Later he says,
Wilson thinks that there is a coming together of knowledge across disciplines to create a "common groundwork of explanation", and he calls this process "consilience". From our vantage point as a department that straddles the Colleges of Arts & Sciences and Engineering, we are caught up in this consilience.
As computer scientists, we engineer computer systems that are learning to process natural language. We provide computational models of cognition that explain what neurobiologists see when they look at brain function. We discovered unity in the laws that govern information processing in biological systems and computing systems. We use mathematical tools, such as game semantics, for explaining not only the meaning of concurrent programs but also the behavior of agents in an economy. We are involved in the creation of a new medium for presenting ideas and organizing knowledge in all disciplines. The current manifestation of this medium is the Internet and the World Wide Web, but that is just the beginning.
Every year for over two decades, we have heard that CS has never been more exciting, and people now say that it is changing faster than ever (businesses speak of "Web time" as a measure of how quickly technology is changing). This acceleration is propelled by scientific discoveries and their application by industry and government_new algorithms, new systems, and deeper insights into computing and information. New energy from business and information-driven consilience among the sciences is powering this growth. We are now working with more people from other disciplines on problems of intrinsic interest to us and them and whose solutions contribute to the nation's welfare and security.
CS has become an enabling discipline for many sciences, for branches of engineering, and for the humanities; it is a powerful instrument of the "consilience" among the sciences and humanities. CS is a driver for industry and perhaps for the new economy as well. Better ways to compute and better access to information are essential to scientific progress and national prosperity.
Some professions are already swept up in the Information Revolution, for example, librarians. For this reason, we are working closely with them on the design of digital libraries of the future. Ken Birman, Dean Krafft, Carl Lagoze, Fred Schneider and Praveen Seshadri have played major roles in this effort.
Biologists are also caught up in this Revolution. They are drowning in data and confronting the realization that biological systems are information processors. They seek models of computation that explain the "mechanics" of gene expression and that organize the fine detail of biological information processing. Biologists need our knowledge of algorithms, data structures, and computational modeling, and their problems synergistically fuel our research. Tom Coleman and Dexter Kozen have headed our recruiting effort in this area. They are now joined by faculty members Ron Elber and Jon Kleinberg. Also joining this effort is Klara Kedem, who held the Mary Upson Visiting Professorship in Computer Science 1997-98 and who will be with us in that role for another year. She and Kleinberg, along with Paul Chew, helped David Shalloway, chair of Biochemistry, create the Computational Biology Association.
In the computational sciences, we have been "pushing the envelope" from the start, on computing hardware with parallel algorithms and building integrated systems like the parallel version of Matlab. Cornell has been a leader in scientific computing, and the University has reaffirmed its commitment by continuing to fund the Theory Center, now headed by Tom Coleman. Steve Vavasis is the Director of Graduate Studies for Applied Mathematics. Keshav Pingali is exploring new approaches to parallel computation that draw on properties of underlying numerical algorithms to improve the data handling characteristics of generated code. Tom Coleman is launching a new effort in Computational Finance.
In the cognitive sciences, AI has been a major partner from the beginning, helping to define that field. Today, CS is seeing benefits from this early role, as we learn from linguists, psychologists, and neurobiologists more about how nature built its information processors. In fields like natural language processing, we are building systems based on years of language research. These systems will make computers more accessible and more "friendly" to all of us. Joe Halpern is co-director of Cognitive Studies, where Claire Cardie has contributed for several years. She and Joe have brought Lillian Lee and Bart Selman into a program in which I have been involved on the executive committee for years.
This has also been a year of greatly increased dialog with Electrical Engineering. Ken Birman, Joe Halpern, and Srinivasan Keshav were all involved in EE recruiting, helping that department attract two outstanding candidates. Birman is also involved in a new EE/CS joint effort to create an institute for research in advanced electrical power systems. With restructuring of the electric power grid, a tremendous number of issues are raised concerning control of the new grid, safety and reliability, economic models for buying and selling power, and so forth. The hope is to pull together a substantial cross-disciplinary team with members from CS, EE, Economics, the Theory Center, and Operations Research and Industrial Engineering. Projects such as this illustrate the potential benefits of collaboration especially vividly.
This year's Annual Report highlights the diversity of our interdisciplinary activities, including cognitive studies, computational biology, genomics, computational science, digital libraries, and "digital futures". In these areas, we have formed very close and productive research collaborations. Building these connections is part of the ten-year plan we laid down in the Vision Statement.
Our vision included a hiring strategy. Although it is extremely difficult to recruit the best people in this hot market for computer scientists, we managed to do it. Ron Elber, a leader in computational chemistry, accepted our tenured full professorship offer; beginning January 1999, he will help us move decisively into computational biology. We also hired Andrew Myers, one of the top new PhDs from MIT in security_another one of our strategic areas. These recent additions serve to strengthen our department at a time when we are needed and appreciated more than ever at Cornell. We continue to produce the kind of science that has attracted some of the best faculty and students to Cornell. For example, Jon Kleinberg received national press attention for his new methods of locating information on the World Wide Web.
Our research funding increased with large grants to Pingali for the study of crack propagation, with new DARPA funding for Cardie on natural language processing, Kozen on Formal Methods for Software Certification, Constable on formal methods, and with renewed funding for Constable and Birman for verifying Ensemble. A new NSF Research Infrastructure grant, A Next Generation Computing and Communications Substrate, is headed by Dan Huttenlocher.
Huttenlocher and Dean Krafft were also instrumental in obtaining $6.5 million in computer hardware for Cornell over the next 5 years.
Finally, this year several faculty received prestigious research and teaching awards. Eva Tardos was elected a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). For showing outstanding promise as a young scholar, Greg Morrisett received an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship, and Bart Selman received a Career Award from the National Science Foundation. On the teaching side, Keshav Pingali received the Stephen & Margery Russell Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest award for teaching in Cornell's College of Arts & Sciences. Within the College of Engineering, S. Keshav, Greg Morrisett, David Shmoys, and Sam Toueg received recognition awards for their fine teaching, and Hal Perkins was named the Faculty Member of the Year by the Association of Computer Science Undergraduates.
We are extremely proud of these awards, which recognize the continued dedication of our faculty to the teaching and research mission of the Department.