Brown CS is happy to announce that Tim Nelson has been appointed as Lecturer of Computer Science, effective as of July 1, 2021. Tim came to Brown for postdoctoral work in 2013 after earning his Bachelor's degree in computer science from Worcester State University and his PhD from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Since 2018, he has been appointed as Assistant Professor (Research). The lecturer appointment will allow Tim to focus more of his time on teaching and advising.
Part of the PLT Group at Brown CS, Tim is interested in what he calls "user-facing formal methods": bringing formal techniques like modeling and verification to an audience of engineers and end-users not necessarily trained in mathematical logic. "It's also a focus in my teaching," he tells us, "and I'm working on bringing more of the industrial perspective on formal methods to Brown students."
Tim currently teaches CSCI 0320 Introduction to Software Engineering and says that the discipline is near to his heart and experiences in industry. Currently, he's working on deep modifications to the course's project structure to enable conversations about software as it relates to privacy, security, algorithmic fairness, and other issues.
His other class is CSCI 1710 Logic for Systems, which Tim describes as an ongoing (seven years and counting!) experiment in teaching introductory formal methods to everyone from first-year undergraduates to PhD students. "I change the course significantly every year," Tim says. "Last year we even changed the environment that students work with to tools we built in-house at Brown. We're going to keep pushing the conversation forward." The industrial formal-methods revolution, he says, is already in progress: "The goal is that when students are confronted by formal methods in the workplace, they see them as something they can already handle. At the same time, I want students to understand the trade-offs: what are the limitations of the discipline, and which tools are best suited in which situations?"
"I'm excited about this new career direction," Tim says, "because I love working with Brown students. Brown is also a great place for someone like me, who wants to throw themselves into teaching while still being involved in research." Mentoring both undergraduates and graduate students, but particularly undergraduates, continues to be extremely important to Tim; his most recent publication ("Solver-Aided Multi-Party Configuration") was a collaboration that included multiple undergraduates. Tim has also recently published a CS-education paper on teaching advanced software-testing techniques.
For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communication Outreach Specialist Jesse C. Polhemus.