Alumni Stories

Alumni Profile: Dr. Hayley Iben

2001 Duquesne Graduate, BS in Computer Science

Hayley Iben earned a B.S. in computer science from Duquesne University in 2001 and a M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science with an emphasis in computer graphics from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Hayley joined Pixar Animation Studios in 2006 as an intern with the research group. She transitioned to a full-time position within the Software R&D department in 2007 where she contributed to the award winning Presto Animation System. She built tools for character articulation and animation, focusing on inverse kinematics and mathematical techniques. In 2010, Hayley joined the team that was researching and developing the studio's hair simulation technology, Taz, that debuted in Disney Pixar's "Brave". In 2013, Hayley was promoted to lead the simulation engineering team that was responsible for character effects technologies such as cloth, hair, flesh, and skin. Since 2020, she has been a director of engineering at Pixar, overseeing the teams that create and support many of the film production technologies at the studio. Hayley and collaborators were honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a 2020 Technical Achievement Award for their work on Pixar's Taz Hair Simulation System.

Picture of Alumni Haley Iben"Duquesne University's computer science program laid the foundation for my career. Because of the small class sizes, I was able to get valuable one-on-one time with professors, developing my skills as a computer scientist. The professors also took an interest in my career early in my college studies, suggesting research projects available in the department before I was even interested in research. This exposure was essential for my preparation for graduate school and my career. The department's approach to teaching computer science with a heavy programming component in relevant industry languages was also a crucial part of my career development. I would highly recommend Duquesne University's computer science department."

Alumni Profile: Dr. Amy Ulinski Banic

2003 Duquesne Graduate, BS in Computer Science

Amy Ulinski Banic graduated with a B.S. in computer science and a B.A. in studio art from Duquesne in 2003. She went on to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to earn her M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science with an emphasis in 3D User Interfaces and Virtual Reality in 2005 and 2008, respectively. Immediately after she held a post-doctorate fellow position in the School of Computing at Clemson University. In 2010, she accepted a tenure-track position as an assistant professor in the Computer Science department at the University of Wyoming in Laramie,WY. Additionally, she holds a joint appointment with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, ID. She conducts research in Virtual Reality and 3D User Interfaces, which focuses on Human-Centered Computing and Human-Computer Interaction for 3D environments such as Immersive Visualizations, Virtual Environments, and Virtual Humans, or embodied agents.

Pricture of Dr. amy Ulinski Banic"With the expertise and care of faculty, I was able to acquire an excellent broad background in computer science knowledge and extensive programming experience, which every day enables me to program with and learn new complex systems and have confidence to step out of my comfort zone. If I could pass on any message to future students, it would be that: you matter at Duquesne. Faculty have a vested interest in your success and own career goals. I have many supporting stories where faculty go above and beyond, of which include but not limited to, faculty encouraging new ideas, supporting projects out of their comfort zone, developing challenging but fun assignments to reach beyond your potential, dropping in the lab to check on your progress, and even calling you when you are sleeping through an exam! Through research opportunities and senior project exploration at Duquesne, as well as internships, I learned that I had a love for research but struggled with the area of choice. Faculty pushed and supported me to reach for my dream career- and I am loving every minute of it! They were vital in my search and preparation for graduate school- which enabled me to find an adviser that was top in my research field as well as a paid research assistantship to support all of my graduate school education. And finally, I    will never forget the friendships and many many great memories I have of faculty and fellow classmates."

Alumni Profile: Brian Blackburn

2002 Duquesne Graduate, BA in Computer Science

Brian Blackburn currently lives in England with his wife (also a Duquesne CS alumnus) and children.  He has worked with most aspects of digital communication security, from low-level RF modulations to high-level application design.  Recently, he has been leading an effort to both devise and develop mechanisms to recognize interesting anomalies in very large data sets without the benefit of knowing what "interesting" means beforehand.

Picture of Alumni Brian Blackburn"I believe the bedrock of my knowledge provided by Duquesne University plays a large role in my abilities to digest and apply new topics. .... Moreover, Duquesne's location in downtown Pittsburgh afforded me opportunities to work 3 different intern positions.  When I graduated Duquesne University, I already had real experience as a system/network administrator, financial software developer, and systems design consultant in addition to the breadth of topics covered in my classes.  Now more than ever, I appreciate that breadth of knowledge and experience because it gives me multiple perspectives to grasp the relationships and pertinence between the highly specialized areas where I need deep expertise. "


Alumni Profile: Randy Schauer

2000 Duquesne Graduate, BS in Computer Science

Randy Schauer works for Raytheon as a Senior Software Engineer and is currently the software development and integration lead for the Electronic Command Board effort with the Fire Department of New York. He is also pursing a Ph.D. in Computer Science part-time at the University of Maryland Baltimore County in the area of Autonomic High Performance Computing, focusing on the development of a framework for the intelligent management of distributed rack-based blade resources.

Picture of Alumni Randy Schauer"Studying in the Computer Science department at Duquesne provided access to high quality, approachable faculty members who gave everyone an opportunity to push their own boundaries as far as we wanted to go. The courses, material and what I learned through faculty-student interaction continue to aid me both professionally and academically. The unique experiences this environment offered allowed me to build a strong moral and ethical foundation for the success I have enjoyed since my graduation."



Alumni Profile: James Sweeney

2003 Duquesne Graduate, BS in Computer Science

James Sweeney is currently working as an animation / gameplay engineer for EA Sports on their upcoming NBA title. Over the past 6 years he has worked at EA on Madden / NCAA football, MMA, and NBA. He was largely responsible for the gang tackle feature of Madden.

Picture of Alumni James Sweeney"The computer science department at Duquesne University prepared me for graduate school and working at Electronic Arts by providing me with a strong foundation in programming. Duquesne's CS program teaches students the strong fundamentals of computer science and prepares them to enter into a wide variety of traditional programming fields. The faculty has a domain expertise in a variety of fields and is always willing to answer questions and give advice. Almost a decade after leaving Duquense, I still look back with fond memories of the department and strongly recommend it to any prospective students considering a career in programming."


Alumni Profile: Vladimir Olexa

2004 Duquesne Graduate, BS in Computer Science

Vlad Olexa is a Senior Software Engineer at CBS Interactive in charge of iOS application development for all CNET properties.

"The Computer Science program at Duquesne along with its accompanying Math courses provided me with an incredible professional foundation that landed me a great job right out of college. Even now, I find myself referencing textbooks written by the very professors who taught me. It wasn't just the raw theoretical and practical knowledge that helped me get ahead of other applicants. It was also the ability to quickly adapt to new technologies and attack problems methodically rather than senselessly. And I can thank no one but my professors for teaching me that!"

Alumni Profile: Michael Piatek

2005 Duquesne Graduate, BS in Computer Science

Michael Piatek received his PhD in computer science from the University of Washington and is employed at Google, where he has recently worked on a fast notification service designed for applications with potentially hundreds of millions of users.  You can read more about Michael and his work at