A Computer Science Maven
By Rashad McDowell
A desk clear of any clutter, marred only by the presence of a couple papers. Chairs set neatly in front of that desk. Two computer screens lit up in the background top off the office of Dr. Michele Weigle. It’s hard to understand what a neat desk has to do with a passionate appreciation of computer programming, unless you ask the lady who’s been immersed in the field since the heyday of personal computing.
“You can see from my clean desk. I like to have things nice and organized. Just the very sequential processing of the computer and having things nice and organized appealed to me,” Dr. Weigle explained.
Michele C. Weigle, Ph.D, noticed a budding love for computers back in elementary school. In the 80’s, personal computing had grown in popularity. These were the days of the Atari, Pacman and Frogger, the birth of the gaming industry. It was also a time where computer programming classes were being extended to children and sparking the computer boom of the modern day. These children were to be the future of computer science.
Back then, Dr. Weigle was exposed to basic programming around the 4th grade. Her interest in computers prompted her parents to buy her a Commodore 64 personal computer.
“I kept trying to get my mom to let me write a program to print out her grocery list,” says with a chuckle.
The early days of the digital revolution saw boundless horizons. Well, boundless in so far as the gaming industry seemed to have a place for just about anyone who could write a line of code. Dr. Weigle, on the other hand, didn’t really see herself as a game programmer. What she knew for certain was she wanted to continue exploring what all computer science had to offer.
As an undergraduate, Dr. Weigle studied at Northeast Louisiana University. She graduated with her B.S. in Computer Science in 1996. From there, she continued on to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, still studying Computer Science. She attained her M.S in 1998 and her Ph.D in 2003. She would return to her alma mater for a time as a visiting professor.
Teaching is where Dr. Weigle found a place to combine her love for computers and her desire to impart her knowledge to others.
“I’ve always been interested in what’s the best way or clearest way to present information. That’s one reason I like teaching,” she explains, “What you’re doing when you teach is you read the material and you understand it in your head. Then you have to think about how to organize and present it so that someone else understands.”
Dr. Weigle taught at Clemson University from 2004-2006 as an assistant professor. ODU was lucky enough to add her to its faculty after her time at Clemson and she’s been teaching here since.
As a professor, Dr. Weigle has taught a wide range of courses in the computer science department at both the undergrad and graduate level. Some of these courses include Intro to Networking, Web Programming, Cyber Security and Information Visualization (a course she developed and currently teaches). In addition to the classes she teaches, Dr. Weigle has also helped develop course at the graduate level, to include a graduate certificate program for Cyber Security.
When she’s not teaching, Dr. Weigle contributes her time to various research projects in her field. She leads the Archive What I See Now project, in collaboration with fellow faculty member Dr. Nelson. This project focuses on web archives and how to make them more accessible to less technologically savvy people. For their efforts, they’ve received funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
“Think we’re doing a lot of cool work. It’s all related to trying to help make web archives useful to everyday people,”
Her research interests include web science, information visualization and web preservation, to name a few. She’s worked on projects in vehicular networking and even a recent project on the architecture of wireless networks. A short conversation is all that is necessary to see how deep her passion for the field of computer science runs.