Computer Science’s Subramaniam: 50 Lectures in His 50th Year

Fifty Java User Group Lectures in One Year

Birthdays are milestones, meant to be celebrated.

Venkat SubramaniamVenkat Subramaniam, instructional professor of computer science in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, is celebrating the year leading up to his 50th birthday by doing something he loves: traveling around the world, lecturing to Java user groups.

“I had this crazy idea of celebrating 50 years on this planet by touring 50 user groups,” Subramaniam said. “The support for this has been overwhelming.

On Track for 50 Lectures

Lecturing to Java user groups is not new for Subramaniam; in any given year, he usually gives 12-15 lectures. This outreach began nearly 20 years ago, well before he was selected as an Oracle Java Champion, which honors leaders and technical luminaries who demonstrate a commitment to giving back to the developer community.

This year, Subramaniam is well on his way to achieving his goal of 50 lectures. Already, he’s spoken in cities ranging from Delhi, Dublin, Stockholm, Detroit, Houston and Kansas City. Lectures include topics on functional and reactive programming, Java updates, as well as practical tips on how to make programming better.

“The absolute passion that user group community leaders have is inspiring,” Subramaniam said. “The amount of time they’ve put in to make these lectures happen, for the sake of community, is just amazing.”

Teaching: Distilling Complex Ideas

For Subramaniam, who has been teaching in the Department of Computer Science since 1993, these lectures inform his teaching, as well as his own programming skills.

“One skill I value is that of taking very complex ideas and distilling them, to make them approachable,” Subramaniam said. “When I go to speak, I can identify the gaps in my own understanding, and, in the process of filling in these gaps, help others as well.”

Daily Code Reviews: Learning Through Practice

For the University of Houston courses Subramaniam teaches, his strategy is to conduct daily code reviews, where students submit their work in progress, get feedback, and then revise based on feedback. In this way, students can learn the collaborative nature of software development, as well as gain practice in revising code.

“I don’t want to just teach students some knowledge, I want to change how they think,” Subramaniam said. “That’s what I want to teach them in my courses, not just how to learn concepts but how to approach problem-solving.”

- Rachel Fairbank, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics