“Pick a card, any card…”
So began, at the tender age of five, Adam Tart’s initiation into the magical world of card tricks, sleights of hand and a fascination with patterns and puzzles. His Dad Brian Tart, the card challenger in question, saw in his young son nascent signs of an enquiring mind and a precocious ability to solve problems; sure-fire indications of the stellar mathematician that he would one day become.
More than twenty years on, Tart, a native of Atlanta, Georgia, is a software engineer working for Google; a high-flying genius whose day-to-day job at the company’s global headquarters in Silicon Valley combines his passion for puzzles with rigorous research ability. Google relies on young, highly talented programmers to maintain its world dominance in internet search and to innovate constantly to offer new products, which now range from cloud computing to operating systems to mobile-phone offerings.
Adam explained his story to a captive audience who were guests at the Irish Consulate in San Francisco on Thursday May 26 last, at an event hosted by Gerry Staunton, Consul General of Ireland, and representatives of all seven Irish Universities who were in town to promote the benefits of Irish university degree programmes to an audience made up of local high schools, parents and prospective applicants for Irish university degree programmes. Tart, as guest speaker, spoke in glowing terms about his experience as a graduate student in University College Cork (UCC) where, studying as a Mitchell Scholar, he obtained a Master’s degree in Mobile Networking and Computing in 2009. In a week where it was fashionable for Americans everywhere to claim ancestral roots to Ireland (President Obama had spent the previous Monday in Moneygall, boasting of his relationship with his local eighth cousin on the maternal side!) Tart opened his remarks by stating that, in spite of his red hair and a natural emotional affinity with the Emerald Isle, he didn’t have one drop of Irish blood in his veins. His decision to study in Ireland – having already obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Discrete Mathematics and a Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering Statistics from Georgia Tech – was based purely on academic grounds, backed up by an interest in Ireland’s people, land and culture. He was familiar with Ireland’s worldwide reputation in Software Engineering and was impressed that scores of technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Dell and Accenture had chosen Ireland to host their international headquarters. That decision made, choosing UCC just seemed the next obvious thing to do. He was aware of the University’s reputation in Computer Science and also of the fact that George Boole, first Professor of Mathematics in Cork was the founder of Boolean logic, which is the basis for all computer operations; “I already had a very strong theoretical background from Georgia Tech but I needed a programme that would allow me to apply my mathematical and computer science skills to real world situations.” It turned out that UCC provided the perfect fit for Tart’s talents and aspirations, and he graduated with a First Class Honours Master’s of Science. Tart completed a degree that integrated computer networking with software development and mathematical modelling, topics that are all perfectly suited to many facets of his current position at Google.
“I can say that absolutely, hands-down, without a doubt, my year in Cork was the best year of my life” remarked Tart. “The Computer Science Department in UCC is a hot-bed of talent. My professors were some of the best in their fields; the material was interesting, stimulating and challenging; and my classmates were serious and passionate. I am positive that my top-notch education in UCC absolutely secured my current position in Google.”
Tart worked hard during his year in UCC, but he also played hard. He got to know the people, landscape and culture of Ireland and, by joining UCC’s Mountaineering Club, savoured the pleasures of Ireland’s spectacular beauty in all weathers. He maintained his interest in magic and was pleased to find some kindred spirits in the Department of Computer Science; a number of the professors in the Department, whilst not card tricksters, were proficient jugglers and circus performers, and his sleight of hands went down well within a cohort of intuitive magicians. In fact, one recent PhD graduate in Computer Science has opted not to continue with the more financially lucrative computing area, but to become a gymnast and circus performer!
Just to prove to his audience that his skills were indeed practical and not theoretical, Tart ended the evening by performing his wizardry on some sceptical members of the Consulate gathering. Californian high school students gathered round to watch him as he dazzled them with card tricks, relying on his twenty years of practice to make the most difficult sleights seem effortless and truly magical.
Louise Tobin and Lisa Brett of UCC’s International Education Office were impressed. Said Tobin: “I got to know Adam when he was a Mitchell scholar at UCC and it was a privilege having such a gifted and well-rounded individual on our campus. His professors raved about his ability and knew that he would go far upon graduating.”
Added Brett: “The whole audience was mesmerised tonight; first by Adam’s talk about his time in Ireland, then by his magic card tricks. We are still trying to work out just how that Hershey kiss materialised out of nowhere!”
Said Consul General, Gerry Staunton: “We’ve had many guests come to Pine Street to develop the Irish-American relationship but Adam’s display tonight offered a new dimension- we are proud to welcome such a talented individual to San Francisco’s Irish community. It’s an extra bonus that Cork and San Francisco are sister cities – a match made in heaven!”
And what next for Adam?
“I don’t know where life will take me next, but I know that I will return to my second home of Cork many, many times.”
One thing’s for sure; he’ll continue to weave his magic wherever he goes.
Further info on ucc’s programmes can be found at: http://www.ucc.ie/en/study/international/