Dr. RJ Nowling named STEM Forward 2023 Young Engineer of the Year
Dr. RJ Nowling, associate professor and coordinator of machine learning graduate certificates, has been named STEM Forward’s 2023 Young Engineer of the Year. Nowling has acquired a vast amount of experience and research in his relatively short career. As he shifted into academia and joined MSOE’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department, he brought a wealth of experience and hands-on knowledge to his classrooms, giving students industry insight and real-world experiences.
After his Ph.D., Nowling expanded on his academic training with four years at leading tech companies. He was a software engineer at Red Hat Inc. with a focus on open-source software for scalable data processing, and he was part of a group evaluating potential analytics stack using open-source software such as Apache Spark and the Gluster distributed file system. Nowling also was a contributor to Apache Bigtop and Apache Spark projects and gave talks at ApacheCon Big Data 2015 and Spark Summit East 2016.
Following two years at Red Hat, Nowling became a data science engineer at the online advertising company AdRoll. He was part of a team that developed and maintained a recommendation system to expose users to new companies. Through this work, Nowling gained experience with ML production systems and what would later come to be called MLOps.
Nowling joined the faculty of MSOE in Fall 2018 where courses in data science and machine learning are required of all undergraduate Computer Science majors at MSOE. He has been intimately involved in designing and teaching courses in data science, machine learning, and algorithms, which provide opportunities to bring his research and industry experience into the classroom. Nowling is also part of a team that recently established a Master’s and graduate certificate programs in machine learning. He designed and teaches several graduate courses in data science, applied machine learning, and ML production systems and serves as the coordinator for the graduate certificate.
Nowling is 100% committed to advancing the next generation in more than one sense of the phrase. Not only is he in-tune with his students, their needs, and aspirations and preparing them for their careers, he is committed to advancing the next generation of technology: AI and Machine Learning.
Shortly after joining MSOE, Nowling established an undergraduate research group that applies machine learning and data science to advance understanding of genomics. The group was funded by an NSF CISE CRII grant and startup funds from MSOE. Over five years (Fall 2018 - Summer 2023), 15 undergraduate students participated in research. Through collaborations with faculty at R1 universities, students were exposed to fields outside of computer science, the nature of interdisciplinary work, and research-intensive environments. Four of the students have since pursued graduate studies.
Nowling recently shifted the focus of his scholarly activities to data-intensive systems, especially those involving machine learning models. This shift was driven by the recognition that students need to know how to put ML models into production, not just develop them offline. To meet this need, Nowling developed the ML Production Systems course, which is required for the M.S. in Machine Learning, as well a course in recommendation systems. In Spring 2023, Nowling established the MSOE Data-Intensive Systems Education (DISE) Project. The DISE project aims to encourage proliferation of similar courses at other universities by providing education, training, and materials for faculty. Nowling recently joined Memphis.dev as a part-time developer advocate.