By Mona Malacane
Looking at his CV, you can clearly see that Mike is someone who has worn many different hats over his career: game developer, creative director, lead designer, independent researcher for DARPA, software engineer, entrepreneur, and now academic. But you would probably never guess that early in his academic career he wanted to be a neurosurgeon, and was given a strong recommendation by his adviser to apply for a prestigious fellowship at a neuroscience center. The application decision was complicated by another serendipitously timed job offer. “That same day, I was offered a job as a real programmer working for a big, high-tech company and so I had to make this decision. It was one of those ‘road not taken’ kinds of things and I took the programming job … and I really wondered about that [decision]. Years later I had the opportunity to work in Toronto with a medical imaging company and I got to work with a bunch of neurosurgeons. So I got to stand in on some [surgeries] and I designed a user interface for a graphical system used by the surgeon in the operating room. It was wonderful, but it totally made me realize that I made the right decision.” That choice put him on a path of diverse opportunities (which is super interesting stuff – I highly encourage others to chat with him about this), eventually landing him here at IU!
Before moving to Bloomington this summer, Mike and his wife lived in sunny California. While Mike misses the beach and San Francisco’s Bay Area, now living in Bloomington one of the things he is looking forward is seasons. “I grew up in Virginia, which has weather a lot like it is here … and we’ve lived in Toronto, and in the Philippines … and we were in Texas and California for the last 15 years and I think some part of us has forgotten what seasons are really like. I’m sure I’ll get used to it quickly, but this concept that it’s not basically going to stay this temperature, that it will continue to go down, it’s hard to get.” So we discussed commuting options for getting to campus when it gets colder, and bonded over the annoying Mario party-like game that is biking on campus down unfinished roads and random obstacles (cough … kamikaze pedestrians … cough).
The time flew by and I ended up chatting with Mike for about an hour, during which I learned some other pretty cool things about him. He has six children (two of which live here), he grew up in the Philippines, which is where he met his high school sweetheart and wife; he has been friends with Ted Castronova for quite some time (which is how he ended up here in our department); and he and his brother created the world’s first 3D MMO game. Mike also sculpts, knows how to sail, and hopes to stay in Bloomington long enough to build a small boat and take it out on Lake Monroe.
Our conversation covered more topics than T101, so I feel like I’m doing Mike an injustice by writing about these small slivers of his interview. So to make myself feel better, I’m going to encourage you to chat with Mike when you have the chance so you can learn for yourself about our newest faculty member!