Inside the John Crerar Library, you might catch a glimpse of the future.
Just off the lobby, University of Chicago computer scientists and artists are using digital fabrication tools in the Media Arts, Data and Design Center to create stretchable electronics that could power tomorrow’s wearable devices. While upstairs, researchers aren’t just advancing the foundations of data science and artificial intelligence, but facilitating their application in other fields, and sniffing out how malicious parties could exploit them.
What’s happening in the newly renovated home of computer science at UChicago reflects the department’s ongoing transformation and growth, which has accelerated in the last three years. Since the arrival of Prof. Michael Franklin in 2016 as the Liew Family Chair of Computer Science, the department is on track to nearly double in size, adding new faculty with expertise in cutting-edge areas from AI to human-computer interaction, from data science to cybersecurity.
The expansion has come as the interest in computer and data science grows markedly. Reflecting national trends, undergraduate enrollment in computer science courses at UChicago has surged in the last decade, and bachelor’s and PhD degrees granted in the discipline have grown more than 500 percent. With new faculty come new courses and laboratories, where students can engage with innovative topics such as robotics, quantum computing, computer vision, and cryptocurrencies.
Today, computer science is more closely interwoven with society than ever, demanding collaborative, multidisciplinary research. Franklin and colleagues envision a uniquely UChicago approach to computer and data science—one that is based in computing foundations and utilizes the vast possibilities of data to pioneer powerful applications to shape and define these emerging fields. That holistic vision is supported by joint computer science programs with the Harris School of Public Policy and the Booth School of Business, and new campus-wide initiatives such as the Center for Data and Computing, which catalyzes data science collaborations across divisions and schools.
“The way you do impactful computer science research is to work with people who are trying to solve real problems,” Franklin said. “Computation and data science have become powerful approaches for reformulating traditional questions about markets and society, human health and the humanities. The University is uniquely poised to define the future of computer and data science in light of our culture of inquiry and impact.”