Irvine, Calif., September 22, 1998
When UC Irvine computer science students arrive on campus this week, they will find several major changes-from new faculty to upgraded computer labs-reflecting a heightened commitment to high-quality computing programs.
The improvements come as UCI's Department of Information and Computer Science (ICS) prepares for its biggest influx of freshmen. The number of freshmen entering ICS this fall will grow by 61 percent-from 122 in 1997 to 196 in 1998. UCI already has the largest number of undergraduate majors of any ICS program in the UC system, and the third-highest number of ICS majors of any school west of the Rockies.
Buoyed by the state's burgeoning high-tech industry and intense competition for qualified computing professionals, UCI's ICS department is providing education opportunities that prepare students for industry as well as high-level academic research, in areas from how people interact with computers to the ways computers impact society.
Enhancements in the department this fall will include a new computer lab, dozens of useful new software packages and three new faculty members.
"Companies and students alike are seeing that UCI is the place to go for an information and computer science education that helps people develop the foundation they'll need in the next decade," said Michael Pazzani, chair of the ICS department. "We can provide students with the knowledge and the framework to develop their own ideas in the next generation of computing technology and push the technology forward. And now, with our new computers, instructors and other resources, we're an even stronger program."
Undergraduates will be able to use 130 new Pentium 400 MHz personal computers, and 35 PCs upgraded to Pentium 400 MHz, for programming assignments and research projects. Graduate students will have additional computers as well.
More than a dozen computing companies, most from Orange County, donated part of the cost of the computers-$185,000 of a total of more than $400,000. The rest was covered by UCI's portion of a UC-wide high-tech education initiative launched by Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature. The governor and legislators appropriated $6 million in the 1998-99 budget to increase the number of computer science and engineering faculty and boost computer resources at UC campuses. That will allow campuses in the system to significantly increase enrollment of computer science students to help alleviate the state's shortage of high-tech workers.
At UCI, the state initiative covered the cost of 2.5 more teaching assistants and an additional lecturer in ICS, in addition to the new computers in the labs.
When students use those new computers this fall, they will use Microsoft development tools, operating systems, and productivity software such as Microsoft Visual C++ 6.0, Microsoft Visual J++® 6.0, Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0, Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Workstation and Microsoft Office 97. Microsoft Corp., the Redmond, WA-based leader in software for personal computers, donated $687,000 worth of software-a total of 1,650 software licenses-to ICS as part of a special grant program.
"With the software, students will learn about the foundations of objected-oriented programming as they gain experience in a programming environment commonly used in industry," Pazzani said.
Beyond new hardware and software, students also will see new professors in their classrooms who will help them learn about computing, from theory to practice. Three new professors-Sharad Mehrotra, Nalini Venkatasubramanian and Wanda Pratt-will bring their cutting-edge computer expertise to UCI this fall.
"These are talented additions to our core faculty, who already are highly recognized and awarded in their fields," Pazzani said.
Mehrotra most recently was assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and also has experience working as a scientist in private industry. He studies multimedia information systems, information retrieval, workflow automation and several other topics, and holds a patent for a data searching method.
Venkatasubramanian earned her doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign last spring, and will bring her specializations in systems software, architecture and networks to UCI. Besides teaching, she has worked as a software design engineer at computer-maker Hewlett-Packard. She also is an accomplished performer in Indian dance and is interested in animation choreography and research on sending video on demand over the Internet.
Pratt earned her doctorate from Stanford University and specializes in medical informatics-the use of computer technology to manipulate medical data, a quickly developing field at UCI. She also is interested in information retrieval and artificial intelligence.
The new assistant professors will bring the total number of ICS faculty to 32. They will join an acclaimed group of researchers: Four assistant professors in ICS won Faculty Early Career Development grants from the National Science Foundation in 1997.
Many of the new ICS enhancements were made possible by contributions from local companies. Donations or in-kind contributions for the new computer lab and other resources came from Symantec Corp., Unisys Corp., FileNET Corp., Printronix, NexGen SI, Systems Management Specialists, Kofax Image Products, The Irvine Company, Rainbow Technologies and Union Bank, in addition to the ICS Alumni Assn. and Microsoft Corp.