Science & Technology

USU Inaugural Professor Recounts Launch of a Bot, Declares 'Databases are Fun'

By Mary-Ann Muffoletto |

Professor Curtis Dyreson of USU's Department of Computer Science, was among faculty members honored this fall during the university’s 2021 Inaugural Professor Lecture Series. (Photo by M. Muffoletto)

Once upon a time, the Dr. Curtis Dyreson bot, version 1.0, was programmed by its parents in a mountain hideout in northern New Mexico. Launched into the world after only nine months of testing, early versions of the Curt bot were quite buggy, frequently running headfirst into solid objects and with a default speaker volume set to full blast, earning it the childhood nickname ‘Dynamite.’

But by year 16, the Curt bot was quicker, smarter and better in every way than its three brother bots. Its proud programmer parents awarded it the “World’s Smartest Brother” medal, which, according to the brother bots, was awarded ironically to shut up the insufferable teenage Curt bot. Shortly thereafter, the Curt bot went viral, infected many university computer systems, including Utah State University, as both a student and a faculty member.

And so went the comical autobiography USU computer scientist Curtis Dyreson prepared ahead of his Oct. 21 presentation, “Databases are Fun,” as part of the university’s 2021 Inaugural Professor Lecture Series held during fall gatherings at USU’s Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art. Coordinated by the Provost’s Office, the series highlights the accomplishments and academic journeys of faculty who have been promoted to full professor in the past year.

Entering academia wasn’t an unusual path for the Dyreson Family member.

“My parents, Delmar and Margaret Dyreson, are academics and were members of the USU faculty for a while, and two of my brothers hold doctorates and are also full professors,” said Dyreson, who joined USU’s Department of Computer Science faculty in 2007. “My brother, Arn, the outlier, is a surfer.”

In addition to New Mexico, Dyreson spent his formative years in Colorado and Florida. He completed undergraduate studies at New College of Florida in Sarasota.

“I wanted to be a solar energy scientist,” Dyreson said. “I started in physics, but switched to classes I enjoyed, including medieval and Islamic history.”

At New College, Dyreson became the resident expert of all-things-computer-science and was enlisted to help assemble the institution’s newly purchased IBM Series/1 16-bit minicomputer that arrived, unceremoniously, in multiple boxes.

“We spent six months putting it together,” he said. “It took up a whole room.”

Though New College had no computer science program, Dyreson graduated with programming and other information technology experience that positioned him to accept a serendipitous job offer.

“The opportunity to become a London-based IBM Series/1 assembler language programmer and travel throughout Europe came along, and I jumped at the post,” he said. “I spent vacations with my parents who, during that time were based in Saudi Arabia and, interestingly enough, Logan, Utah.”

Choosing to undertake graduate studies, Dyreson spent some time as a student at Utah State – and played on the USU soccer team – before completing master’s and doctoral degrees in computer science at the University of Arizona.

During his early career, Dyreson crisscrossed the globe, serving on faculties at Australia’s James Cook University, Denmark’s Aalborg University, Australia’s Bond University and, returning to the United States, spent six years at Washington State University (where he met his wife, Jennifer Reeve, professor in USU’s Department of Plants, Soils and Climate) before joining Utah State.

“I was delighted to return to Logan,” said Dyreson, who lists outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking and camping, among his favorite pursuits.

The computer scientist’s research interests include temporal databases, XML databases, data cubes and providing support for proscriptive metadata.

“I’m focused on making databases easier for people to use,” he said. “My team is exploring use of artificial intelligence to create and maintain indexes for self-managing databases. The aim is to free human users from the burdens of database maintenance and, ultimately, provide everyone with faster access to accurate information.”

Dyreson praises the students of Utah State, who “make teaching an enjoyable endeavor.”

“The quality of students here is very high,” he said. “Our students tend to be very mature, balancing jobs and family with schoolwork, and have a solid work ethic.”

Dyreson says Utah State’s collaborative atmosphere, combined with breathtaking scenery and outdoor recreational activities, rival academic opportunities most anywhere in the world.

“It’s a great place to be, with many bright people and learning opportunities throughout campus,” he said.

Curtis Dyreson, aka 'Curt bot,' second from left, with his brothers at the mailbox outside their home in Mesilla, New Mexico. The computer scientist says he ‘moved a lot, played a lot and was outdoors a lot’ during his childhood.

WRITER

Mary-Ann Muffoletto
Public Relations Specialist
College of Science
435-797-3517
mary-ann.muffoletto@usu.edu

CONTACT

Curtis Dyreson
Professor
Department of Computer Science
(435) 797-0742
curtis.dyreson@usu.edu


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