Professor David Umphress shares his knowledge of software engineering with his students.
Profiles in Excellence is a feature presenting Auburn University faculty who have been honored by the university or nationally for the top level of achievement in teaching, research or outreach.
Engineering Associate Professor David Umphress, a winner of Auburn University's 2013 Gerald and Emily Leischuck Endowed Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching, knows the importance of properly working software in this age of computer-dependency.
A key challenge facing college faculty in his field, he says, is to convey that knowledge to today's students, future engineers who will be designing and testing future generations of software.
The annual Leischuck Award is Auburn's top award for excellence in teaching. This year's awards went to Umphress, who is a faculty member in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering's Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering, and Casey Cegielski of the Raymond J. Harbert College of Business.
Since joining the Auburn faculty in 1999, Umphress has been named Outstanding Instructor five times by the students in his department. He also received the William Walker Teaching Award by the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering for teaching excellence in 2008.
Umphress said he believes the Leischuck Award demonstrates Auburn University's recognition that teaching is valued and that what goes on in the classroom is the most important thing done at the university.
"The foundation of a university is the students," Umphress said. "I really want them to learn something and they can't learn something if it's dull material or if I'm not excited about it so I want them to understand the excitement. I feel like if I have a sufficient amount of kinetic excitement that it'll rub off on them."
"My primary focus in teaching and research is in defining ways to build software that exceeds expectations in terms of function, cost and quality."
— David Umphress
The Auburn professor said he enjoys learning and sharing his knowledge with students. "It's that ability to learn more every single day," Umphress said. "To be able to share it with someone else and to see light bulbs go off in other people's heads, that's what keeps me going.
The key to successful teaching, he said, is simply to remember that students are people. He makes sure he knows each student in his classes.
"I know them all by name, usually by the second week," Umphress said. "One of the ways I do that is I stand at the door at the beginning of class. I get there a little bit early and I say hello to each one as they walk in. It helps me put a face to a name and it helps them understand that I know who they are."
Professor David Umphress
While Umphress received an award for teaching, his contributions far exceed just his work in the classroom. He also diagnoses bad software and suggests innovative ways to fix it. "My primary focus in teaching and research is in defining ways to build software that exceeds expectations in terms of function, cost and quality," he said.
For 35 years, Umphress has worked in areas including academic, military and industrial software and systems engineering. His areas of expertise include software engineering, systems engineering, software process, software vulnerability analysis and mobile device development.
Umphress received his bachelor's degree in computer science from Angelo State University and then went on to get his master's and doctoral degrees in computer science from Texas A&M University. Umphress also holds the Certified Software Development Professional credential and is a retired Air Force officer.
— By Jourdan Cooper, Office of Communications & Marketing
Last Updated: Dec. 3, 2013