Dr. John Homer | Assistant Professor of Computer Science

john homer

Dr. John Homer's career carried him all over the United States before landing him in the School of Information Technology and Computing at ACU.  From combating computer hackers to investigating robotics, his interests have found expression at Abilene Christian University.

I am glad to work here with other professors who care deeply about each student and want to build the best program possible. Everyone in my department is here because they want to teach and they think it is an important calling.

Homer served internships at Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Thunderhead Engineering (Manhattan, Kan.), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Washington, D.C.), and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (Kansas City, Mo.), and worked as a software developer for Shell Lubricants in Houston.

After several years in the private sector and earning his Ph.D. from Kansas State University in 2009, he decided to focus his career on teaching.

 "All of these jobs had their good points, but none of them were exactly what I wanted to do," said Homer, who is now an assistant professor at ACU. "I concluded that a job in software development was not my best path, and decided instead to teach. I've always enjoyed helping others to learn."

Homer has been at ACU for two years and already has made an impact on the School of Information Technology and Computing.

Hindering hackers

Last fall, he was part of a research team, working on new enterprise network protection software, which garnered recognition as a winner of the HP Labs Innovation Research Award. The team was led by Dr. Xinming Ou, assistant professor of computing and information sciences at Kansas State University.

A majority of businesses report being the victim of hacker attacks on their data, and many others have been attacked but don't yet know it, Homer says.

"The hardest aspect of our project was finding a way to correlate the different problems to find an overall level of insecurity," he explained. "We try to eliminate the need for users to calculate the level of security risk they face, which allows them to better identify the weak points in their systems."

Robots at work

In the summer of 2010, Homer and Ray Pettit, computer science instructor, taught a summer academy on robotics, which focused on computer programming using robots.

"I thoroughly enjoyed that experience and feel that the students also benefitted," Homer said. "Whether or not you end up in computer science, anyone can benefit from learning to think clearly and logically toward solving a problem."

Currently, planning and preparing for class absorb much of Homer's time. As a new professor, he believes there is much room for growth and improvement in his teaching. His is particularly interested in examining the methodology of teaching computer science.

"I'm working with my colleagues here to measure and improve the effectiveness of computer science education," he said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to produce some papers on that topic relatively soon."

While Homer was working on his Ph.D., his focus for research lay in risk assessment. He hopes to bring attention to the subject at ACU, and in turn help undergraduate students gain new experiences.

"I'm looking for opportunities to draw undergraduate students into this project, to provide them with the mentoring and experience that will help them as they graduate and go on in their own careers," he said.

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