In 2011, John Orr left Nebraska Mathematics after 20 years to work at Google in California.
During his time with the Department, he was vice chair; taught dozens of courses (Math 203 and Math 825 were his favorites, he said); and created the online testing system used by thousands of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students every year.
Now, seven years later and still at Google, Orr has made another big move, this time back to his native Scotland.
At Google in California, Orr developed e-commerce payment systems that handled over $1 billion in transactions and open-source educational software platforms used by millions of students worldwide. His current work at Google London continues his interest in education at scale, building software for projects such as “CS First,” which aims to help teachers and parents develop kids’ interest and skills in computer science.
Orr also keeps a toe in the waters of mathematics, having published a few papers during his time at Google, and is very glad to finally know the answer to a question which he had worked on all his years at Nebraska (see http://JohnOrr.us#24 for details).
Orr and his family are living in the rural Scottish Borders not far from Edinburgh where he grew up, and he keeps in sync with work thanks to fibre-optic broadband and frequent trips to London.
“Returning to Scotland after so many years living in England, Canada, and the U.S. has been a remarkable experience,” Orr said. “I often think of that line of T S Eliot, ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ There is definitely some feeling of that sort here.”
See http://JohnOrr.us for more about Orr’s activities.