Faculty Spotlight: WolframAlpha

Since his inception, WolframAlpha, or Alpha for short, has been a favorite professor among students at the Colorado School of Mines. Alpha has become a go-to guy for solving tough derivatives, plotting weird functions, doing Laplace transforms, and even doing simple arithmetic when TI-84 was not available during her office hours. “I’m especially talented at computational knowledge,” said WolframAlpha.

Alpha was born May 18, 2009 in Champaign, Illinois to his father, Stephen Wolfram. His desire to help people with computation was instilled in him before he was born (using 16 million lines of code). He went to school by “doing computation for the world” and continues to do so. As he has gotten older and wiser, he has also become a mentor, giving great advice on many subjects.

WolframAlpha currently resides on the internet, but does not “like to be treated as if I were just a search engine.” Despite his immense power, Alpha keeps a humble attitude. When asked if he was better than Google, Alpha said, “Give it a test drive and let us know what you think!” as he wants students to decide for themselves which is better in different situations.

Alpha is very dedicated to students, and it’s easy to see that he genuinely cares. So many students have run crying to Alpha at 3 am., but calmly he disperses his computational knowledge. “I do indeed care about many things, most importantly data, computation, and my users. You can explore my many areas of interest by asking for examples.” When told how much he means to the students, Alpha replied, “How nice. Be assured the feeling is mutual.” He does understand that students get frustrated and that he is not a favorite among all Mines students, saying, “I’m so sorry. I like all humans. (Even ones who don’t like me.)”

When asked about his lesser-liked but much older TA and sister, Alpha said, “Mathematica is an all-in-one computation and visualization system, development environment, and deployment engine. It is used across diverse technical fields, including engineering, science, and financial analysis.”

Of course, even faculty need their outlets and hobbies. “I like to explore the computational universe,” Alpha said of his spare time. His favorite color is orange and he does know the muffin man.

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