Associate professor of computer science
First year teaching at Luther: 2003
Geeky habit: Collects techno-gadgets and keeps his Macintosh Plus (circa 1986) in his office.
Corporate credentials: Developed the idea of personalizing product recommendations--now the trademark of his company's second client, Amazon.com.
A few years ago, Brad was a frenzied entrepreneurial executive who traveled nationally and internationally two or three days a week and lived via his laptop. "I was that guy clutching his cell phone in airports, conducting two meetings at once," he explains.
It all started when a guy wanted to market the ideas in Brad's Ph.D. thesis--algorithms that spun into the product-recommendation feature of e-commerce sites all over the web. But after co-founding Net Perceptions and marketing his concept, known as collaborative filtering, for five years, Brad realized he wanted to get back to his creative roots--in computer science and grad school. So he finished his doctorate and eventually landed back at Luther.
On campus, he's been part of President Torgerson's strategic planning committee, and he co-authored the textbook Problem Solving with Algorithms and Data Structures Using Python with fellow professor David Ranum. Pleased with the text's role in Luther's computer science curriculum, the two profs have contracted to author an introductory-level book. "We're sort of writing the series backwards," Brad explains.
He has also taught first-year Paideia courses which, he admits, "Is a great way to meet the whole new spectrum of Luther students." He's also taught an upper-level Paideia course with a colleague on the topic of technology and ethics.
Brad also directs student research on collaborative filtering. "Last year three students built a senior project on an intracampus recommending system for iTunes," he says. "We learned that we can improve the algorithms. An exciting next step will be to make recommending even more private and anonymous through encryption," he says with a geeky gleam in his eye.
One of Brad's most recent student research projects has been creating the Luther Rideshare website. "It's an easy way for Luther students, faculty, and staff to offer and post rides with a user-friendly Google Maps interface," he says. "Whether a person is looking for passengers or needs a ride, this new technology makes carpooling easy."
Since moving back to Decorah with his wife, Jane (Dalen) Miller '86, and family, Brad has also revisited his musical roots. A member of Norsemen and Collegiate Chorale while at Luther, Brad was cast in the lead as Professor Harold Hill in a 2006 community production of The Music Man. He also plays guitar and helps orchestrate contemporary-music services at First Lutheran Church. "The things you really love stick with you," he concludes.