The Department of Computer Science welcomes Brendan David-John as assistant professor for the fall semester. He previously served as a graduate research assistant for the Computer Science & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida.

Brendan received his Ph.D. from the University of Florida and also received a Google Ph.D. Fellowship in 2020.

He recently indulged us by sharing 10 things about himself, including how his research is at the intersection of computer graphics, perception, and eye tracking. He also has been a longtime advocate for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and will serve as a co-advisor of the AISES @VT student chapter to support the campus community.

1. What does your research entail?

I primarily work at the intersection of computer graphics, perception, and eye tracking. My slice of this intersection lies in human-centered computing for virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR) and modeling users in these environments.

My research includes using eye tracking to develop perceptually guided interfaces as well as methods to address privacy and security concerns with the next generation of VR and AR devices. Such devices and their anticipated ecosystem will provide more immersion and sensory inputs than the ubiquitous devices of today and will collect significantly more data with their integrated sensors.

2. What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

My research is driven by using eye movements to level up interaction in future VR/AR technologies while also prioritizing the privacy and security of users. The ultimate goal of my research is to have an impact on industry trends in a positive manner, inspiring immersive technologies that both enhance and protect users.

3. Is there anything else that you're involved in?

During my academic career, I have always been an advocate for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). AISES is a national organization dedicated to increasing the presence of Indigenous peoples in STEM, and played the pivotal role of introducing me to research in computer science as an undergraduate. I will be serving as a co-advisor of the AISES @VT student chapter to support the campus community.

4. Why did you choose Virginia Tech?

One of the biggest reasons I chose Virginia Tech was the commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) and community that I have experienced on campus. Working in human-centered computing, we strive to not just make computers better, but to consider how advancements in technology can actually help users and society at large. Virginia Tech provides an opportunity to work with top-notch students and researchers that share a passion to serve community big and small.

5. What Is your favorite thing about your job?

My favorite part of being a professor is the opportunity to mentor and develop students. A small positive impact that I have on an individual can propagate and evolve into significantly more based on how they will influence others in the future. Over the course of time, a small series of relationships can grow into a larger web of positive influence at an unprecedented scale.

6. Why is your job important to you?

My role as a professor allows me to educate others through teaching and mentorship, while providing independence to explore my passion for research. It is important to have a job that allows me to serve others and my community, while also providing the freedom to innovate using my own creativity and interests.

Just as important is the ability to serve as an Indigenous role model. Becoming a professor demonstrates that not only can Indigenous scholars exist within academia, they can thrive. Academia is far from a perfect environment for diverse and under-represented populations, but there are small steps being made to establish space and place for those that have historically not been present.

7. What do you do to relax?

To relax I enjoy going on walks with my wife and dog, playing guitar, and watching sports (mostly football and hockey).

8. Do you have any hobbies that you would like to share?

My hobbies include running and playing tennis, with a recent interest in learning how to golf.

9. How do you balance your work with your life?

Work life balance is extremely important to both health and productivity. Good time tracking practices are useful to assess how much time is being spent on what, and enables quick reflection on how to prioritize tasks and control overworking with diminishing returns.

Everyone has different work styles and discovering the environments that enable productivity for certain types of tasks is a critical first step. I am also an advocate of disabling push notifications for email and setting aside blocks of time to complete low intensity but highly distracting tasks, retaining the most productive time for deep dives into research or writing.

10. Is there anything else that you would like to share?

I am extremely excited to start my career at Virginia Tech and I have felt welcomed every step of the way. I would also like to share that inclusivity is a key value of AISES @VT, with membership open to any students that support our mission. Please don’t be afraid to stop by our events or reach out if you are interested.