School of Computer Science Celebrates Golden Anniversary

Celebrating the 50th anniversary the establishment of its graduate program in the 1963-64 academic year and its new designation in June as a school by the Board of Trustees, the School of Computer Science is hosting a three-day series of events for students, alumni and the campus community on “Broadening the Impact of Computing.” 

Festivities begin on Thursday, Oct. 17 at 1 p.m. with a career and internship fair offering one-on-one mentoring for students with computer science alumni, plus a “Careers in Computing” panel from 3:45-5 p.m, with a reception to follow. It will feature alumni Brent Heeringa of Williams College, Irene Ros of Bocoup, Aaron St. John of HitPoint Studios and Steve Vinter of Google, plus Ken Schmidt of Yahoo!, reflecting on their UMass Amherst experience and offering advice on preparing for and applying for jobs and internships.

The opening afternoon’s focus is on students, says organizer Jim Kurose, because “the university and our school are here for our students. We have a very high quality program and we think this makes UMass Amherst and the School of Computer Science a destination of choice for students. The new classes and programs we are introducing make this a very rich place to pursue a degree in computer science or in the new informatics major we are developing. ”

Faculty and staff interested in learning more about informatics, which focuses on the application of computing in disciplines as diverse as art, epidemiology, personalized medicine, business, engineering and public policy can attend sessions on Friday to learn more. Professor Lori Clarke, who chairs the department, adds, “We have more majors in computer science now than ever before, so enrollment is exploding. But at same time, we believe there are students on campus who are not served by a traditional computer science degree. Computing has applications and impact in many different fields, not only in the obvious computing-oriented industries, and on absolutely everyone. That’s why we’re developing the new informatics program.”  

An outdoor barbecue lunch, open to all interested students, faculty, staff and friends, will be part of the Friday series of panel discussions:

“Expanding Horizons in Computing” with Farnam Jahanian of the National Science Foundation (NSF); Henning Schulzrinne, CTO of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, and Bob Sproull, chair of the National Academies Computer Science and Telecommunications Board.

“Computing as a Core Subject in a 21st Century Education” with Jan Cuny of NSF; Kelly Powers, chair of the computer science department at Boston’s Advanced Math and Science Academy, and Cameron Wilson of the Association for Computing Machinery, also CEO of

“Computing Across the Campus” with Peter Bloniarz, dean of the college of computing and information at the University at Albany; alumnus Ed Durfee of the University of Michigan, and Patricia Galvis-Assmus, professor of art.

“Computing Research” with Eric Brown, an expert in question answering who developed one of the first custom search engines for IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, highlighted on national television when IBM took up the Jeopardy! Grand Challenge; alumnus Matt Rattigan, whose work for the Obama campaign used Facebook to reach people through their social networks and culminated in a massive get-out-the-vote effort on Election Day, and Yanlei Diao, associate professor of computer science, who will discuss her interdisciplinary computing research in genomics.

Events in a “Hands-on Computing” session on Saturday morning, including robotics and wearable computing, are geared to alumni and their children.

All events are free, but registration is requested at