“It feels good seeing my students graduate. I’ve worked with some students since they were freshmen and I’ve seen them graduate and go on to nice careers. That part is very fulfilling, knowing that you’ve put someone out in society that’s going to make a difference.”
Working with students is incredibly important to UNM professor Nick Flor. As much as he enjoys his research, Flor considers himself a mentor for a new generation of professionals, encouraging his students to move out of their comfort zone and achieve more than they thought they could. As an avid martial artist, Flor found his teaching inspiration intertwined with his own dojo training.
“I’ve always been very student focused, and it goes back to something I had read years ago, when I was a graduate student, by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo and a professor of education. He said, ‘nothing under the sun is greater than education. By educating one person and sending him or her into the society of their generation, we make a contribution extending a hundred generations to come.’
“When you think about it, if you educate one person, and send them out into the world, they they make a contribution that goes far beyond you just educating them. They go and work with other people, they create things, they have children who then go on and create things. It perpetuates and continues on. That’s been my whole philosophy as a professor. Students are the ones who are going to make a difference in the world.”
And Flor believes that coming to UNM he has had the opportunity to work with a group of amazing students. Students who were inspired by New Mexico’s unique cultural diversity. He discovered how New Mexico’s unique culture fosters art, creativity and a different way of looking at the world. It’s these elements that he believes are some of the greatest strengths of UNM’s student body.
“It’s the cultural diversity. We have a bunch of different ethnicities here. To me that creates a unique culture that’s conducive to learning, to creativity. I don’t think I would get the same kinds of students, both technically and artistically, anywhere else. It’s not just me saying it, we have recruiters from big companies come to UNM and they tell us the same thing. They say our students are just as good as other schools, but they don’t have a bad attitude, and they are a joy to work with.”
Flor and his students in the Reality Augmented Virtual Environments (RAVE) Lab are currently working on creating 3D interactive visualizations to help the public see and experience (virtually) technologies that don’t yet exist. Flor as designed the lab to give student as much experience as possible on real world projects.
Many of Flor’s students have left the RAVE lab and continue to work in the digital media industry, with graduates working at companies as varied as the Disney Imagineering Studio, Goldman Sachs, LucasFilm, and Sony.
Outside of the RAVE Lab, Flor continues to work on cutting edge digital and social media research. Currently he is focused on the 2016 Presidential Election debates, analyzing the social media follower growth and interested generated for each candidate in real-time, and also compares it to any increase or decrease in their popular support.
“It’s amazing! Everything that’s going on in social media, in terms of the election, is fantastic. We can capture what the nation is thinking about the different candidates in real time. Right now I’ve been collecting the raw data, keeping track of the volume of tweets after every debate so we get to see who is generating the most interest online.”