Computer engineering professor Shiu-Kai Chin '75, G'78, G'86 may be one of the few people willing to admit he was attracted to Syracuse because of the weather. True, as a New York City high school student he'd visited on a gorgeous summer day. But no matter how big a bluff the weather pulled on Chin, it didn't matter. Chin had found a home in Syracuse University's visionary computer engineering program.
Computer engineering professor Shiu-Kai Chin maintains an active presence on campus and in the community. In addition to teaching, research, and volunteer work, he directs the CASE Center at SU.
Today, nearly three decades after that first glimpse of Syracuse, Chin's enthusiasm for SU and Central New York remains unwavering. And since last summer, when he was named director of the New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Computer Applications and Software Engineering (CASE) at SU, Chin has been on a mission to advance the area's high-tech economy. "I love it here and I'm a believer in the Central New York area," he says. "We have excellent technical talent and I've grown up with the cluster of related information technologies here, so it's fun to contribute to the technological life of the community."
Before joining the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science faculty in 1986, Chin spent 11 years as a senior engineer and program manager at General Electric's Syracuse lab. While there, he successfully designed a nuclear fuel-rod monitor, a memory manager for a heart imaging machine, and a radar position-control processor. Amid the hectic pace of the corporate world, Chin remained involved in academia, earning master's and doctoral degrees from SU. Ultimately, the idea of teaching and research enticed him into leaving industry for higher education. "Engineers in industry oftentimes don't have the luxury of inventing new knowledge," he says. "As a faculty member, I'm contributing new knowledge to society and giving back to a community that has given me so much."
Chin specializes in computer information security and works in that area for the Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome, New York. He applies mathematical logic to various levels of designsoftware, hardware, networks, etc.to ensure their secure operation. "This is a long-term and difficult problem," he says. "Proving you have a secure system raises many of the same questions about how you guarantee that assurance."
Chin, however, is recognized for more than his technical expertise. He's received numerous teaching awards and was named a Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence in 1997. He volunteers with the Alternatives to Violence Project at Auburn, New York, state prison, teaching conflict resolution skills to inmates. He also chairs the All-University Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Committee. "As faculty, we have to ask ourselves what our hopes are for our students and how we know if they're being achieved," he says. "We also have to ask, 'What are the lessons of lasting value that we teach our students?'"
In conversation, Chin moves comfortably and thoughtfully among topics as diverse as the impact of the Internet and virtual communities on education to the importance of social responsibility, ethics, and diversity. Last spring, as part of his Meredith professorship, he organized a multidisciplinary course on conflict resolution and diversity with social work/women's studies professor Diane Murphy, engineering colleague Ed Stabler, and social work graduate student Xenia Becher G'98. The experience proved challenging and enlightening for everyone. "It was a unique course," Becher says. "There was clearly an ongoing process of self-discovery and understanding different perspectives."
The course impressed computer engineering student Josh Weissman '00 and prompted him to join Chin on a research project last summer. "He has a great way of communicating and interacting with people and a teaching style conducive to learning," Weissman says. "He's a brilliant mana great people person, engineer, and scientist. It's a golden combination."
Chin's actions as a teacher and technologist reflect his view on the value of understanding and appreciating others and their opinions. "What we do defines who we are," he says. "We are an increasingly interconnected society. How we use information and our ability to make quick, wise, ethical decisions will become more and more important."
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