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Faculty Spotlight with Dr. Nelson: Innovating and Fly Fishing

Each week, we will be getting to know our faculty members a little bit better. This week, we will be getting to know Dr. Brent Nelson.

Dr. Nelson fly fishing

Dr. Brent Nelson has been a part of the BYU Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering for over thirty-seven years, teaching numerous classes (most recently, Fundamentals of Digital Systems) and helping to design countless innovations in computer-aided design (CAD) systems. These innovations began with an inborn curiosity for how gadgets work and how to design them. This spark of curiosity found an unending forest to burn when he was introduced to digital electronics in high school. Here, there seemed to be an infinite number of unimagined designs, tangible designs that could be used in everyday life, waiting to be built.

And so he began building. In what he described as the most fun part of his career, Dr. Nelson worked with field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) when they exploded onto the scene. During this time, he helped to lead the development of countless new designs with this new technology. Because so little had been done in the area before, he led numerous students, both graduate and undergraduate, as they worked together on numerous innovations.

Dr. Nelson isn’t just active in the world of innovation, though. Outside of work, he finds himself constantly hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing—activities that, he noted with a chuckle, have helped to keep him sane over the years. Finding new ways to both pursue a love for music and spend more time with his family, he has also begun playing a resonator guitar in bluegrass and Irish bands with his daughter.

Busy with adventures and music and family, he is glad for his well-deserved retirement coming in June of next year. Looking back at what he is most proud of during his time in the department, he noted that earlier in his career, though not everyone knows this, he served as head of the department for ten years. During this time, he was able to help shape the department into what we know and love today.

Dr. Nelson mountains
Dr. Nelson hiking