CS 50th Anniversary Symposium and Gates Hall Dedication a Success!

September 30 through 2 October, over 125 alumni and past computer science faculty members, along with spouses, descended on Cornell to attend the Computer Science Department's 50th anniversary symposium. They came from all over the USA, from Europe, and even from India. Many held important positions in academia and industry---the president of a relatively new research university, chairs of computer science departments, and IT industry leaders.

They came to pay tribute to the CS department and its impact on computing, to reminisce, to see how Cornell has changed, and to listen to talks by eminent past alumni and faculty members.  There was a talk by the VP of Google for search, a talk on robotics by a Mcarthur Award winner, a talk by a founder of Google Glass, a panel discussion by three Turing Award winners, a panel on the past and future of programming languages, and much much more.

In between, Bill Gates dedicated our Gates Hall; Bill Gates and President Skorton held also an hour-long discussion in Bailey Hall.

The banquet Wednesday evening gave attendees a sense of the history of the department, with two Cornell people involved in starting the department and the first chair giving their perspectives on why CS at Cornell has thrived so well, staying among the top departments in the country for 50 years. Significant milestones were also discussed --starting the undergrad programs, creating the Cornell Faculty for Computing and Information Sciences, starting the IS Department, and winning the opportunity to develop Cornell Tech, Cornell's new graduate program in New York City.

What an exciting three days!

Here's a more detailed recap. Videos of the talks and the Gates Hall dedication ceremony will soon be posted on our website.

Wednesday morning, 1 October, faculty, students, and guests geared up for a full day of presentations and socializing. Edmund Clark, Juris Hartmanis, and John Hopcroft started with a Turing Laureates Panel, followed by alumnus Rohan Murty, who flew in from India to discuss challenges he faced in industrializing IT services.

Meanwhile, back at Gates Hall, Bill Gates got a private early Wed morning tour of our new building, with a chance to chat with faculty and students involved in research ranging from graphics and vision to sustainability, health, and molecular discovery.  An artfully timed morning break in the symposium allowed the participants to join the crowds assembling on the portico at the main entrance to Gates Hall for the dedication.  Dean Haym Hirsh, President Skorton, Board of Trustees Chair Bob Harris, and Bill Gates offered a few words. The doors to Gates Hall were opened for all to wander about and see the labs, replete with demos and posters showcasing the department's broad research program. Thom Mayne, Pritzker Prize-winning architect and designer of Gates Hall, was also on hand, and he spoke about his design and its realization in the Gates Hall Mentors Lecture Hall.

The first afternoon session of the symposium began with an eye-opening talk by alumnus Marc Levoy on Google Glass.  Next, alumnus Cynthia Dwork talked about her work on differential privacy. Cynthia's work illustrates well why CS at Cornell has had such an impact; she was able to provide mathematical foundations for a growing field and then use that mathematics to provide insight. McArthur award winner Daniela Rus then talked about robotics, showing, among other things, a video that answered the question posed to her 25 years ago by John Hopcroft. Yes, John, a robot can pour coffee into a coffee cup, but it isn't pretty!.

Later in the afternoon, alumnus Amit Singhal, VP for search at Google, talked about "The Future of Search," describing also how the foundations of all search engines was the work of the late Gerry Salton, father of Information Retrieval. He then ceded the floor to a Social Networks Panel moderated by Jon Kleinberg: Lars Backstrom, Steven Strogatz, and Duncan Watts. This session showed the extent to which Cornell has shaped what people today experience as the Internet.

At 4:30, Bill Gates and President Skorton held an hour-long discussion in Bailey Hall. Tickets to this event had sold out within 22 minutes, but it was live-streamed, and symposium attendees and those in Gates hall had excellent seats to watch it.

Wednesday night, we filled the Statler ballroom with a banquet and an after-dinner walk down memory lane from those that had brought to life what we know today as Cornell's CS and CIS.  David Gries moderated, and he didn't hesitate to display photos and tell stories that were forgotten long ago (and should have remained so).  Anil Nerode and Dick Conway talked about how the Department got started, and Juris Hartmanis talked about what it was like to be first Chair. Alan Borodin, the first person to go through our graduate program and get a PhD, reminisced. Bob Constable discussed CS's role in starting the Faculty of Computing and Information Science, Claire Cardie talked about starting the IS Department, and Dan Huttenlocher ended with festivities talking about Cornell Tech.

The Symposium continued on Thursday morning with a Graphics Panel moderated by Don Greenberg and featuring alumni Michael Cohen, Baining Guo, Marc Levoy, and Holly Rushmeier. This distinguished group, all of whom had studied under Don and then went on to have their own impact on graphics, debated a broad range of issues in graphics.  Alumni Lorenzo Alvisi and Michael Reiter then discussed Distributed Systems, with Ken Birman moderating.

After a short break, former faculty member Thomas Henzinger talked about his "startup": the Institute of Science and Technology in Austria.  Next, Alex Aiken, Robert Harper, and Stephanie Weirich engaged in a spirited debate about programming languages on a panel led by Bob Constable. The symposium ended with alumnus Scott Aaronson giving an inspiring and accessible talk about the potential and limitations of quantum computing.

Exhausted? the best is yet to come! While this symposium highlighted the impact that CS at Cornell has had in the past 50 years, the next 50 years of computing at Cornell promise to be just as exciting.

Watch for photos in the coming weeks!

Date Posted: 10/17/2014

David Vakili '16, a double major in CS and economics, was elected the Arts and Sciences representative to the Student Assembly

David Vakili '16, a double major in CS and economics, was elected the Arts and Sciences representative to the Student Assembly.  David is the Treasurer of (and plays the viola in) the Cornell Symphony Orchestra; is spearheading the development of a computer science course in the Cornell Prison Education Program, for which he has also helped in math instruction; is a commissioner for CUTonight, and has served as an orientation leader, peer advisor, and TA.

Date Posted: 10/17/2014

Emmanuel Schanzer '02 has been recognized by TechCrunch for his work on Bootstrap

Emmanuel Schanzer '02 has been recognized by TechCrunch for his work on Bootstrap with a mention as one of "10 Men Making Waves for Women in Tech". " In 2006, Emmanuel created  Bootstrap, a curriculum and software platform that enables students to build their own video games using pure algebraic and geometric concepts and a functional programming language. Bootstrap has incorporated many known best-practices for engaging young women in computer science, building teamwork, relationship-building and real-word application into every aspect of the curriculum. "This approach means all the girls and underrepresented students get the chance to feel successful with computer programming, not just the students who sign up for the programming electives" says Schanzer, "it's about equity."  Bootstrap has successfully engaged an army of teachers, a half-dozen colleges and universities, and won support from organizations like the Computer Science Teachers Association, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and the National Science Foundation.


TechCrunch Article
Bootstrap Website

Date Posted: 10/17/2014

Daisy Fan was selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering's Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium

Daisy Fan was selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering's Frontiers of Engineering Education symposium. The 77 attendees were nominated by NAE members or deans and chosen from a highly competitive pool of applicants. The symposium will be held Oct. 26-29 in Irvine, Calif.

In being selected, Fan was deemed to be among the nation's most innovative, young engineering educators.

Faculty members who are developing and implementing innovative educational approaches in a vPasteariety of engineering disciplines will come together for the 2-1/2-day event, where they can share ideas, learn from research and best practice in education, and leave with a charter to bring about improvement in their home institution.

Date Posted: 10/17/2014

Lars Backstrom (CUCS PhD '09) and Jon Kleinberg's relationship-partner identification algorithm is the subject of half a chapter in the new book Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by OkCupid's co-founder Christian Rudder.

Lars Backstrom (CUCS PhD '09) and Jon Kleinberg's relationship-partner identification algorithm is the subject of half a chapter in the new book Dataclysm: Who We Are (When We Think No One's Looking) by OkCupid's co-founder Christian Rudder.

Rudder's team also built an app implementing Backstrom and Kleinberg's algorithm using one's Facebook network; try it here

Date Posted: 10/17/2014

Cornell was ranked third --- ahead of MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, University of Washington, Stanford, and other schools --- in "how successful recent graduates have been at landing desirable software development jobs"

Cornell was ranked third --- ahead of MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, University of Washington, Stanford, and other schools --- in "how successful recent graduates have been at landing desirable software development jobs", according to a LinkedIn's analysis.   The top two institutions were Carnegie Mellon and Caltech.

Software-developer list

Blog post on methodology used

Date Posted: 10/17/2014

Michael Clarkson was awarded a grant through the Air Force Young Investigator Program

Michael Clarkson was awarded a grant through the Air Force Young Investigator Program for his proposal "A Logical Foundation for Cybersecurity Built on Hyperproperties".  The Air Force YIP supports scientists and engineers who have received Ph.D. or equivalent degrees in the last five years and show exceptional ability and promise for conducting basic research. The objective of this program is to foster creative basic research in science and engineering; enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators; and increase opportunities for the young investigator to recognize the Air Force mission and related challenges in science and engineering.

Date Posted: 10/17/2014

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