When I was an undergraduate psychology major at the University of Notre Dame, my statistics TA recommended that I consider adding the Computer Applications (CAPP) supplementary major to my course of studies. He suggested that having the programming skills taught by CAPP professors would “open doors for me.” He could not have been more correct. After enrolling in the CAPP program, the following semester I obtained a competitive, paid research assistantship through the Psychology Department. When I asked the sponsoring professor why he had chosen me to work in his lab, he said simply, “because you are a CAPP major.” The programming experience I gained as a CAPP major, directly through coursework in 3 different programming languages and indirectly through various special studies projects, continued to open doors for me throughout my career in both industry and academia. Even my summer job changed and I went from working on a lawn crew for a local hospital in my hometown, to working in their engineering department, programming a speech synthesizer to announce the floors in the hospital elevators and assisting with their computerized inventory application.
After graduation from Notre Dame in 1983, I spent a year programming on 3 research projects and included that research experience in my graduate school applications which led to my graduate school advisor at NYU offering me an additional stipend to be a system administrator for his lab. Throughout graduate school, my CAPP training served me well, as I programmed simulations of my advisor theoretical work- the first social scientist to utilize a new supercomputer at the University of California- Irvine. Furthermore, all of my summers were funded from programming work for my advisor and some consulting clients. I graduated from NYU with a doctorate in mathematical psychology in 1991.
In my first position in industry, I was called upon to put my CAPP skills into practice as I was the software architect of a computer-based tutoring system which was eventually deployed to train 700 new employees each year. Over my 15 year career in industrial research and development centers of Fortune 500 companies, being the psychologist that was able to program made me a valuable asset to the human-computer interaction groups in which I worked and led to the deployment of several successful software development projects in production environments.
My current position at the University of Notre Dame as a Research Assistant Professor, came about, in no small part, from my close ties to one of my former CAPP professors, who suggested that I might be able to fulfill a role in the Psychology Department that very difficult to fill because of the unique combination of skills required. My present position requires a blend of my training and experience in experimental psychology and the development of computer applications, as I serve as a research professor and computing consultant for the department, as well as a member of the CAPP faculty.