Valerie Henderson Summet

me in peru

Hiking in Peru
Top of Dead Woman's Pass
13650 ft. / 4200 meters
May 2005

The Beginning:

I could start at the very beginning. But in this case, instead of a "very good place to start", it would be a very boring place to start. Thus, I'll summarize.

I was born in Florida and lived there for about 10 years, until I completed 5th grade. Then I moved to western North Carolina and completed high school. I have fond memories of high school, particularly my participation in some top-notch women's athletic teams. I graduated Valedictorian of the class of 1995 and settled on Duke University, just 4 hours east of home.

The Duke Years (1995-1999):

It wasn't until Duke that I was exposed to Computer Science. I started out as a Chemistry major since I had loved my AP Chemistry course in high school. Then I took Organic Chem (affectionately refered to as "Orgo") and met the pre-meds at Duke. So much for Chemistry. My sophomore year I was floundering for a major and one of my friends suggested I take a digital logic course and an intro CS course because "you're logical and I think you'd like them". And the rest is history.

The second semester of my sophomore year, I had the fortune to take a Computer Architecture class with Prof. John A. Board, Jr. This class inspired a love of computer architecture and computing history. For some reason (which still mystifies me), Dr. Board saw something in me and asked me to join his research team. I gained valuable research experience, but it wasn't until 5 years down the road while applying to grad schools that I realized the huge opportunity he had given me as an undergraduate. To this day I consider him the best professor I've ever had, in addition to a wonderful mentor and friend.

I would consider myself an average student at Duke, but even average at Duke is pretty good and I graduated with a BS in Computer Science in 1999 into the height of the computer boom of the late-90's.

The IBM Years (1999-2003):

I had multiple job offers but eventually went to work for IBM in Austin, TX doing chip development. They were one of the few companies to let me step outside the bounds of the "computer science" other companies wanted me to do (which was really more systems administration or IT) and work in the field of computer architecture. I spent 4 years working on the verification of IBM's PowerPC line of chips, specifically the Load-Store unit of the Power4 and Power5. It was an interesting job and I worked with wonderful people. For a full overview of the verification efforts, please see this article in the IBM Systems Journal or this one which discusses the overall architecture of the chip.

I eventually tired of the Austin weather (although I still miss the city's atmosphere and long for a Chuychanga at Chuy's or a burrito from Free Birds) and the programming job. I decided to go back to grad school and change my focus from computer architecture to human-computer interaction. If you're interested in the background my decision to switch and specialize in assistive technology, you can read my grad school application essay someday when I post it here.

The GaTech Years (2003 - 2010):

Thus, I landed at Georgia Tech in the Fall of 2003. I finished my PhD (finally!) in May of 2010. I was fortunately enough to work with wonderful faculty in the course of my research and teaching. Georgia Tech was a wonderful university with loads of great resources and friends. I met my wonderful husband, Jay, and we got married in 2006

During my time at GT, I took breaks to do things like go to Australia on an NSF Summer Fellowship, work in DC for a semester with the National Academy of Engineering, teach for a semester at Duke University, and teach numerous summers at GT. All of my teaching (about 4 courses as instructor of record by the time I graduated) bore out the conviction that I wanted a career which was primarily teaching (rather than research), and I had wonderful mentors who supported me in that goal.

But by the time my seventh year rolled around, I was ready to be done. So I put my nose to the grindstone, wrote my dissertation over Christmas vacation (not recommended, by the way), and went on the job market. There's a whole, long story about how stressful the job market is during a major recession, but I'm blocking it all out. However, I was extremely fortunate and landed a job as a full-time faculty member at Emory University here in Atlanta.

On To Emory (2010 - present):

In the Fall of 2010 I started working at Emory. I'm currently a Lecturer in the Math/CS Dept. I get to teach a variety of courses and I love being back at a liberal arts university.

Jay and I just bought a new home and are in a perpetual state of unfinished projects concerning it. In my free time (HAH!) I try to read, I always have a variety of craft projects going on, and am constantly battling the English Ivy in the garden.