Playing video games can lead one down a path to a possibility much bigger than imagined while starring at the television screen. Kevin Griffin, a Computer Science doctoral student, says that is exactly where his interest in the field began. Putting it succinctly, Griffin says, "Guys like gadgets and stuff." Griffin's childhood pastime led to a desire to understand just how to make computers work. As an undergraduate and McNair scholar at the University of Delaware, companies began recruiting him for jobs.
Now working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Griffin has been able to use his work as a part of his research. He plans to make networks more user-friendly and improve the visualization technology in the military. The end product will be a 3D game engine based application that will allow a non-technical person, like a commander in the military, to use only their perceptual abilities to gather situational awareness of their network.
UC Davis has offered Griffin the chance to work with his "advisory dream team". His advisors, Dr. Kenneth Joy and Dr. Sean Peisert, are world renowned for their work in computer graphics and computer security respectively. Griffin's progress has accelerated because of his advisors. To future graduate and doctorate students he advises, "Choose your advisors wisely." Griffin says it is also important to find out what research is already taking place in your department. "It might inspire you to change what you are interested in or it could enhance your research."
Being a student at UC Davis brings everything full circle for Griffin. "My grandmother raised me. We didn't grow up with a lot of money, but she always promoted education," he says. As a middle school student, his grandmother told him he would get a Ph.D. Since beginning at UC Davis in fall 2011, Griffin has been impressed by the caliber of students and faculty at the university. "A lot of these people have big brains and great ideas," he says. "It's great to be inspired by them, especially when you hit a brick wall."
Griffin strives to inspire others as well. "The African American representation in the STEM disciplines has been declining over the past decade," he says. There is a lot of opportunity in the field and he wants to make sure people take advantage of them. Griffin has been mentoring high school students and exposing them to the field, in efforts to get them interested.
Between mentoring, working at Lawrence Livermore, conducting research, and being a commission officer in the Navy as well as a husband and father, Griffin says free time is hard to come by. When he does find time, he works out, plays basketball at the lab and rides his motorcycle across town.
Photo credit: Deanna Anderson.