Faculty Feature: Witawas Srisa-an

Witawas Srisa-an
Witawas Srisa-an

Each week we're featuring a Q&A with a member of our faculty in the School of Computing. Get to know some of our professors! This week we're featuring our newly appointed director, Witawas Srisa-an.

Name: Witawas Srisa-an
Title: Director, Professor
Research Areas: Programming languages, runtime systems, software engineering and cybersecurity, with a focus on leveraging programming language concepts and runtime properties to ensure dependability and security in complex software systems.

How did you first become interested in computing or your specific area of computing?
This was back in the '90s. I recently bought a PC. It was running MS DOS. I then upgraded it to Windows 3.1, and its transformation from running a very boring, command-based MS DOS to having attractive graphic display and mouse mesmerized me. I began to wonder what the magic inside that box was. It also made me appreciate the power of software. So, I decided to go back to my old university where I got my B.S. in Science and Technology in Context (an area of Philosophy) and take a computer architecture course. That experience stirred my interest in computing. As I continued to pursue more knowledge in that field, it also opened an opportunity for me to go to graduate school. During my M.S. study, I had a better understanding of a professor’s ways of living, and it fueled my desire to pursue Ph.D. and subsequently become a professor.

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of computing? What do you enjoy most about those?
I have several hobbies but two of my most favorite hobbies are working on old cars and playing tennis. At one point in my life, I wanted to be an auto mechanic. I also have passion for automobiles made by Alfa Romeo. So I spent almost a year helping out an independent Alfa garage learning how to service those cars myself and save some money. This hobby stays with me until now. When I need mental relaxation, I like to work on old cars in my garage. During the pandemic, my son and I brought an old Alfa back to life from 20 plus years of neglect. I also enjoy playing tennis. It relieves stress, provides good exercise, and maintains any flexibility that my body has left. I try to play at least twice every week.

What is your favorite weekend activity?
Cooking, working on cars, and coming to campus to catch up on things I could not get done. I would then watch some TV shows at night (Motor Trend channel, surprise surprise!). I also like to hang out with family and friends on some weekends.

Where is your favorite place you've traveled?
It is hard to pick one, so I’ll give you three. I really enjoyed my trips to Japan, Italy, and Argentina. In the U.S., I really like San Francisco. My research work when I was an Assistant Professor used to take me to San Francisco/San Jose area once a year.

What is your favorite food?
I like food from many Asian countries. This is probably because I grew up having them. I don’t eat red meat much anymore, so fish, tofu, grains, and vegetables are more common in our household. I love French toasts and raisins bread from a local bakery. I also love to assemble my salad from large salad bars; these bars, however, are getting harder to find in Lincoln since the pandemic.

What is a fun fact or something other members of the school may not know about you?
When I was an undergraduate, I wasn’t sure about my career paths. However, I was very certain that I did not want to be a professor. Thus, it is ironic that I have been working as a professor for the past 21 years. So, students, a lot can change in the next 10 years. Just be ready to embrace those changes and make the best out of them.

What is your favorite thing about being a part of the School of Computing?
It’s the people. It is natural for us to want more if we enjoy what we are doing. I’ve been enjoying my life in Lincoln and UNL for over 20 years now. The number one thing that I enjoy the most is the interactions that I have with my colleagues in the school and others around campus. I really enjoy interacting with my graduate students, students who took my classes, and students who stop by my office just to chat about things that they like or their recent struggles. Sometimes, these little moments forge unforgettable memories. Over the years, these moments bring me joy and make me want to do more.