This year was a challenging one and unique to the graduating class of 2021: the entire academic year was virtual for the computer science department even after students had returned to campus.
Our students are an enormous part of what makes our department special. Despite a rigorous academic workload, they regularly strive to do more. They plan and host events locally, attend conferences, and participate in competitions around the world—this year they just did it virtually! They run a variety of student groups, each with its own mission and purpose. They serve as teaching assistants and teaching fellows, and they do research on a myriad of interesting topics. When the pandemic and the need to socially distance forced department activities online in March 2020, our students were incredibly helpful in making that transition as smooth as possible. They have been instrumental in making the past year and a half of online instruction work as well as it has. They embody the Tufts ideal of “active citizenship” and I couldn’t be more proud of all of their accomplishments.
The department continues to grow at every level, and so we were happy to welcome three new faculty members to the department this year: Bert Huang, Dave Lillethun, and Dan Votipka. Bert and Dave joined us in the fall, while Dan joined us in January.
As of June 1, Tufts leadership has dropped many COVID-19 restrictions. Everyone will still be required to wear masks while indoors, but many more classes will be able to be held in person.
The Joyce Cummings Center is nearing the final stages of completion. Some of our faculty and staff will be moving into the new building in November, with the remainder of the department moving in January. You can view a video in which Ruth Bennet, Director of Strategic Capital Programs, gives a tour of the new building.
Finally, I have some personal news to share. In the fall, I will be starting as the Deputy Director of the Information Innovation Office (I20) at DARPA. Consequently, I will be stepping down as the Chair of the Department of Computer Science at Tufts at the end of August. Dean Qu will start the process of determining the next chair shortly. Given all that is happening in the world and in Washington DC right now that is specifically in the remit of I20, from ransomware to disinformation campaigns at scale and distance, to significant research opportunities in high-assurance computing, 3rd-wave AI, heterogenous architectures, etc., I decided to accept the role DARPA asked me to take on.
I'm incredibly proud of all that the department has accomplished in the past five years in the face of significant challenges: sustained student growth, limited resources, and of course, COVID-19. Given the department’s very talented faculty, staff, and students; the sustained support of the dean’s office and Tufts more generally; and our dedicated alumni, I know the department has even greater things in its future. I very much look forward to helping the department realize that future, albeit in a different role than the one I have held for the past five years.
I wish you a relaxing and enjoyable summer and I hope that you will keep in touch!
Professor and Chair
Department of Computer Science