From the Chair: A Year for the History Books


As 2013 comes to a close, it will go down in history books as one of the most pivotal years in the history of Computer Science at The University of Texas at Austin. It has been a year of remarkable change, with enrollment numbers hitting all time highs, new faculty joining our ranks, President Barack Obama visiting with our students, and, at long last, the opening of the brand new Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall.

Since then, the UT Computer Science population has surged past 2,000 undergraduates--more than triple the enrollments when I started as chair five years ago--easily making us the largest computer science department among the nation’s top ten ranked programs.

Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall

The Gates Complex and Dell Hall serve as a timely physical symbol of how far we have come as a department. After thirty years with this university, seeing our students in a state-of-the art facility like this one gives me a sense of both pride and gratitude. 

For those of you who have not yet seen the space, it is a modern, 140,000 square foot complex consisting of two buildings connected by a central atrium and a six-story grand staircase. Our students enjoy classrooms equipped with the latest educational technology and flexible setups that can be modified to accommodate flipped classrooms and other modern pedagogical approaches that are well-suited to our newly overhauled curriculum.

Our faculty and graduate students now work together in tight-knit, collaborative research clusters, with each research group enjoying their own dedicated lab space. The stunning architecture embraces both form and function, allowing its residents to enjoy the building’s aesthetic while also taking advantage of facilities that make collaboration and organization seamless. The building was designed for aggressive growth, giving us the space to hire new faculty as we continue to build one of the brightest collections of minds in computer science research and education. It truly is a facility second to none.

The energy created by these new facilities is also reflected in the new programs and partnerships embraced by the department. Last spring, President Obama came to Austin, and one of the stops on his trip involved visiting with students in the Longhorn Startup Program. LHS is a joint venture between UT Computer Science and Engineering that allows our students to take great ideas and turn them into great businesses like Lynx Laboratories—a company founded by UT students who created the software to power a 3D camera that promises to revolutionize digital imaging.

It is this type of ingenuity that has given our students a reputation that makes them in such high demand on the job market. By graduation last May, over 95% of our undergraduates had accepted offers for graduate school or full-time employment, with many of them going to work for some of industry’s most in-demand companies.

If you are one of our alumni, I want to take this opportunity to invite you to reconnect with us. We recently kicked off efforts to organize alumni activities in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, and the San Francisco Bay Area. I hope to see you at an event there soon.

And to all of our alumni and friends, I want to extend an invitation to visit us at our new home in the Gates Complex. We welcome the opportunity to show you the facilities and highlight for you in person why you have every reason to be proud of your legacy at The University of Texas at Austin. 

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