnesota with the Watson project and the Mayo Clinic. He plans on continuing that work in retirement.

“In 2015, I was given an opportunity to work with IBM Watson Health and the Mayo Clinic on a partnership focusing on applying modern artificial intelligence and natural language processing techniques to problems in clinical oncology,” Ranum said.  “It’s extremely fast-paced and challenging work but very rewarding.”

With Ranum having been on leave for the past two years, not many current students at Luther had him as a professor. Computer science major Aaron Herman (‘18) had Ranum his first year in the program’s introductory courses.

“He was really good at making it seem simple to learn and he taught us a lot of the core concepts,” Herman said. “He helped me get my internship, which was a very beneficial experience and overall he was a very good professor.”

Because computer science is a growing major the department will need to adjust and replace both Miller and Ranum to keep offering the same courses in both computer and data science. Professor of Computer Science Kent Lee and the department have already been taking this into consideration.

“We’ve been able to adjust to David’s absence already by hiring [Visiting Assistant Professor in Computer science] Roman Yasinovsky, who has been teaching the systems courses and has been learning to teach our internet programming course,” Lee said. “I will also be taking over data science courses that Brad has typically taught.”

The department will also get help from four new hires next year. The department has hired Alan Zaring, a professor from Ohio Wesleyan University, to teach computer science courses next year.

The other two hires are Executive Director of ITS and Staff Instructor of Computer Science Paul Mattson, who will now be teaching full-time in introductory Data Science and Database design courses and Professor of Mathematics Richard Bernatz who will be teaching Intro to Computer Science courses next fall. The only position left to be hired is a tenure-track position for Miller’s job, a search that Lee expects to have finished by Thanksgiving this year.

“Computer science and data science are in great shape at Luther,” Lee said. “We are thankful that the administration realizes how popular these two majors are with students, and so while we will miss Brad and David, I know that our program will remain strong going into the future.”

Lee also said that he has enjoyed working with Ranum and Miller over the years.

“David and Brad were both great guys to work with,” Lee said. “David had excitement, a good attitude, and a good breadth of skills, while Brad brought lots of internet programming experience that he was able to share and he was also a very good generalist. I am happy for both David and Brad, and they are both graduates of Luther so I am sure we’ll continue to see them from time to time.”

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