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Meet Dr. Daniel Pittman

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Ritchie School Communications Team

A Teaching Career Born from a D & D game

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Prefer reading over video? Check out the transcript below. 

Sedak Puri 

Hello, my name is Sedak Puri. I'm a current junior here at the University of Denver. We're joined today with Dr. Daniel Pittman, who is going to tell us about himself today. Over to you now. So, tell us kind of a little bit about yourself.

Dan Pittman 

Oh, yeah. So I'm a new professor of practice here in the computer science department. I've been with DU a long time though. I started here first in 2005 as a masters student, I got my PhD in 2012. And I've been working in industry since 2007. So, when I got my PhD, I always knew I wanted to teach one day. And so I got this opportunity to come in as professor of practice. So I decided to leave industry later this year, and then come here full time.

SP

Very cool. Yeah. And kind of how did you decide on the University of Denver in specific? 

DP

Well, you know, it's kind of funny story. I was born and raised in Pensacola, Florida. And that's where all my family is. And at the time, the reason I moved out of Pensacola was not the brightest reason in the world, it was for a girl. Right? So that was why I left. And I was originally going to be in Wyoming, at the University of Wyoming. I got a call, you know, I didn't have an assistantship there in Wyoming, I was going to take student loans, I got really fortunate. DU, at the last minute, got an additional TA slot. I had applied here, but there was no assistantship at the time. And so they contacted me at the last minute and asked me if I could be a TA here. And I accepted I came here in like two days after I got the phone call. And it's really become my second home. Right? So like said that was 14 years ago, when I got that phone call. And being in here you know, getting full time, getting my master's degree with two years. And then working another five with my advisor, get my PhD by 2012 it just really did feel like home away from home for me, the professors here are really nice. That classroom size is small which is nice to have that kind of personalized engagement. And it really just made me feel really comfortable here. So it's kind of where I always wanted to be. 

SP

Yeah. And you kind of mentioned your PhD. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

DP

Yeah, so my PhD was in networks as applied to games.  

SP

-okay.

DP

And you know, I did some research population studies for World of Warcraft,

SP

-okay.

DP

which is actually really fun. You know, it's kind of nice to be able to play games and do research on them. So it's kind of nice to be given that opportunity. So we wanted model player movements between zones as current peer to peer networking. So we're trying to see if we can model how often players move between zones. And often they log on and off, how long they were in the game, things like that, we could try to decide the churn and the load on a peer to peer system. Because the way it had been modeled up until that point have been very simplistic. We want to give them a realistic model of that. And also looked at how to do trading card games like Magic the Gathering, that kind of thing, without a centralized server, like how could we shuffle a deck, deal cards, to repudiation that you want a game, that kind of thing without having a centralized server. So that was kind of the focus of my PhD, but as times have gone on, I've gotten more and more interested in security. So now, as I'm here as a full time professor, I'm looking at cybersecurity research.

SP

Very cool. And kind of along with that, what kind of classes as you can be teaching here at the University of Denver?

DP

So I've been teaching as an adjunct for the last two and a half years. And great story about that. The reason I teach is Dungeons and Dragons, right?

SP

Yeah.

DP

So I play D&D with my advisor, Chris. He's the chair of the department, and Jeff Edgington, a professor here. We played D&D for years. And we had an opportunity, Chris was teaching web development one, we wanted to teach a web development two class. None of the professors really had that skill set to help bring that in. So I've been doing web development professionally, you know, full stack web development. More of a server side guy, but I've done UI development in the past. And Chris was talking he said, this'll be a great opportunity for you maybe to adjunct get to learn some things about teaching, right? That's something I wanted to know whether or not I'd enjoy, as I said earlier the reason I got my PhD was hopefully to teach. So I said, Hey, this is great. You know... And I love the fact that came out of D&D game because it's just a great story. So if you're asking what my hobby is, D&D to this day is still something I'm passionate about because I feel like my whole career came in place because of it.

SP

I'd like to thank Dr. Pittman here for his time and we'd like to welcome you to the Richie School of Engineering so, we look forward to having you here.

DP

Thanks. Glad to be here.

SP

Thank you so much.