Cornell Initiatives in Computing and Information Science

The Department of Computer Science was very active in university-wide discussions of the proposed Faculty of Computing and Information (FCI). The department took a strong and unanimous stand in favor of the CIS Task Force report and CS professors were involved in a great deal of campus-wide discussion throughout this academic year. Members of the department made presentations in various university forums such as the Faculty Forum on CIS in the fall and several Faculty Senate meetings. In his role as Dean for Computing and Information Science, Bob Constable spoke at many of these meetings and visited numerous departments and groups over the year. There emerged from all of this discussion a wide agreement on the substance of the new Faculty and on the mission of the Office of Computing and Information Science.

In the spring, the President and his Academic Cabinet took into account input from the extensive faculty discussions and decided to form the Faculty of Computing and Information as another unit reporting to the Office of CIS. A founding membership for the FCI was agreed upon by Deans Constable (CIS), Hopcroft (Engineering), Lewis (Arts & Sciences) and Lund (Agriculture & Life Sciences). The plans for the FCI were also endorsed by the Faculty Senate. Presently the Office of CIS consists of the Department of Computer Science and the FCI.

nformation about the FCI is available on the home page of the Office of Computing and Information Science at


High on the list of goals for the FCI is creating a broader range of courses and programs that will meet increasing student needs in computing and information. The FCI should become a unit that will help Cornell attract more outstanding students, bring additional distinguished faculty into this area, stimulate outstanding research and the creation of innovative information technology, and attract more research funding and donations to Cornell for computing and information science activities. The new unit will strive to raise Cornell's standing in the areas of instruction, scholarship and research associated with computing and information.

Some FCI activities, such as computational genomics, are coupled to other broad University priorities. For these, Cornell has already assigned funds and space to the FCI. There are other key areas that are very attractive because of a combination of important properties, namely: intellectual excitement and cohesion, major opportunities for strengthening Cornell, unmet student demand, significant research funding, excellent employment opportunities, and emerging programs at our peer institutions. One of these is a program in "information science and technology."

The FCI presents a wonderful opportunity for Cornell to create a unique academic structure in response to the Information Revolution, a revolution bound to change all universities in a fundamental way because it is about the core functions of the university as an institution. We have watched this revolution change our world, and we sense that the most exciting ideas, the most beneficial applications, and the most profound insights are yet to come; a good number will come from Cornell. Discussions of the FCI have awakened the imagination of many students and faculty. The FCI must be worthy of their hopes.

Already in this academic year of its birth, the FCI can list several achievements. Cornell was able to attract to the FCI Mats Rooth, one of the foremost computational linguists in the world. His primary appointment is in the Department of Linguistics, with a secondary appointment funded by the FCI. Mats will complement the already strong effort in natural language processing in the Department of Computer Science. His appointment is a model of how the FCI will enhance computing and information science at Cornell.

Another FCI program already in place is the new graduate program in Computational Molecular Biology (CMB), created as a unified subprogram in four existing graduate fields: computer science, molecular biology and genetics, plant breeding, and biophysics. This is an example of new interdisciplinary programs that the FCI is creating.

The Nomadic Computing project is another example of the FCI's role in linking interdisciplinary instruction and research. The courses CS 502, Computing Methods for Digital Libraries, taught by Bill Arms, and Comm 440, Computer Mediated Communication, Cornell Department of Computer Science taught by Geri Gay, were part of an Intel funded experiment in wireless computing, with a component supporting experimental teaching. These courses were very well received; in fact, Geri Gay won a teaching award for her efforts. Courses such as these will be part of an FCI program in "information science."

The Office of CIS also sponsored a course in the Johnson Graduate School of Management called Software Infrastructure for Electronic Commerce (NBA 602); it was taught by Professors Birman, Gehrke, Halpern, and Schneider. Next year a course of this kind will be part of the JGSM's new immersion program in e-business. We also have a pending joint proposal to Intel to support information-intensive management.

Next year the CSD will sponsor several new courses that will contribute to the FCI mission. There will be a joint course with Physics on quantum computing, a new advanced course in computer graphics, and a new general introduction to the great ideas in computer science, CS 150. Also next year, the FCI and the Department of Science and Technology Studies will conduct a joint search for a position in the general area of the social impact of computing and information technology. The FCI is also sponsoring a number of proposals that might lead to more affiliated research institutes modeled after the new Information Assurance Institute funded by the Air Force.