Faculty Feature: Seth Polsley

Seth Polsley
Seth Polsley

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 Assistant Professor of Practice Seth Polsley.

What are your research areas or areas of specialty/interest?
Human-computer interaction, with an emphasis on educational applications and intelligent systems. I’ve always been fascinated by how people interact with technology, and given my own love of learning, I have naturally gravitated towards research that focuses on people using computers to learn, from the very early milestones of pre-K children up through advanced topics in college engineering courses. Beyond education, I also engage more broadly with HCI research in terms of how technology can continue to be used to improve people’s lives.

What courses are you teaching this year?
I’m teaching Probability and Applied Statistics this fall through the Raikes School (RAIK 270H), and this spring I’ll be teaching their next two data science courses centered around modeling and machine learning, with an emphasis on industry applications.

How did you first become interested in computing or your specific area of computing?
My first computer was a Macintosh 512k shared with my brother. It was previously my father’s office machine and had been upgraded to an incredible 1 megabyte of memory! I loved that machine because it was so amazing to me what you could do with it, especially the graphical drawing applications, even though it was a little outdated even at the time. Of course, that was just scratching the surface of what we can do with computers, and I continued to be enthralled by technology from that time forward. When I was young, I actually wanted to go into graphic design or computer animation, and it wasn’t until I was applying to college that I started to look more seriously at computer science and engineering, fueled by the desire to know more about how computers worked at a basic level. And here I am today—still learning and still loving this field!

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of computing? What do you enjoy most about those?
Honestly, all of my hobbies are centered around computing! I’m a big fan of computing history, primarily regarding Apple Computer as I grew up with those systems, but all aspects of the development of the field interest me. I’m a bit of a software preservationist and emulation enthusiast; I build and run my own servers for an archival site to preserve some old software titles and contribute to a couple open source communities in that space. I enjoy the people a lot since they have so much knowledge and a similar passion for retaining often-overlooked pieces of our digital history. Opposite my interest in historical computing, I do follow a lot of tech news and continually dabble in new technologies to do my best to keep up with this ever-changing industry.

What is your favorite weekend activity?
I like to work on my small software projects, and in addition to software preservation, I collect some old hardware that I slowly work through repairing and restoring. Occasionally, I do a light bit of gaming with my brother, although that’s pretty limited being that I’m on a Mac!

Where is your favorite place you've traveled?
A group of friends and I visited Nara Park in Japan when traveling for a conference. Not only was it a beautiful time of year, but the buildings, the culture, and the people all made it a wonderful experience. The deer that roam the park are largely friendly, and it made for a very unique experience to interact with them while taking in the significance of the historical sites there.

What is your favorite food?
It’s more of a comfort food, but it’s the time of year my thoughts turn to seasonal favorites and treats, so I’ll have to say banana bread. Most years at Christmas when I visit family, my mother and I will take a little time to bake bread and cookies together to share with family and friends. As much as I love banana bread itself, I have a lot of fond memories of these times.

What is a fun fact or something other members of the school may not know about you?
I actually once worked as a patent draftsman, back when I was still pondering whether to pursue computer visualization. It gave me a fascinating insight into that industry, but I didn’t really miss it after switching to more programming-oriented work. Since all my broad interests can be brought together through the field of human-computer interaction, I haven’t looked back from the path of computer science and engineering!

What is your favorite thing about being a part of the School of Computing?
Having just started this fall, I know I’m very new here, but I can already tell that the people are a special part of this place. The students, staff, and faculty have all been amazing, and I’m excited to get to know everyone better!