Dr. Jennifer Coy joins the College of Sciences and Humanities faculty this fall as the new Department Chair of Computer Science.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where do you call home?
For me, home is where my family is. My husband and I have lived in Indiana for over 20 years, so I guess we qualify as Hoosiers, though my heritage is from Ohio. We enjoy being outdoors and love the rural lifestyle, frequently taking our two middle school daughters on camping trips. We are working on earning state park pins at all 24 Indiana state parks.
Take us on your professional journey. Where did you go to school?
I started my undergrad as a physics major at the University of Toledo in Ohio, but ended up switching to a dual degree in computer science & engineering and engineering physics. I continued on to Purdue University for my Master’s and Ph.D. in physics, where I fell in love with teaching.
My Ph.D. research was heavily computing-focused, which allowed me to transition to the computer science while teaching at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer. I then joined the computer science faculty at Anderson University, where I quickly moved into the department chair position. I enjoyed the small-school environment for 17 years before joining Ball State.
What initially piqued your interest in computer science?
I love solving problems and finding patterns in information, then using computer science to make hard questions manageable. My Ph.D. research involved looking at some of the fundamental equations that govern the universe, which I found to be intriguing.
I applied my computing skills to data collected about the movement of stars in galaxies, and investigated the fundamental physics equation F=ma, which is related to the famous dark matter problem. One possible explanation of the dark matter problem is that Newton’s equation is not quite precise enough when there are very small accelerations. Plus, questioning the status quo is one of my secret strengths, so having the chance to test Isaac Newton’s 1687 equation was a fun challenge to take on!
What is your research focus within computer science?
My interests fall in applying the principles of computer science to solve hard problems in other scientific fields.
I enjoy collaborating across disciplines, working with people on challenging topics. I’m also interested in measuring how students from all backgrounds learn to solve problems using computer science, and the impact of different approaches of course design.
Why Ball State? What drew you to us?
I love how Ball State serves a large population with small class sizes and a liberal arts focus. I have a deep appreciation for the impact that the liberal arts program has on developing a student’s understanding, and how those softer skills have such a large impact on their future career, even in a tech-heavy field like computer science.
What are some of your goals for your first year here?
My goals for my first year here include getting to know the students, understanding their backgrounds and their goals for the future. I also plan to further develop industry-academia partnerships, fostering internships and full-time opportunities for our students.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I love camping with my family, especially at State Parks. I try to run at least two half-marathons each year, and hope that this year the races will be in-person instead of virtual! I also enjoy reading fiction, scrapbooking, and knitting.