Sampath Kannan

Welcome from the Chair

There's never been a dull moment in the short history of the field of computer science, but even by these standards, these are exciting times! While the field has already had strong connections with many other disciplines such as mathematics, electrical engineering, biology, economics, linguistics and philosophy among others, it appears that every other academic discipline is starting to build a relationship to computer science. Meanwhile, computer and communication technology have only become more ubiquitous in society.

Given all these developments, it is hard to point to the most exciting areas in computer science, but a strong candidate is networks, which includes both traditional computer networks and social, economic, and biological networks. Since big data often arises from networks, the area of networks has strong links with this much-in-the-news area. Meanwhile artificial intelligence has had a renaissance as it scales back on its ambitions of the 80’s and turns to more concrete areas such as machine learning, natural language processing, robotics, computer vision, and human-computer interaction. The proliferation of the influence of computer science on other disciplines can be largely ascribed to these areas. Consonant with this vision, we have hired some great faculty over the last three years - Aaron Roth (network science and privacy), Chris Callison-Burch (natural language processing), Ladislav Kavan (human-computer interaction and graphics), and Nadia Heninger (networks and security).

Nationally undergraduate enrollments are skyrocketing. At Penn they are growing even faster, thanks to curricular innovations and initiatives - allowing students in the college of arts and sciences to major in computer science, designing effective strategies for the recruitment and retention of women, and a smorgasbord of exciting majors both within the department and jointly with other departments.

As technology, particularly information technology, continues to capture the imagination of society at large, we are enjoying/coping with a boom in the number of students seeking to do one of the range of Masters programs we offer in Computer Science, Computer Graphics and Game Technologies, Embedded Systems, and Robotics. Our most recent collaboration brings us together with the law school to offer exciting degree options for future engineers and lawyers alike. Our Masters in Computer Information Technology (MCIT) occupies a unique niche, granting degrees to students with non-CS backgrounds. While we are stretched to the limits of our teaching resources and available classrooms, we are also proud to play a transformational role in the lives of our students at all levels. It is impossible to grow the number of tenure-track faculty at the same pace that our enrollments are growing - but we have been fortunate to hire some great lecturers all of whom are recent computer science Ph.D.'s from our peer institutions!

Sampath Kannan
Henry Salvatori Professor and Chair
Department of Computer and Information Science