Since becoming chair of the Department of Computer Science on September 1, 2016 I have had the pleasure of watching the department grow and thrive. The faculty and students in the department have been busy teaching, researching, and learning!
An ongoing challenge for the department continues to be meeting the rising student demand for computer science courses and degrees. We anticipate graduating over 200 Computer Science majors this spring, up from 150 in 2018. Additionally, we estimated this spring that over a third of this year’s Tufts graduating seniors had taken at least one of our computer science courses during their undergraduate years. Over 1,200 students are taking our courses this semester alone! Despite the challenges of teaching so many students, the department continues to provide high-quality learning experiences.
To cope with the high level of student demand, we have been working to grow the size of the faculty and to increase the number and training of undergraduates who work as teaching assistants.
With such a large department, it becomes important to provide smaller spaces where students can create their own communities. To that end, this fall the department announced the creation of its first focus area in Cyber Security. Focus areas will allow students to both structure their studies and develop a smaller group of like-minded intellectual peers within the department, while still participating in the intellectual and social life of the department overall. We have continued to introduce focus areas, now in Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Human-Robot Interaction.
Due to high student demand, we have expanded our degree offerings. Undergraduates now have the option of majoring in Data Science while graduate students can pursue certificates and degrees in Human Robot Interaction and Computer Engineering as well.
We are also actively encouraging the formation of new student organizations and the development of new initiatives within existing groups. The undergraduate group Women in Computer Science held its second annual Women in Technology conference this fall to high acclaim. JumboSec, formed by undergraduates this September, already has developed a fine line-up of speakers. Girls of Code, now headed entirely by our students, provides introductory programming workshops for local, school-aged girls, held right here in Halligan. There is so much student activity – and so many students! – that we now have an active CS Student Council to help guide and provide feedback to the department! These groups and more serve as centers of activity, of outreach, and as some of the smaller spaces that our growing department needs.
In faculty news, we are delighted to welcome four new members to our faculty. Professor Jeff Foster joins us from the University of Maryland; Assistant Professor Michael Hughes from Harvard University, Visiting Assistant Professor Matias Korman from Tohoku University, and Lecturer Karen Edwards from Harvard University. We also offer a warm good-bye to Professor Roni Khardon and wish him well in his new position at Indiana University – even though we’ll miss him!
Various CS faculty have been recognized for their work this year. For example, the International Relations Program added Ming Chow to its core faculty, with a focus on cybersecurity. JP de Ruiter was elected as a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Sciences. Sam Guyer was the recipient of the 2018 School of Engineering Faculty Mentoring Award. Last year, Alva Couch received the Engineering Seymour Simches Award for Distinguished Teaching and Advising. Susan Landau published the timely book “Listening In: Cybersecurity in an Insecure Age.” The Student Accessibility Services Office honored Mark Sheldon as the inaugural recipient of the Tufts Faculty Disability Advocate Award.
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Kathleen Fisher, Professor and Chair
Department of Computer Science