Dr. Brian Robert Callahan

academic, developer, with an eye towards a brighter techno-social life



About me

I am a Lecturer in the Information Technology and Web Science program (ITWS) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in upstate New York. As a researcher, my focus is on understanding how people live within and often find ways to resist their digital worlds. As a teacher, I am passionate about student growth and success. As a technologist, particularly in my role as a developer for the OpenBSD Unix-based operating system, I believe strongly in software security, portability, accessibility, and best practices for more ethical technologies.

Prior to joining the ITWS program, I earned my Ph.D. in Science & Technology Studies, also at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, earned an MA in Anthropology from Monmouth University, and earned a Bachelor of Humanities and Arts (BHA) in Music Performance (Bassoon) and Anthropology from Carnegie Mellon University.

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Research

I have two primary avenues for research. The first focuses on diversity and the distribution of ethics in the tech sector, particularly and primarily as understood by historically underserved groups. In my dissertation research, I engaged in a multi-year ethnography of Hypatia Software Organization, a hacker collective by and for trans women, with the express mission to get impoverished trans women into life-sustaining technical careers through peer mentorship programs and other programs designed to keep participants meeting the basic needs of life in order to foster their learning. In addition to my research work with the collective, I also serve on the Board of Directors for Hypatia Software Organization, Inc., the 501(c)(3) non-profit arm of the collective.

The second line of research is in the development of digital platforms that enable and encourage novel modes of collaborative research. I have been a part of the Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography (PECE) design team since my graduate student days, under the direction of Drs. Mike and Kim Fortun. I currently serve the PECE design team as Lead Open Knowledge Developer and Lead System Administrator for the project, in charge of establishing and maintaining the global PECE network of servers, or instances in our parlance, as well as developing best practices for digital collaboration.

Previously, as a graduate student I worked under Dr. Ron Eglash on his Culturally Situated Design Tools (CSDTs) project, as part of an NSF-funded GK-12 fellowship. My responsibilities in this project included coding and other development work to develop new CSDTs and extend existing ones, acting as a systems administrator for the project, working closely with teachers at Albany High School in Albany, NY, to teach STEM topics to high school students, and traveling across the United States working with teachers to get CSDT software set up for educational activities.

I am beginning a new line of research focused on the security of robotics middleware software.

You can read some of my publications on my Academia.edu page.

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Teaching

My teaching encompasses and extends my research interests. My primary teaching responsibilities are the Information Security courses at the senior undergraduate and graduate levels and the Web Systems Development and the Web Science Systems Development courses at the lower undergraduate level.

Under the banner of Information Security, I teach the flagship Information Systems Security course, which I recently rewrote from scratch, as well as a new course on Modern Binary Exploitation.

The Web Systems Development and Web Science Systems Development courses are a full-year sequence, typically taken during the Sophomore year, that dives deeply into web development theory and practice, culminating in the planning and complete execution of viable real-world web applications using the Apache-MySQL-PHP and MongoDB-Express-Angular-Node.js stacks. The sequence also prepares our students for further coursework in Data Science and Data Analytics through the teaching of the R programming language and basic theory behind Data Science and Data Analytics.

As a student advisor, I oversee the Information Security/Cybersecurity and Science & Technology Studies concentrations at the undergraduate level and the Information Security/Cybersecurity/Information Dominance concentration at the graduate level.

I also serve as the faculty advisor for RPISEC, the computer security club and internationally award-winning CTF competition team at RPI and the RPI-Sage Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

As a graduate student, I co-developed, with a faculty member in the Science & Technology Studies department, a 2-year sequence of courses that explore the interconnectedness between science, technology, and important topics in the humanities and social sciences. Dubbed the "...in Culture" series, courses included Gender in Culture, Race as a Global Challenge, and Sustainability by Design. You can see some of these syllabi on my Academia.edu page.

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