Meet the Faculty - Bernardo Bianco Prado

Tell us about your journey to the University of Minnesota.

I started my undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire. I was a communications major and I didn’t really want to do that anymore. I was interested in doing something more STEM related so I switched to mathematics. At that point, I started looking into the University of Minnesota since they are known for their science and engineering programs. I transferred in my junior year as a math student. I took some computer science classes and started to pursue a minor, but I didn’t have enough time to finish it before I graduated.

I went to the University of Michigan to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics. I wanted to pursue something else in addition to math, something where I could actually apply my math skills. I started taking more computer science and electrical engineering courses. At that point, I stopped pursuing a Ph.D. and got master’s degrees in electrical and computer engineering, as well as applied and interdisciplinary mathematics.

That’s when I started applying for jobs back in Minnesota to be closer to my partner. I decided to apply for some teaching positions. I enjoy teaching but I wasn’t sure if I could do it without having a Ph.D. I applied for one teaching position in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering and I got it; it felt like destiny. Now I’m teaching computational linear algebra and tying that to machine learning.

What do you like about computer science?

I like the fact that you can use it for so many different things. I’m someone who does not want to learn something for the sake of learning. I get more motivated by seeing how something works in the real world. You can apply computer science in so many different ways. Machine learning, for example, you can use it to predict climate change models and the average earth temperature. You can apply it to anything that involves data and in this day and age, everything has data.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? What are your teaching interests?

I like that we are part of the learning process. It is cool to see the students get curious about something new. Especially in the course I teach, it’s not necessarily a course that students are the most excited to take. A lot of them come in a little scared of linear algebra. I’ve had a couple of students come to me to tell me, ‘Because of you, I have started enjoying math.’ Those moments are really cool. I like being a part of that journey.

I am interested in two paths within teaching. One is linear algebra and especially as it relates to machine learning. I am also interested in computer graphics and video game development. I hope to get into that area of teaching in the future.

What courses are you teaching this spring? What can students expect to get out of that class?

I am teaching two sessions of the same class, CSCI-2033: Computational Linear Algebra. Students can expect to get a good foundational understanding of linear algebra and how it shows up in different areas of computer science. There is a larger focus on machine learning and computer graphics because of how much linear algebra shows up in those areas. I think it helps to get exposure to machine learning so early; usually people only get to dive into that subject in their junior or senior year. This class can serve as an introduction to some machine learning concepts.  

What do you do outside of the classroom for fun?

I like playing tennis. I also like cooking and baking and trying out new dishes. I play guitar for a Samba circle in Minneapolis.

Do you have a favorite spot in the cities?

I try to go to the Dakota Jazz Club. They always have good music. There is a restaurant in South Minneapolis called Quruxlow. It’s a Somali restaurant and they have big portions.

Is there anything else you would like students to know about you?

Feel free to come to office hours! If you have questions, you can ask your professors; they are eager to help.