With student demand and research opportunities in computer science skyrocketing, Northwestern University today announced it will hire an additional 20 faculty members and substantially expand its commitment to this field in the years ahead. Half of the new faculty appointments will be in core computer science areas and half structured as collaborative “CS+X” appointments with other disciplines. The University is making initial investments in advance of fundraising to support the overall effort, which is expected to exceed $150 million.
“This is an investment in the future of the University. Computer science has become a foundational discipline for many of our students, and faculty across the University are increasingly using computational thinking,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said. “It is important for Northwestern to continue to enable new paths for exploration. The time is right to make this commitment.”
Interest in computer science among students at Northwestern has increased significantly. In the last five years, the number of computer science majors has more than tripled. Overall course enrollments have more than doubled, with non-majors taking many advanced classes. Basic computer science skills have become a prerequisite for many jobs for new graduates, and demand for such knowledge will only increase in the future.
“Through this investment, computer science at Northwestern will meet the challenge of ensuring students have the necessary skills they need to do great things in the world,” Northwestern Provost Daniel Linzer said. “This will have far-reaching implications. Not only can we advance computer science at Northwestern, but we can advance Northwestern through computer science.”
Computer science and computational thinking have the potential to touch nearly every field at the University. The explosion of available data combined with increased computing power has resulted in research growth in areas such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics and data analytics. While this has led to a wealth of new research within computer science, the power of the field lies in its ability to provide new collaborations and points of view to many academic disciplines. This collaboration has a long history at the University: Several Northwestern computer science professors have joint appointments in areas such as music, journalism and education, and many of the new faculty positions will be at new intersections of disciplines. These CS+X appointments will accelerate collaborative research.
“The power of computer science lies in augmenting our thinking and in its ability to accelerate research exponentially in other areas,” said Julio M. Ottino, dean of the McCormick School of Engineering. “Even areas as diverse as art, economics, medicine and political science can benefit from integrating computational thinking into their research and education. The possibilities are endless.”
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