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Inside / Out

Q/A with a Valpo Professor – Karl Schmitt, Ph.D.

Fall 2019

Karl Schmitt, Ph.D.

College of Arts and Sciences

Karl Schmitt, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics and computing and information sciences, has been a faculty member at Valpo since summer 2013. He is also director of the data science program and the analytics and modeling graduate program. His enthusiasm for problem solving and creative projects inspires students to go beyond the expected in their studies. His interest in data science stems from his love of nature and the outdoors. Inside Gellersen Center, he is famed for his extensive computer monitor display. When he isn’t teaching or researching, Professor Schmitt enjoys spending time with his wife and 2-year-old son.

Inside the College

What is your favorite class to teach?

Our math class about optimization is fun because it covers a lot of what I learned to do for my dissertation, and I really love to find the best answers to problems. It’s a mix of math and computer science.

The Introduction to Data Science class has been a pleasure to teach and evolve. I’ve taken a very different approach; the students participate in client consulting projects. My students have the opportunity to make an impact on the community and the world around them. It’s a lot of work, but it’s also a lot of fun to see the cool ideas that the students create.

How would you describe your teaching style?

I’ve tried to get away from doing too much lecture because I think it’s just not as effective for students to actually learn. Enthusiastic, engaged, and a little disorganized is a short summary.

What is one of the most interesting projects you have worked on?

Students in the simulation modeling class wanted to model the invasion of big-headed carp into Lake Michigan by creating a simulation of native species and invasive species in a waterway. They continued and expanded that work into data that they could hopefully publish.

I’ve really enjoyed working with the U.S. Geological Service agent. We’ve been working together for the past couple years on all kinds of different projects, from bird and bat deaths in wind turbines to understanding microclimates to butterflies.

Outside the College

What kinds of things do you enjoy outside of classes?

I play racquetball and soccer. I have a very robust garden in a very small space. I like hiking and camping. Outdoor activities are fun, and they’re tied into why I am interested in data aspects about nature.

Also, I love to play board games and strategy games. I play with several people from different departments. I’ve tried to make it my habit during most extended breaks to have a game night where all my friends, both from campus and not, come over for a nice long day of playing different board games.

What is your favorite place you have visited?

Portland is a fantastic city to visit and has lots of amazing breweries. One of my favorite breweries in the country is there, Cascade Brewing. They are exclusively sour beers, which I love.

How else do you spend your free time?

I used to play in the worship band at my church. I play the guitar and the hand drums, called a djembe. I go to the early service now because my 2-year-old is better behaved.

More from the Fall 2019 Issue