Letter From the Chair (Winter 2013)

Lori A. Clarke, Professor and CS Chair

I am delighted to be able to announce that we are now the School of Computer Science.  This is more than just a name change; it reflects the broad footprint that computing now has on campus (and worldwide) as well as newly increased flexibility and independence in shaping our future. Plans for becoming a school have been ongoing for the past four years. The Strategic Directions Committee, under the guidance of Rick Adrion, James Allan, Emery Berger, Bruce Croft, Jim Kurose, Lee Osterweil, and Prashant Shenoy, have been developing plans that reflect this increased role. Computer Science at UMass Amherst is extremely interdisciplinary. Faculty in Computer Science are engaged in research with every other college and school on campus and these interactions are continuing to grow. To complement our BS degree, several years ago we introduced a BA degree, which has fewer requirements so that students can combine the study of computing with studies in other disciplines. As I reported in my last letter, we now have a professional master's program. And, as part of the vision for the new school, we are exploring developing an Informatics Program that would offer degrees in more applied and specialized areas of computing, such as data analytics, health informatics, and multimedia. The new school is still part of the College of Natural Sciences, and we continue to report to Dean Goodwin, who has been very supportive of computer science and our increased independence. A celebration of our new status is currently being planned for Fall 2013--watch for an announcement.

At the end of this fall semester, we saw the departure of two faculty members. Kevin Fu resigned to join the faculty at the University of Michigan. Kevin is a very visible and respected researcher in computer security. With two small children, he and his wife wanted to be closer to their families. We wish them the best and expect to continue to hear great things about Kevin's research. As reported in the Winter 2013 newsletter, Edwina Rissland retired after thirty-three years as a faculty member at UMass Amherst. Edwina was one of the initial founders and a leading researcher in the area known as case-based reasoning, which explored how artificial intelligence could be used to support lawyers in developing legal cases. In addition to her research, Edwina served two terms as a program director at the National Science Foundation, where she won praise for her dedication and hard work. Although now retired, Emerita Professor Rissland plans to continue to provide leadership in the case-based reasoning community. We thank her for her contributions and hope she enjoys her retirement.

Let me end this letter with news about a newly created graduate scholarship to recognize the contributions of Ed Riseman, who passed away in 2007, and Al Hanson, who retired in 2008. As many of you know, Ed and Al co-directed one of the major research laboratories in computer vision. Emeritus Professor Hanson continues to pursue research in computer vision and robotics, especially focusing on assistive living. Computer vision continues to be a major research area for our school, building upon work in machine learning, robotics, and computer graphics. Graduate scholarships, such as the Ed Riseman and Al Hanson Graduate Scholarship, help us attract strong graduate students to our Ph.D. program. In a recent review of university graduate programs, it was clear that UMass does not provide as many scholarships for graduate students as most comparable universities. With tightening state budgets, increased funding for scholarships is going to have to come from contributions. In the last several years, we (really you!) have successfully endowed four graduate student scholarships in honor of Robin Popplestone, Paul Utgoff, Victor Lesser, and Dave Stemple, as well as continued support for undergraduate scholarships. Please consider contributing to one of our scholarship programs.