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School of Engineering

Faculty spotlight: Marty Allen

Monday, October 28, 2019
Marty Allen, Associate Teaching Professor and Director of Online Programs in the Department of Computer Science, applies computing to the sciences and the arts.
Marty Allen, Associate Teaching Professor

Marty Allen, Associate Teaching Professor and Director of Online Programs, received his doctorate in computer science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2009, where he worked in artificial intelligence and theoretical computing areas. While his undergraduate and first graduate degrees were in philosophy, he became interested in computer science as an opportunity to do collaborative and interdisciplinary research, recognizing the ways in which computing can be applied in subjects spanning both the sciences and the arts.

The following interview took place with the Department of Computer Science.

How did you get into Computer Science?

I got into CS, formally, after I was in the process of doing my doctorate in philosophy.  I had been interested in programming since I was young, and was doing a lot of formal logic and mathematical stuff like category theory at the time, and had an affinity for the theoretical aspects of the field.  At the same time, I found philosophy a pretty solitary occupation; my students sometimes laugh at me, but I got into CS because I liked the idea of working with other people!  I also liked the fact that since computation is useful everywhere, I can essentially think about anything I like and still be doing computer science.

Why did you come to Tufts?

While I had been happily teaching and living in Wisconsin, my wife and I had always intended to retire to New England, and it eventually became apparent that, to be closer to her family, it was better if we made that move before retirement age actually set in.  When I was looking for schools, I concentrated on places that focused strongly on the education of their students, undergraduate and graduate, and that was something that stood out about Tufts.  When I visited here, I really enjoyed everyone that I met, faculty, staff, and students, and was taken with the sense of excitement and purpose I found here.  It made my decision pretty easy in the end.

What aspects of your background would you like to highlight?

I think the fact that I didn’t have an undergraduate education in CS is a highlight, honestly.  It has helped me in the classroom, as it has helped me see where things might not be as obvious to students as they are to experts.  I also use my own process as an example for my students of how to face intellectual challenges.  I like to tell them that if I can get myself through doctoral studies without a CS background, they can get through my class with one.

Can you tell me something about yourself that's unrelated to CS?

I am really into birds.  Although time is scarce during the semester, when I get the time, I like to bust out my binoculars and see what I can see.  This summer, during a vacation in Scotland with my wife, I finally got to see puffins in the flesh while we were up in the Orkneys, which was the highlight of the trip.