Computing is about a frame of mind you can apply to any aspect of your life. If you can apply structure to something, you can improve outcomes.

Joshua Stough

Professor Joshua Stough, computer science, likes a particular quote from legendary business management expert W. Edwards Deming: "If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, then you don't know what you're doing."

Stough says Deming's quote is the ideal mindset for his work making computers smarter, and in his classrooms, where he emphasizes improving outcomes by breaking tasks into logical steps — as if programming a computer.

In his research in image processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning, and computer graphics and vision, Stough specializes in programming computers not only to capture objects, but also to recognize those objects as humans do.

"Neuroscientists have specialized skill sets at recognizing the thalamus in an MRI or a CT scan of the brain," Stough says. "What we're trying to do with medical imaging analysis is simulate the expertise of neuroscientists by teaching the computer to say things about the image that an expert can say about an image. We're trying to model neurodegenerative diseases using machine learning and medical imaging analysis so computers can help solve the harder or more time-consuming problems."

Stough's research has been applied to coral reefs, radiation treatment planning and medical imaging technology, but potential applications are endless. His research in imaging the subcortical "superhighway" of the brain has been especially fulfilling.

"Brain imaging could be applied to multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's treatment because they're all associated with the subcortical superhighway of the brain. Modeling how they degenerate and providing a prognosis or treatment could really help people," he says. "Computing and health care have a lot to offer our quality of life. In doing some of this research, you can really have an impact."

In the classroom, with Deming's quote in mind, Stough uses interactive materials, discussion, hands-on learning and student-to-student tutoring.

"One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. It's helpful for the person being tutored and for the tutors," he says. "The correlation I like to say is, 'If you can describe what you're doing as a process, then you know what you're doing,' and then you can tell a computer how to do it. Computing is about a frame of mind you can apply to any aspect of your life. If you can apply structure to something, you can improve outcomes."

Posted Oct. 7, 2016

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