Benjamin E. Weiss
BS Applied Mathematics
Harvey Mudd College
I've always been interested in math and science, and in my childhood I was no less fascinated by video games and computer graphics. So it seemed quite natural that I would develop a talent for writing my own computer software, as a sideline of my progression through the world of mathematics. After all, any computer program boils down in the end to applied math and logic, even the ones that draw the prettiest pictures, or perform the most fluid calligraphic brushstroke-based artwork. I began to experiment with simple programs, drawing simple pictures on the screen of my Apple IIc computer.
As I gradually explored new areas of science, more and more artistic possibilities came within my computational grasp. Linear algebra provided tools to flip and rotate graphics in three-dimensional perspective, the basis for countless computer games. Physics and optics opened the door to use the computer as a virtual camera, taking color snapshots of imaginary landscapes and panoramas. All this, of course, as a mere hobby, while I dutifully made my academic way through high school and college.
Then, just after my sophomore year at HMC, my life turned upside-down. In the mundane process of looking for a temporary summer job, I stumbled onto an amazing opportunity; a small startup software company, which was willing to hire me to create computer-graphics programs for them! Suddenly, the roles were reversed. My life began to center around my erstwhile hobby, while my academic career slowly devolved into the sideline. I kept up enough momentum to eventually graduate college with honors, but my heart was in the late nights spent pounding out code, writing new algorithms, and watching all the little pixels fly by.
Since then the company has grown 20-fold, evolving into one of the major players in the industry. I had the fortune to be caught up in the middle of the elevator ride, and in a few short years I've learned more about the real world than I ever could have by sitting through class lectures. In this industry I've met innumerous brilliant and inspiring people (though surprisingly few innumerate ones), and through the years I've never stopped learning on the mathematical and scientific front.
My latest projects include a photo-editing and retouching application called "Kai's Photo Soap" (after Kai Krause, my mentor, and co-founder of the company), and a playful digital-silly-putty program called "Kai's Power Goo," which stretches and twists images to form animated funny-faces and caricatures. I've also done extensive work in more traditional image-processing, plus fractal geometry, 3D raytracing, color theory and optics. Much of this exploration has resulted in collections of colorful toys to play with, but here and there I've also found some serious and meaningful applications for my work.
After graduation, I moved with the company to Santa Barbara on California's central coast, where I live at the beach and go surfing as often as possible. My job gives me complete freedom to develop and follow my ideas, and the nature of my profession allows me to work at home much of the time, and choose my own hours. A good deal of time is spent relaxing, playing piano and looking out the window. The ocean is an source of endless inspiration for me; in fact, my next project may involve a photorealistically rendered, physically-based simulation of breaking ocean waves.