Alumni spotlight: Robert Bodor

Robert Bodor is a Gopher through and through! He received three degrees from the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota, culminating with his Ph.D. in computer science in 2005.

In December of 2020, Bodor was appointed the next President and CEO of Protolabs, a leading digital manufacturer of custom parts. Prior to this, he held roles as the company’s Vice President and General Manager of the Americas, Chief Technology Officer, and Director of Business Development. Bodor has also held leadership roles at Honeywell and McKinsey & Company, and has been on the executive team of two early-stage software companies.

As he embarks on the next step in his career, Robert Bodor shared some reflections on his time at the University and his professional journey so far.

What inspired you to pursue a career in computer science?

I was drawn to solving problems, particularly interdisciplinary problems, so that led me to computer science because of the applicability in many fields and problem domains.

What made you choose to come to the University of Minnesota?

I grew up in Minnesota and attended the University of Minnesota for my bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. In the case of my Ph.D., the opportunity to work with professor Nikos Papanikolopoulos was a big factor. I was excited to work with him and other professors in the robotics and AI group, including Maria Gini.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time as a student at the U?

I have many—living in Frontier Hall as a freshman, many, many hours studying in the commons area of Keller Hall with friends, and late nights in the computer science robotics lab.

What was your research focus as a grad student, and what do you remember most about your time in the Computer Science & Engineering department?

I did my thesis work in computer vision, in the area of optimal camera placement for recognition tasks. I also want to thank Nikos for his support, friendship, and guidance as I completed my Ph.D.

How did your time at University of Minnesota prepare you—both professionally and personally—for your eventual career trajectory?

It taught me about the power of teams and collaboration for tackling large challenges, and provided me with tools for thinking analytically and making data-driven decisions.

What is your favorite thing about what you do? What has been the most surprising aspect of your career?

Working with engaged, innovative people every day is certainly a highlight. Like many others, my career was not a straight line—I could not have planned it from the beginning. The important thing for me was to learn from every experience, take risks, and jump at opportunities.

Tell us about your time with Protolabs. What are you most excited about as you step into your new role as the company's new president and CEO?

Protolabs is an amazing software-enabled technology company. We are revolutionizing manufacturing by digitalizing the physical manufacturing process. I am excited about the future of manufacturing, and how we will continue to lead manufacturing into the next industrial revolution.

What advice would you give to current or future computer science students?

Follow your passions and throw yourself fully into what you do. Don’t be afraid to tackle hard problems and be a constant learner. And have fun!