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Message from the Chair

Year in Retrospect

This 40th anniversary year for the computer science department has been truly eventful and memorable, heralding many changes, including  several new faculty hires, our first faculty retirement, a new staff  recruit, a staff retirement, a burgeoning undergraduate enrollment,  an increasing graduate (master's and PhD) enrollment, new interdisciplinary programs, and the announcement of a new building  to house the new institute for data science as well as the computer science department. 

Four faculty members have joined our ranks this last year, broadening our research coverage in several areas. John Criswell did his PhD from the University of Illinion at Urbana-Champaign, and focuses on software security in his research. Philip Guo did his PhD at Stanford University and joined us after spending a year on sabbatical at MIT. His research is in the area of online cooperative  learning. Ji Liu joins us from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and works on core machine learning, with a focus on asynchronous algorithms. Tom Howard did his PhD at Carnegie Mellon in the area of robotics and joined us after his post-doctoral stint at MIT.

As you can see, each of the new hires adds unique strengths to our department. They have already received affirmation on the quality and direction of their research: our department was one of only two nation wide to receive three National Science Foundation (NSF) CISE Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) awards. The CRII program was initiated for the first time last year, offering awards to faculty in their first two years of an academic position. John Criswell also received the 2015 David J. Kuck outstanding dissertation award at UIUC, as well as an honorable mention for both the 2014 ACM doctoral dissertation award and the ACM SIGOPS Dennis M. Ritchie doctoral dissertation award.

2015 also saw our first faculty retirement: Chris (CB) Brown. CB was a founding member of the department and has a long and dedicated history of service to the university. We expect to continue to be able to draw from his wit and wisdom, as he plans to remain in Rochester. A retirement party in his honor is planned for Meliora weekend.

Our bachelor's program continues to grow in popularity, with 100 students in the entering class of 2019 declaring computer science as their interest. Driven by the belief that diversity drives innovation, we are also participating in what is called the BRAID initiative. Our goal is to broaden participation in our program by groups typically underrepresented in computer science through both curricular reform and community building via peer networking opportunities. The BRAID initiative is spear-headed by Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd, who put it well when she said, "I want computer science and technology to be a world that embraces everyone who has passion, ability, and interest, whether they look like the dominant group or not." Our first year of tracking our cohort of women students has been encouraging, with numbers for the 2017 graduating class crossing 30%.

We introduced two new interdisciplinary programs in data science and in computational linguistics this last year, with another potentially focused on biomedical data science in the wings. We also welcomed Niki Pizzutelli last October as our new graduate coordinator. She replaces JoMarie Carpenter, who retired on July 31, 2015. Niki will be coordinating both our growing MS and PhD programs.

Among our alumni, Rick Rashid and Avi Tevanian received the ACM Software System Award in recognition of their work on the Mach operating system. Rick also received an honorary degree from the University of Rochester.

Last but not least, we were in the throes of working with the architects of the new Wegmans Hall, which will house the newly created Goergen Institute for Data Science as well as the Computer Science Department. My office is a great vantage point for watching the construction.

Sandhya Dwarkadas
Department of Computer Science