Visiting Professor Brings Industry Experience to Computer Science Program: A Q&A with Susan Helser, PhD

Visiting Professor Brings Industry Experience to Computer Science Program: A Q&A with Susan Helser, PhD

Norwich University Office of Communications

Susan Helser, who recently completed her doctorate in computer engineering, spent eight years working as a software developer before entering into academia as a professor in 2004. That means the visiting professor brings real-world experiences to her research, which focuses on digital forensics, specifically image processing, steganography and identity theft. Helser is also an expert in game-based learning. In January, Helser arrived at Norwich from her home state of Michigan to teach three sections of the programming language C++ this semester. Helser is no stranger to giving special speaking engagements on the topic of identity theft. She also counts among her accomplishments tutoring second-graders in the Flint, Michigan, public schools and other community outreach such as after school computer science programs and something called “Meeting of the Minds.”

Here is Susan Helser in her own words answering some pressing questions from the Office of Communications:

OC: So, which is colder: Michigan, or Vermont?

SH: The temperature in Vermont and in Michigan is about the same at this time of year.  However, from what I’ve learned winter can last six months in Vermont.  This is not the case in the “Thumb” of Michigan where my home is located.  Usually, it doesn’t get “cold” in there until late December or early January.  By the end of March crocuses are peeking out and the first of the fruit trees are blooming. Vermonters have indicated that snow is possible in June.

OC: If it wasn’t the weather, then what drew you to Norwich University?

SH: Cyber security is a serious concern.  The need for highly qualified professionals cannot be understated.  The program at Iowa State University where I did my graduate study is strong.  I wanted to work professionally in a similar environment. Norwich students are serious and committed to their education. The curriculum at Norwich is robust and serves students well.  The opportunity to teach here was a great fit.

OC: What is the single most important trait that someone going into computer science should possess?

SH: The ability to solve problems is imperative. It requires creativity and tenacity.  In technology unexpected issues occur on a regular basis.  Documentation may not exist or if it does, it may be incomplete or erroneous.  Often, there is not “an answer”.  Successful individuals in the field of computer science must be willing to explore new directions and, if necessary, keep at it.

OC: How would you describe the current state of computer science, and where do you see it headed?

SH: It’s an exciting time to be in computer science.  Technology is advancing at an incredible rate.  Smaller and ever more powerful computing is possible.  For example, developments in the medical field such as the new heart pump and state-of-the-art prosthetics improve the quality of people’s lives.   In other areas, significant cost reductions have been possible due to 3-D printers.  If it can be imagined, it can be manufactured and in a reasonable amount of time.  High end graphics such as holograms and virtual reality have applications in education and entertainment. Voice authentication and activation span many fields.  The future is an open book!

OC: What is your favorite part of teaching?

SH: I enjoy helping students to learn.   I work hard in the classroom to be clear as well as with them one on one if they ask for additional assistance.  Multiple approaches may be necessary to get a message across.  It’s rewarding and feels good when students “get it”.  I want to support their educational goals and interests.