U professor Joe Konstan is committed to sharing with students how technology can enhance human potential

U professor Joe Konstan is committed to sharing with students how technology can enhance human potential, making our lives easier, richer, and more productive. For this and many other reasons, Konstan is a 2009-10 Distinguished Teaching Award recipient.

"This is a University that highly values graduate and professional education, and I aspire to live up to that value ... I feel fortunate to have been able to direct [my] talent towards the important task of making life better for graduate students, and for faculty as well ..."

Joe Konstan is so well known for his work in recommender systems and the collaborative filtering mechanisms computers use to tell us, for example, what books we might like next on Amazon.com that a former student says, "Joe 'owns' the field of collaborative filtering." A colleague points out that Konstan easily could have pursued a career in research or industry.

Instead, he chose to share how technology can enhance human potential. Konstan believes in using research as an opportunity to teach, and sees interaction with students as his focus and his reward.

At the U, he's introduced systems design grounded in human factors and psychology; cocreated courses on user interface design and technology, and collaborative and social computing; and codeveloped an interdisciplinary public health course in which cross-disciplinary teams design and develop online public health interventions.

Konstan has also been director of graduate studies for computer science and software engineering, crafted a M.S. degree in software engineering, kept an eye out for students' needs while serving on the Faculty Senate, and recruited more diverse faculty and students from industry and nontraditional and international populations.

His students learn through what one calls "a novel kind of coursework," exploring psychology and ergonomics using metaphors and games. "I remember getting excited about the computer science that could make the lives of end users easier, richer, and more productive."