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Profile: Jim Kurose, Assistant Director of NSF's Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate

Jim Kurose

Jim Kurose is leading the Directorate of Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE) as an Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). He is on leave from his UMass Amherst position as Distinguished Professor of Computer Science within the College of Information and Computer Sciences. He came to UMass Amherst straight out of graduate school in 1984 and has been a member of our faculty ever since. We asked him about his NSF position.

Tell us about your role at NSF.

I lead the CISE directorate with a staff of more than 140 people. NSF/CISE provides more than 80% of the federal funding ($933M for Fiscal Year 2015) for academic basic computer science research in the nation. CISE works closely with its community to identify opportunities that will continue to transform all areas of science and engineering. Beyond NSF, I work with leaders from industry, international organizations, and other federal agencies such as the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and with the U.S. Congress. I think the breadth of these collaborations reflects the reach, importance, and impact of CISE.

What are your goals during your term at NSF?

I hope to assist the CISE community to continue achieving research advances within core disciplines and collaborative research across disciplines. Our community is recognized for its leading roles in national, cross-government initiatives such as the Smart Cities Initiative, the National Strategic Computing Initiative, the National Robotics Initiative, the BRAIN Initiative, and the National Big Data Research and Development Initiative. I'd also like to foster expanded federal, university, and industrial partnerships, and to increase CISE's collaboration with other agencies and with international partners. Other top priorities include advanced cyberinfrastructure and nurturing the growing student interest in computer science in our nation's colleges and universities.

President Obama recently launched Computer Science for All (CS for All). What is the CISE Directorate's involvement with this initiative?

NSF is committed to improving the availability of comprehensive computer science education throughout the nation. The CS for All Initiative, launched by President Obama during a weekly address (the importance of CS education was also mentioned twice during his State of the Union address), builds on NSF investments over the last decade in broadening participation in computer science and computer science education efforts. Both of those NSF efforts were developed and led by Jan Cuny, who was a UMass Amherst CS professor during the 1980's and 1990's. Jan and I started together at UMass on the same day, and now it's great to be working with her again at NSF!

NSF is committing $120 million over five years to the CS for All initiative to prototype instructional materials, assessments, teacher resources, and scalable professional development. This investment could enable as many as 9,000 additional high-school teachers to be well prepared to teach computer science over the next five years.

What is the most exciting/interesting aspect of the job?Jim Kurose at South Pole

I love working with all of the people at NSF, not just in the CISE Directorate, but also across all areas of science and engineering. Folks who work at NSF are incredibly dedicated and passionate about their work. I've also enjoyed working with folks from different government agencies who have a deep interest in computer science research. There are a number of academic computer scientists like me who are on leave from their university to contribute--Randy Bryant from CMU at OTSP, Scott Jordan from UCI at the FCC, and Margaret Martonosi from Princeton at the State Department come to mind. And, of course, there are many academic computer scientists working in CISE at NSF. I think we all feel it's a real privilege to be able to spend some time in government to help "move the needle" for the community and for the country. I also really enjoy meeting with CS faculty across the country. I've visited more than a dozen universities in my first year at NSF. I've also travelled internationally to represent NSF, including a memorable trip to Antarctica, where NSF maintains facilities at McMurdo Station and the South Pole.