Ron MetoyerRon Metoyer’s first experience with college was a shock.

“I remember calling my mom, and saying, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” he says. And that was before classes had even started. Metoyer was part of a freshman summer bridge program at University of California, Los Angeles to get underrepresented minority students a head start in acclimating to campus life and college class work.

As a first generation college student, the experience was one he felt contributed to his ultimate success in college. “It was difficult, but it got us to come together as a group and realize we could get through it.”

Metoyer went on to graduate school in computer science at Georgia Institute of Technology, where he focused on graphics and animation with application to video games and movies, but has since switched to information visualization.

“I wanted to do work where I thought I could have more impact on society,” he says.

His research aims to help people understand large amounts of data, which has opened up opportunities to collaborate with a variety of researchers such as OSU ecologists studying moths and their relationship to the environment, and researchers at OSU’s Center for Healthy Aging enabling people to live longer at home.

“The applications we are finding for our work are in areas that I’m very excited about,” he says.

One project was inspired by his volunteer work at his children’s school. “I judge the science fair every year and although the kids do a lot of neat stuff, they rarely use graphs when they should,” he explains. In collaboration with teachers at Wilson School in Corvallis he is developing graphing tools more suitable to children.

His cumulative work has earned him recognition from the National Science Foundation which awarded him an Early Career Development Award given to the most promising scientists at the beginning of their career.

Metoyer is also dedicated to improving diversity in computer science and engineering. At the national level he is part of a coalition to diversify computing, he has served as the technical program chair for the Richard Tapia Celebration of Computing, and was invited to be a keynote speaker at the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP) Symposium in 2004.

Locally his efforts include a summer bridge program at OSU, similar to the one he went through as a freshman.

“My experience is one I wanted to create for them, so I made it academically challenging,” he says, explaining that rigor is the heart of the program’s success.

He also points out that the relationships that develop when going through something difficult together can last a lifetime. “My friends from the bridge program at UCLA are people I’m still in touch with today,” Metoyer says.

—By Rachel Robertson