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Member Since 03 May 2007
Offline Last Active Jun 25 2013 11:55 AM

Topics I've Started

Is an MS in Mathematics enough to break into graphics?

24 April 2011 - 12:02 AM


I am currently studying for an MS in mathematics and was wondering if anyone out there has a degree in math and is doing graphics programming. If not, does anyone know how realistic it would be for someone in math to go into graphics? (I just recently got hit hard with the graphics bug. )It could be games or visualization/scientific applications; I don't care. If I need to, I could easily stay in school and get a master's in CS, but I'd rather get a programming job (non-graphics at first) to get real world experience while learning graphics on my own. I learned Java and some C/C++ on my own and it's actually enough to get a job where I work at.

Right now, I have a student RA where I mostly translate mathematical algorithms from research papers into actual code. Most of the math is difficult for the CS guys since it is an area that comes from order theory and lattice theory. Most of the code is basically doing set theory and FCA/order/lattice theory on the computer. I've noticed there are some math people doing graphics like David Eberly and Samuel Buss but they seem to be rare and exceptional, and they have PhDs.

My interest is mainly in 3d stuff. I've been playing around with OpenGL and worked through some NeHe lessons only to find out that most of those are old and uses the fixed pipeline which is deprecated. So now I've been looking into GLSL and Cg; needless to say, I was blown away when I saw what can be done when you start using shaders. This only motivated me to want to learn more so I spent some weeks reading most of the 7th edition Red book (deprecated!), the Superbible 5th Edition, and started reading Real Time Rendering and Edward Angel's Interactive Computer Graphics. I didn't realize I could understand most of those books quite easily after spending years doing abstract algebra and analysis. It was quite an amazing discovery when I found out that I could make some pretty pictures using basic Linear Algebra, Trig, and Vector Analysis. I always wanted to be an artist, but I gave up at a young age. For me, it seems like graphics programming re-opens the door to that kind of creativity that I once aspired to as a child. I feel like graphics programming is a way to use math to do art without being having to be an artist. :P If any graphics programmers are here, I'd like to know how they relate their work to art/math and what they find satisfying about the work.

So how does one break into the field? Should I learn OpenGL/Direct3d and make a bunch of demos or an engine? Or just stay in school for another 2-3 years and get the master's in CS? I've taken enough CS to know basic data structures like stacks, linked lists, queues, and trees and I even took a course on OOP, but I've never made a project that is longer than say, 1000-1500 lines of Java/C. Any advice or comments is appreciated. Thanks.