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Pursuing a Lifelong Passion

COMPUTER SCIENCE

Pursuing a Lifelong Passion

M. Brian Blake
Title: Associate Professor, Department of Computer
Science, Georgetown University
Education: Ph.D., Information and Software Engineering, George Mason University; M.S., Electrical Engineering,
Mercer University; B.E.E., Electrical Engineering, Georgia
Institute of Technology
Age: 35

Driven. That, in a word, best describes Dr. M. Brian Blake. For somebody who fell into teaching by accident, he has taken the academy by storm. At age 33, he was the nation’s youngest Black computer science professor awarded tenure. Blake is a prolific author, whose work appears in a wide range of publications, including InfoWorld, InformationWeek, Computerworld and CNET.

A software and electrical engineer by training, Blake already had a promising career after earning his bachelor’s, with stints at Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and the MITRE Corp. As the first in his family to graduate from a four-year college, he had “made it” by all accounts. However, Blake says that even while working full time, he had no intention of taking a break from his studies. As a result, he finished his master’s and doctorate within six years.

“I’ve always been overly ambitious and tried to work hard —
it came out of my dad,” Blake says. Even though his father never earned a bachelor’s, he tried his hand in a number of odd jobs before becoming a prosperous business owner, passing on his tenacity to his son.

After wrapping up his doctorate, a world of opportunity opened up for Blake in both public and private industry, and he originally thought he might end up at a consulting firm. However, he says he had a vision of the future while teaching as an adjunct at Georgetown during the final stages of his doctoral process.

“I always intended to get a Ph.D., but I never intended to be a faculty member,” he says.

A highly sought-after expert in the field of enterprise integration, Blake’s IT infrastructure constructs are particularly applicable in corporate America. Travelers, for instance, might be accustomed to the convenience of booking a flight, hotel and car rental at the same time. However, getting the myriad computer platforms from various travel-related companies to work together seamlessly can be a complicated task. That’s where Blake comes in.

His expertise is also highly in demand by a number of federal agencies — even more so after a presidential post-Sept. 11 data-sharing mandate. Subsequently, Blake is a frequent consultant to the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Federal Aviation Administration and a host of other agencies. He is also frequently called upon to testify as an expert witness for a number of legal and other organizations. And he somehow manages to do all this while teaching, churning out scholarly articles and consulting with MITRE. Blake’s work gets high marks from a number of colleagues nationwide.

Dr. Juan E. Gilbert, an associate professor in Auburn University’s computer science department and a 2002 Emerging Scholar, says Blake is an “outstanding” scholar as “his research in artificial intelligence and software integration is the top in the field.” Gilbert adds that Blake is “an even more outstanding individual because he is conscious. Dr. Blake cares about the African-American community, and he gives back relentlessly. Very few top-notch researchers can do both, but he excels at both. … Dr. Blake deserves this recognition more than anyone I know.”

Blake says it’s his duty to encourage young African-Americans to pursue high-tech careers; that’s why he co-founded a program that maps out career pathways for students at a number of Washington, D.C.-area high schools.

“That’s been a lifelong passion of mine, to encourage underrepresented minorities to take on science and technology,” Blake says.

— By David Pluviose



© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com

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