Shaping Tomorrow: John O'Leary

May 5, 2016
John O'Leary

Every year nearly 15,000 students graduate from the University of Minnesota and embark on the next step in their journey. This spring, the Class of 2016 begins to make its mark.

U alumni include founders and presidents of Fortune 500 companies, visionary artists and authors, 55 members of congress (plus 19 governors and two U.S. vice presidents), and thousands more working to make a difference every day.

Who will the Class of 2016 become?

John O'Leary

Computer Science
College of Science and Engineering

John O'Leary traces his interest in mathematical modeling and data processing to his grandfather's stories about serving as a navigator aboard bombers in World War II. Technology has come a long way since then, and O'Leary will play a role in its future advancement. In the summer of 2014, he worked in Google's Advanced Technologies and Products lab on a project to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion. He plans to earn a Ph.D. in computer science, with a goal of improving access to information.

What is the biggest challenge you'd like to address?
I would like to look into how we can use technology to shift the paradigm of education from an assembly line model to a personalized track that adapts to each student. The tools we need to redesign our education system exist, and I'm excited to begin to change how education is approached both in the United States and abroad.

How do you see yourself having an impact on the world?
I'd like to create technology and social programs that empower future generations to reshape their world. I believe this will require a healthy mix of creativity, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and (of course) luck.

Did anything about college surprise you?
I was most taken by the myriad of opportunities. I knew the U of M was large enough for everyone to find something they enjoy. I didn't expect that every minute of every day there would be a new event, a talk from a professional, an academic competition, a program, an interview, an activity, or a class that I could participate in if I wanted to.

What was your most memorable/proud moment during your time at the U?
Publishing my first paper and receiving a Goldwater Research Scholarship for my work. It was amazing to be supported by the excellent researchers on campus and to be a part creating tomorrow's technology.