Computer science faculty member Bastian Tenbergen also is an expert in software engineering who has worked with auto and airplane manufacturers on ensuring safety throughout their systems. He fell in love with his future wife while an undergraduate exchange student here, then returned to Oswego for a master's degree.

What is the origin of your name?

I'm not American, as you can probably tell, but I usually don't tell people where I'm from -- people have to guess. You get three guesses. (Two guesses ensue.) Very good, yes, I'm from Germany.

Where were you raised?

Hamminkeln, a small hamlet much like Oswego with a great community, also much like Oswego. I graduated with a high school diploma. In Germany, the school system is unlike here, so only a third of the students get a high school diploma that allows them to advance to university.

What can you tell us about your higher education?

For my undergraduate degree in cognitive science, I attended University of Osnabrück. That degree was very new back then, and required a semester abroad for every person. My semester abroad was at SUNY Oswego in 2005; Osnabrück has a partnership with Oswego. I said, "Why not, they have a cognitive science program there, too." I met wonderful people (such as) Craig Graci, David Vampola and Doug Lea (in computer science). Despite my best efforts not to do that, I fell in love with a beautiful Oswego lady. (Laughs.) Her name was Gilian Smith. She's from East Syracuse and went to study psychology here at Oswego. We first locked eyes on the eighth floor of Hart Hall, between the elevators. We are a true Oswego love story! 

What happened next?

I had to return to Germany to finish my degree. Shortly after that, I received an email from the founder of Oswego's HCI (human-computer interaction) program, Gary Klatsky. He said, "We think it would be right up your alley. Why don't you come back for it?" They made sure I had an assistantship. The decision was easy -- live with the woman I love and work with the people I love and get a graduate degree for free. Well, heck yeah -- sign me up! (Laughs.) I started my Ph.D. work at University of Duisberg-Essen. Gil got her master's in the Netherlands, and enrolled for her doctorate at Hanover Medical School in Germany. We got married in 2009 in Germany; her name is Gilian Tenbergen now.

When did you start full time at SUNY Oswego?

In 2015. I discovered that the college was looking for a software engineering faculty member, which was actually what my Ph.D. was in. Happily, I was hired. We moved from Germany back to the United States. Half a year passes, and it so happens that the psychology department here on campus started looking for faculty also. Gilian was hired, too, as a visiting assistant professor. We both finished our doctorates this summer.

How would you describe your research field?

Software engineering is more concerned with the process of how software is developed and not so much with writing code. Software engineers are there to make the software marketable. My key research focus is requirements engineering, which starts when the stakeholder says, "I have a vision for the system." The requirements engineer finds ways to break the software down into implementable software components that work toward the client's vision and are cost-effective, given time and budget constraints.  

Can you tell us more specifically what a requirements engineer does?

I am most concerned with visual notation for requirements -- technical diagrams just like an architect would use or like a circuit diagram an electrical engineer would use. You can describe the structure, functions, behavior, interaction within or between systems. It's all about how to use diagrams effectively to communicate ideas. The specific idea I'm interested in is how do we make software systems safe, as early in the development process as possible. I do airplane software, car software. Safety is not just something you add on top at the end. The later you start with safety engineering, the more expensive and time-consuming it will be. I am still looking for partners in New York, but I used to work with clients in Germany quite a bit. I worked with companies like Daimler, the holding company for Mercedes-Benz. Audi. Volkswagen. Airbus.

What are your favorite classes to teach?

My favorite class is "Safety Requirements Engineering." I developed the class; not many colleges in the world are teaching this. I also teach project classes. One of my favorite to teach is "Software Design." It is a group project unlike any other. The entire class works on one marketable software product and simulates how a company develops software. The class is all about time management, requirements management, systematically solving problems and how to be successful despite other humans. (Laughs.)

What do you think of Oswego students?

There's no place like Oswego -- starting with the faculty, who are approachable and interested in working with undergraduates. I like to buy little knickknacks like this, a $35 computer (the size of a deck of cards). It runs Linux, Office, you can attach devices to it like sensors. Throw a bunch of those into a room, and half a week later, some student has made something cool with it. I've never seen any university where students are quite as engaged. They want to know.

What else have you done on campus?

The department of modern languages is very close to my heart -- they teach German! Two weeks ago, I went to John Lalande's and Ana Djukic's class and showed them a mail ballot -- Germany voted in a new government last weekend. When I was an undergraduate and as a graduate, I did a self-defense class on campus. I like to attend the (Campus-Community) orchestra -- my wife plays the French horn. Oswego has such a rich community, and Gil and I really like to attend and be part of that. I’m also chair of a search committee right now. I'm involved with the Engineering Advisory Board.

Do you live in Oswego?

Right now we are living in Baldwinsville, but we decided to buy a house here -- we're closing any day now. 

What else can you tell us about your family?

We'll hopefully have children in the future. Both my parents live in Germany. My 88-year-old grandmother heard we are buying a house, so she and my parents are coming over this Christmas.