Letter from the Undergraduate Chair - Joseph Devietti

We’ve come a long way since the world’s first Turing-complete electronic computer, the ENIAC, was completed here at Penn in 1946, weighing in at 30 tons. Now there aren’t many days that go by when we don’t interact with a computer in some (albeit more slender) form. From phones and laptops to refrigerators and cars, many everyday devices now contain computational capacity.  With all this computing surrounding us, who wouldn’t want to be the computer scientist who helps design, understand and build these amazing devices? Computing has revolutionized countless industries and academic fields, from entertainment to physics. No matter the career path you choose, chances are you’ll value the ability to program and think computationally.


Computer science has had an impressive string of results over the past few decades, from microprocessors to the Internet and virtual assistants. With such rapid progress, you might expect that the barriers to entry in this field would have risen, as projects require more and more expertise to build. What I find continually surprising about our field is that, in so many ways, the barriers to entry have instead lowered dramatically. Computer science from the very beginning was imbued with a culture of sharing, embodied by the open source software movement, which has resulted in a massive flood of code, tools and tutorials, almost all of it freely available. Collectively, these resources make it possible for a small team of computer scientists to build amazing things. The impressive projects completed over a single weekend at the PennApps hackathon are an annual testament to this. There has never been a better time to become a computer scientist!


Here at Penn, you have a range of opportunities to pursue degrees in computer science that match your interests, from the Digital Media Design program which blends computer science with fine arts, to Computer Engineering which focuses on the design of hardware devices, to Networked and Social Systems which incorporates work from economics and public policy, and the Management & Technology program which combines computer science with business and entrepreneurship.


Our core curriculum teaches the foundations of computer science from its theoretical underpinnings in discrete mathematics, logic, data structures, and algorithms to classic engineering applications like building digital circuits, compilers, and operating systems. Through courses rich with hands-on laboratories and team projects, students learn to collaboratively design and implement complex software projects in areas as diverse as graphics, databases, web programming, computer security, natural language processing and machine learning. These efforts culminate in a year-long Senior Project that lets student teams showcase their creativity and technical skills by building a system completely of their own design.


Along the way, you’ll be guided by diverse world-class faculty in all areas of computer science. Our advising staff work collaboratively with your faculty advisor to help support you holistically both inside the classroom and beyond. We love getting to know students through classes, office hours and seeing you around campus. We have an abundance of research opportunities you can join, which will allow you to build upon the established techniques you learn in class as you work at the cutting edge of what’s possible.


While the history of computer science has been bright, there is no doubt that it is empowering a future that is far more illustrious. I can’t wait for you to join us here at Penn, and to see what you will build!


Joseph Devietti

Associate Professor, Computer and Information Science

Undergraduate Curriculum Chair

More About Professor Devietti

Undergraduate Program:

Your CIS Contacts:

Jessica Kimpel
Academic Advisor
Office: 308 Levine
Email: jkimpel@seas.upenn.edu

Rob Lee
Academic Advisor
Office: 308 Levine
Email: rkplee@seas.upenn.edu

Laura Fox
Associate Director
Office: 309 Levine
Phone: 215-898-3191
Email: lffox@seas.upenn.edu

Lee Dukes
Sr. Director of Academic Affairs
Office: 361 Levine
Email: ldukes@seas.upenn.edu

Dr. Joseph Devietti
Undergraduate Curriculum Chair
Office: 572 Levine
Email: devietti@cis.upenn.edu