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Department of Computer Science and Engineering Marking 40th Anniversary

Release Date: April 5, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y.-- In 1967, the University at Buffalo took a bold step, creating one of the nation's first departments in the emerging discipline of computer science.

Now, after producing 6,000 graduates, many of who are some of the field's most renowned innovators, the Department of Computer Science and Engineering will mark its 40th anniversary with a two-day program to be held April 13 and 14.

The department's Graduate Student Association will showcase graduate student research during a conference from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. April 13 in the Center for Tomorrow, North Campus. Scheduled to speak at the conference are Hongyi Wu, M.S. '00, Ph.D. '02, assistant professor at the Center for Advanced Computer Studies, University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Michael Kurdziel, B.S. '86, M.S. '88, Ph.D. '01, information security specialist at Harris Corp.; James Geller, B.S. '79, M.S. '84, Ph.D. '88, professor of computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology; and Kulbir Arora, M.S. '85, technology fellow and managing director, Goldman Sachs..

On April 14, the program will move to the Ramada Hotel and Conference Center, 2402 North Forest Road, Getzville, and will feature invited talks and panel discussions about the past and future of the discipline and the challenges that lie ahead.

Speakers will include many of the UB department's distinguished alumni, including C.L. Max Nikias, M.S. '80, Ph.D. '82, provost at the University of Southern California, who will discuss "How Timeless Values Generate Timely Innovation," and Bruce Shriver, Ph.D. '71, UB's first doctoral graduate, now of Genesis 2 Inc. and professor at large at the University of Tromso, Norway, who will discuss "The Increasing Diversity of Computer Architectures."

Other distinguished alumni speakers include Deepak Kumar, M.S. '88, Ph.D. '94, professor and chair of computer science at Bryn Mawr College, who will discuss new directions in computer science education. Former UB faculty member John Case, now professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Delaware, will speak on computational learning.

The founding chair of the department, Anthony Ralson, UB professor emeritus, will address the conference, as will Satish K. Tripathi, UB provost, executive vice president for academic affairs and professor of computer science and engineering; Harvey G. Stenger Jr., dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Bharat Jayaraman, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; and Stuart C. Shapiro, professor and former chair of the UB department.

The conference and 40th anniversary celebration will provide alumni, students and faculty with an opportunity to reflect on how far the department and the discipline have come and to project where the opportunities lie, both for the department and its future graduates, said Jayaraman.

In the past 30 years, he said, the field has gone from mainframes in the 1970s to PCs and desktop workstations in the 1980s to the Internet in the 1990s to palmtops and wireless computing today.

"Computing devices keep getting smaller and are now becoming part of our environment," he said. "The end is nowhere in sight."

In fact, he said, growth in the department is slated to be in the exciting new area called "smart environments," one of the major initiatives within the UB 2020 strategic strength of information and computing technology.

He described a smart environment as one in which sensors and computing and communication devices are embedded into everyday objects, providing a seamless and natural way for humans to interact with computers and get things done.

"This agenda makes a lot of sense for UB and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering," he said, "as we have expertise in several of the core technologies, such as sensors, networking, intelligent systems and user interfaces."

According to Jayaraman, some of UB's most distinguished alumni have spent their careers working in industry and that makes sense, given the department's strong orientation toward application.

"Applied research has always been our strong suit, so industry is a very natural fit for our graduates," said Jayaraman. "We place a good 80 percent of our doctoral graduates in industry."

He noted that the department's Alumni Speaker Series this year featured graduates who are working at Google, AT&T Bell Labs and other technology leaders.

The department and the discipline are seeking new ways to make the field attractive to prospective students, he said.

"Many students come out of high school thinking that computer science is just programming," he pointed out. "We need to do a better job of introducing our field in more interesting ways and communicating to students the great intellectual challenges that face computer scientists in the new, rapidly changing computing environment."

Now that the dot-com "bust" is over, he said, the number of computer science majors is once again on the rise, totaling 450 this semester.

"Projections are very good for computer science and engineering graduates," said Jayaraman. "Leading companies such as Microsoft, Intel, Google and others are eager to hire computer science and engineering graduates as these companies are presently unable to fill all their openings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects a very good job market for computing graduates for the foreseeable future."

Members of the UB community, alumni and the general public are welcome to attend the department's anniversary celebration. Information can be found at http://aluminum.cse.buffalo.edu/40/html/index.html.

Media Contact Information

Ellen Goldbaum
Senior Editor, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
goldbaum@buffalo.edu
Twitter: @egoldbaum