Henry "Mac" McCauley - Featured alumnus (2009 newsletter)

Henry (Mac) W. McCauley graduated in 2000 with degrees in both Computer Science & Electrical & Computer Engineering. While at Rochester, Mac worked with Professors Chris Brown and Randal Nelson on the Mobile Wheelchair Project. Chris Brown said, “Mac was a fearless problem-solver who seemed to thrive in the unstructured and uncertain world of robotics, where buggy hardware and software meet an unpredictable world and somehow reliable results are supposed to emerge.” Mac continues to be a problem solver now, though his work is more focused on water treatment than software. Recently, Mac was interviewed for Multicast.

ED: You graduated with degrees in both Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering. How has the combination of those two degrees been significant in your career so far?

HM: Both degrees were very significant when I worked at ALSTOM Signaling, Inc., in Rochester after graduation until 2006. I was involved in product design of railroad signaling systems. I worked on software development, from assembly language to C++, including algorithm design, and on hardware development, from I/O modules to the CPU board itself. Now that I have completed my masters degree in water and wastewater engineering with the goal of missions and development work in Africa, those degrees have provided a great background and understanding of the power and control systems at treatment facilities. More importantly, though, I appreciate how similar and interconnected the different fields of engineering are, and the excellent education provided at the University of Rochester not only taught me about algorithms and circuits, but also how to think critically, search for answers, and design within constraints.

ED: What do you see as benefits for the Department of Computer Science as they join the Hajim School of Engineering?

HM: There are many connections between computer science and the engineering disciplines, and those connections will likely be more easily tapped. I originally combined the two to pursue a career in robotics research, and there are many other burgeoning fields and developments that will require the collaboration of these fields. I see that the Industry Practicum program that I took part in through Electrical Engineering (now Electrical and Computer Engineering) is already available to CSC students.

ED: During your valedictory speech at our 2000 departmental diploma ceremony, you talked about using your skills and talents for the good of others. Have you been able to make the kind of impact you were hoping to so far?

HM: We can always hope for greater impact, but I have been blessed with opportunities to benefit others using my professional skills. I enjoyed working on railroad signaling systems to improve safety and reliability. I have enjoyed working with municipalities here in Ohio to improve their drinking water quality or their water pollution control efforts. And I have enjoyed my two trips to Cameroon in West Africa, where I was able to help with water and sanitation projects. I look forward eagerly to full-time missions work in Africa. I hope that we all continue to look beyond ourselves and seek what is most valuable in life.

ED: What were some of the most important skills you learned while studying computer science at Rochester? Why have they been important in your work and life?

HM: Most importantly, I learned problem-solving skills - how to frame the problem, how to do research, how to brainstorm solutions, how to evaluate options, and how to work with a team to complete the task. These skills translate into any field and into all of life.

ED: What advice would you give a young person about a career in Computer Science?

HM: Look beyond the specifics to the big picture. Don't focus on the particular languages or systems. Learn the theory and how to apply it to many situations and problems, including possible integrations with other fields. And consider how your career could improve the lives of others.

ED: How do you spend your time outside of work? Any hobbies, activities, or organizations?

HM: My main activity outside of work is the joy of being a husband to my wife Leesa and now a father to my ten-month old Seth. Our favorite activities include hiking and camping with our dog and enjoying time with family and friends. We are also involved in serving the junior high and senior high youth groups at our church. I also enjoy reading, writing fiction, woodworking, and basketball when I get some time.