The Famous Dr. McLurkin
In 2008, when James McLurkin graduated with a PhD in Computer Science from MIT, he was unquestionably a star. Four years earlier, Time Magazine profiled James and his research on swarm robotics as part of their Innovators series. The next year, he was featured on an episode of Nova ScienceNOW. The producer of the show, WGBH in Boston, built an interactive web site dedicated to James, where, among other activities, you can watch a photo slide show of his life and find out what he carries in his backpack. Earlier this year, TheGrio, a popular African American-focused news portal, named James one of their 100 History Makers in the Making — a list that also includes Oprah Winfrey and Newark, NJ mayor Cory Booker.
Perhaps most telling, even my brother, who finished his systems engineering degree in 2002, knew of James. “He’s the guy with the robots,” he recalled. “We watched a video of him in class.”
In other words, James is famous in his field. So it’s not surprising that in 2009 he landed a professorship at Rice University — one of the country’s top engineering schools — in one of the worst academic job market in decades.
With these accomplishments in mind, this post asks two simple questions: How did James become such a star? And what lessons can we apply to our own quest to become remarkable?
The answers, as you’ll soon encounter, are not what you might first expect…