Jr. Faculty Focus: Ali Erkan

Ali Erkan, assistant professor of computer science, has been teaching at Ithaca College since 2004. He teaches Introduction to Computation and courses on data structures and algorithms, networks, and computer organization.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at Ithaca College?
The students appreciate hard work. They are also very open. During the past four years, I tried a number of approaches (some unconventional) in teaching computer science topics and mathematical concepts. Some of these worked, some didn’t. But falling on my face was never a big deal since my students understood and acknowledged what had gone into what they saw. I also think Ithaca College students have a good sense of camaraderie.

What is your teaching philosophy and how do you bring it into the classroom?
I think listening to the students is extremely important. In the classroom, this ranges from reading their faces as I teach new material to encouraging them to challenge what I present. It is also important to somehow tap into their curiosity. In the ideal case, my job is to motivate them to ask the right questions and make it possible for them to figure out the answers.

What is your area of research?
Within my discipline, I am very interested in networks, especially their structure and the manner by which they grow over time. I also enjoy working in interdisciplinary contexts, where my primary interest is to help people use computation effectively. Right now, almost everyone (from social sciences to natural sciences and even humanities) has a lot of data that needs to be processed. The new generation of computational tools makes it possible for everyone to do this processing on their own, and I’d like to help people do that.