• Kent Lee, Professor of Computer Science

    "Computer science is a mix of theory, practice, and creativity. Seeing students make the connection between what others have done and building something of their own is why I teach."

Kent Lee

Returns to Luther with Real-World Experience

As a 1987 Luther graduate, Lee took a software engineer position at IBM in Rochester, Minn.. After four years he pursued a Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Iowa. “I knew from an early age that I wanted to teach,” he says. “In 1996, after completing my courses, the Luther College Computer Science Department asked me if I would teach at Luther. I made the jump and I haven’t looked back.”

Lee’s research involves the formal definition and implementation of programming languages, but his teaching topics are widely varied, blending his research and real-world experience. At Luther, Lee has taught introductory and advanced courses like database programming, computational models, operating systems, computer architecture, networking, artificial intelligence, and object-oriented programming. He says, “My background both outside and in academia helps me understand the needs of my students and also what they’ll need after graduating from Luther.”

A Major that Sparks Creativity

Lee says one of the most rewarding parts of being a professor is building relationships with students and helping them discover new passions. “Computer science is a mix of theory, practice, and creativity,” he says. “Seeing students make the connection between what others have done and building something of their own is why I teach. It is very rewarding to have a small part in their development as computer programmers and their growth as people.”

Research Projects That Make a Difference

Recently Lee’s work has been in the development of curriculum and textbooks. In 2015 he wrote Foundations of Programming Languages, along with additional web resources for teaching programming languages. He also recently published Data Structures and Algorithms with Python, which he co-authored with Luther College Professor Emeritus Steve Hubbard.

In addition, Lee has spent time teaching programming to middle school students and developing curriculum materials for them. He has created a series of lectures available on Youtube and a Frogger application project where students can learn to program by example. The Frogger project is free to download and use in any classroom.

Beyond the Classroom

Lee enjoys mountain biking and trail cycling around the Driftless Region. He is also an avid photographer and likes to hike and backpack with his family in the Sangre de Christo range in Colorado, and in Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Glacier National Parks, and Banff, among other places in North America.