Message from the Chair
Charles Van Loan
I hardly know where to begin—so much has happened during the past academic year. So I will start at the top. The new administrative structure for computer science has breathed new life into all that we do. The road has been rocky, but the Faculty for Computing and Information is off and running. The debates of the fall gave way to some real accomplishments in the spring. All along the way we have
been reevaluating the role that computer science can play in the university. With Dean Robert Constable, we have charted a course that ensures the preservation of core computer science research while at the same time expanding our teaching mission so that a wider population of undergraduates is served.
Sponsored research is more vibrant then ever. There are new initiatives across the board. Bart Selman and Carla Gomes have secured new DARPA funding for critical research in Artificial Intelligence. Fred Schneider and Bob Constable obtained funding from the Air Force for the Information Assurance Institute, which will be jointly managed by Cornell and Rome Labs. Fred will serve as the first director. Ron Elber has lifted his research efforts in computational molecular biology to new heights with contracts from NIH, NSF, and DARPA.
Keshav Pingali took charge of Ph.D. admissions and did a spectacular job. The incoming class is large and talented and reaffirms once again that we can compete with any school for the very best students.
No matter how stretched we are as a teaching faculty, it is absolutely essential that we continue to create new courses that track changes in the field and underlying student interest. It has been a great year.
Together with colleagues in the College of Engineering, we reorganized our large introductory programming course, CS 100, which introduces students to both Java and Matlab. Students will now have the option to choose between two versions of the course (100M or 100J) that mix and match the Matlab and Java components in different ways and different proportions. With the reorganization, we can better address the disparate background problem and at the same time serve the interests of freshmen who are headed for either CS or a traditional engineering major.
We experimented with the Academic Excellence Workshop (AEW) idea in CS 100, running two pilot sections during the spring term. The hallmark of the AEWs is collaborative learning, which can have an important role to play when it comes to attracting women and minorities into science and engineering. On campus, AEWs have been part of the core science and calculus scene for several years. Under the direction of Professor David Schwartz, the CS 100 pilot AEWs were very successful. With the help of Pat Spencer in engineering, we will ramp up our AEW effort in the course so that by the end of academic 2000-01 the entire CS 100 population will have access to this great instructional vehicle.
Dexter Kozen taught the first edition of our "new" functional programming course (CS 212). The course, renamed CS 312, will now be required for all CS majors. Dexter has laid a nice foundation for future instructors.
Ron Elber and I started a new undergraduate numerical methods course (CS 221) for the growing population of students who are interested in molecular biology. Matlab instruction is organized around applica 1999-2000 Annual Report tions such as the analysis of protein shapes, dynamics, protein folding, score functions, and field equations.
Claire Cardie initiated a new course in machine learning (CS 478), a topic that is wildly popular among the undergraduates. By making it accessible to students at a relatively young age, Claire has reaffirmed the importance of bringing research ideas down to the undergraduate level.
For masters students and upperclass CS majors, Bill Arms created "Computing Methods for Digital Libraries" (CS 502). It deals with large, complex, distributed information systems where heterogeneity and time-scale problems prevail. Only someone with Bill's experience could deliver a course with such a dramatic weaving of the technical and social issues.
In collaboration with Christine Shoemaker in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Bart Selman started a masters level course in heuristic optimization (CS 574). A wide range of applications is discussed that confirm what we all know: AI techniques are spreading far beyond the boundaries of computer science.
Ken Birman, Johannes Gehrke, Joe Halpern, and Fred Schneider co-taught a wide-ranging course on information technology in the Johnson Graduate School of Management. We believe that this marks the beginning of a new era of collaboration between JGSM and the department under the auspices of the FCI.
Steve Vavasis organized a very clever graduate course on famous papers in applied mathematics. Steve is central to the great relationship we enjoy with the Center for Applied Mathematics.
This litany of course innovation speaks to the department's educational commitment. Next year our plans call for a new honors systems course for undergraduates, a new graduate course on algorithms, and new offerings in computer ethics and Internet technologies. In addition, this fall will see the beginning of a new minicourse for freshmen entitled "Great Ideas from Computer Science."
Turning to recent faculty hires, Bill Arms, Ron Elber, Johannes Gehrke, Andrew Myers, and David Schwartz celebrated (more or less!) their first anniversaries with the department. It is hard to imagine where we would be today without these great additions to the department. The same can be said for Al Demers, who returned to us this spring after a wonderful 15-year side trip into the industrial sector.
Our very careful recruiting efforts culminated in two brilliant assistant professor hires. Golan Yona, who graduated from the Hebrew University and is now a post-doc at Stanford, will add greatly to our efforts in computational biology with his work on the classification of proteins. Gun Sirer, from the University of Washington, works on distributed virtual machines and is a terrific addition to our systems group. Both will arrive on campus in January.
Lillian Lee helped orchestrate a wonderful colloquium series. We saw a brilliant succession of fresh Ph.D.s who collectively reminded us how great it is to work in such a vibrant field. Our relationship with the recently renamed School of Electrical and Computer Engineering is better than ever. Greg Morrisett and Rajit Manohar united CS 314 and EE 314, showing how very important it is to turn young research-driven minds loose in the classroom. The computer systems course that they redesigned will serve well the large number of students who major in CS and ECE.
We were also pleased to have played a role in the hiring of two new ECE professors in the architecture area: Martin Burtscher from Colorado and Evan Speight from Rice. They will be welcome new members of the CS graduate field and, together with Rajit and Mark Heinrich, give Cornell strength in a crucial area. Steve Wicker's collaborations with Bart Selman are further evidence of the evolving research connections between the two fields.
Another faculty hire that is important to us is Mats Rooth, a distinguished computational linguist who has joined the Department of Linguistics and holds a secondary appointment in the FCI. He will help Claire Cardie and Lillian Lee strengthen our research program in natural language processing.
Andrew Myers represented us well in the new systems engineering initiative. CS has a central role to play in this joint venture with several other engineering fields. There will be a new Master of Engineering program in systems engineering beginning in the fall of 2001. Cornell Department of Computer Science
We are also very pleased with the plans for bioengineering in the College of Engineering, and we are eager to contribute on the computational end. When I think about that and our involvement in the genomics initiative, I see a great fertile crescent: Engineering, the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, and FCI.
University leadership by CS faculty continues at an unprecedented level. Tom Coleman directs the Theory Center and the Financial Solutions Center in Manhattan. Bill Arms chairs President Rawlings' distance learning committee. Ron Elber leads the campus effort in computational genomics. Joe Halpern is co-directing the Cognitive Studies Program. These visionaries ensure that the department's high standards for teaching and research are leveraged throughout Cornell.
Juris Hartmanis, Jon Kleinberg, and Bart Selman won awards that point to the very highest level of excellence. Juris is the 2000 winner of the CRA Distinguished Service Award for his lifetime of contributions to the computing research community, including his recent term as Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation for Computer and Information Sci ence and Engineering. Juris has played a major role in helping the public recognize the importance of computing research. Jon won a highly prestigious Packard Fellowship for his work on algorithms that exploit the combinatorial structure of networks and information. Bart was elected a Fellow of the American Association for Artificial Intelligence. The department is truly fortunate to have friends like these in high places.
Carla Gomes won the "Best Consultant" award for the entire Air Force Research Information Directorate. Carla's research collaborations are central to our expanding outreach effort and a model for others to follow.
This coming year Dexter Kozen, Keshav Pingali, Fred Schneider, and Ramin Zabih have interesting and well-deserved sabbaticals lined up. After three very successful years as Director of Graduate Studies, Ken Birman will hand the job over to Eva Tardos.
In the end, it is the people who make Cornell CS such a great place to work. And you can read all about them on the following pages!