Future possibilities are endless for VTD students
As an assistant professor in Virtual Technology & Design with the College of Art & Architecture, John Anderson, ’98, dwells in the realm of possibility. He and his students envision what could be, and create a virtual reality in order to produce real results. For example, in collaboration with the College of Sciences’ Department of Microbiology, Anderson and his students, along with researchers have modeled a molecular environment of the invasive parasite toxoplasma gondii. The goal is to study this parasite, which can infest both cat and human bloodstreams, and collaborate in the search of a cure.
“The University of Idaho has changed my life as a student and as a professor,” said Anderson. “What excites me most about my work here are the students. To see them come in and grow during the years they are here – to see their minds evolve – has been absolutely fantastic. We’re a community, a very close family and my students continue to be lifelong friends.”
Anderson works with seniors in what are called capstone groups in the design studio setting. While the students are part of the College of Art & Architecture, they also learn to apply disciplines such as science, math, engineering and other core essentials while designing solutions for their client base. Anderson and his students are working with faculty and researchers from the U-Idaho Mechanical Engineering Department and the Idaho National Laboratory on the Mars Hopper – creating robotics that will ultimately explore the surface of Mars. These hands-on projects offered at U-Idaho, provide students with experience to take into the workforce when they graduate and are employed in a variety of career fields.
“They have critical thinking skills that enable them to go into any industry and apply design thinking technologies for those industries,” said Anderson. “These students are highly innovative. They’re risk-takers. In Virtual Technology Design, we coined a phrase: ‘there just is no box.’ It’s not about thinking outside the box or inside the box: we define our own box. So, when we work with colleagues within other disciplines, we’re able to unleash all kinds of imagination.”
Through the design studio, students are able to question leading researchers and develop environments that are based on leading-edge research.
“Within the studio, our students form their own companies,” said Anderson. “They focus on client issues and compete to receive jobs. They’re able to produce real-world products that often end up in the real world. What’s unique about this program is that it blends technology with design at a level that can’t be found anywhere else. We are the only program of this kind in the nation. At the University of Idaho, the possibilities are endless.”