Academics at TMU came full circle for Alex Ufkes. He joined the Faculty of Science family as a young undergraduate and stayed on for graduate school, achieving the highest standing in his master’s program and a nomination for the prestigious Governor General’s Gold Medal. He soon found his real calling and is now both alumni and well-loved teaching staff among students in the Department of Computer Science and The Chang School for Continuing Education.
What moved you to change career direction?
It was rather unexpected, especially deep into my PhD program! But I could sense that my excitement for teaching was far surpassing my attention for research. My PhD progress slowed to a halt as I took on as much teaching as I could. I eventually decided to withdraw amicably from the PhD program and begin teaching full time. I’ve never regretted it!
How did your degrees and being alumni prepare you?
Teaching in the same department in which I earned my degrees has been fantastic. I took all the same courses 10-15 years ago. I remember exactly what I found difficult and can now deliver that material in a more accessible, intuitive way. Because I teach a dozen courses spanning the entire undergrad program, I feel such satisfaction linking together material for the same cohort of students — helping them connect the dots from first year all the way to graduation.
Fond memories as a student?
During the last day of my undergraduate year, we were in the hallways demonstrating tabletop robots we’d built from scratch — long before you could buy pre-made kits from Amazon. We’d cobbled them together from popsicle sticks, hot glue, zip ties, etc., and trained them to avoid obstacles, detect edges and plan paths. After watching my robot perform, one prof commented: “You should go to grad school!”. I applied for the master’s program that week. That was the course that led me to where I am today!