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Kathryn McKinley, who formerly served as an Endowed Professor here at UTCS but is currently on leave to work with Microsoft, spoke on behalf of Microsoft at the first meeting of the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on Research and Science Education on the topic of information technology innovation.

Kathryn McKinley sits with Ed Lazowska (Computing Research Association) on the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Research and Science Education.McKinley began her testimony with a discussion of the importance of government funding of the research ecosystem. She pointed out how IT research has led to new jobs and industries that ultimately make us safer, healthier, more effective, and happier. McKinley used Microsoft Xbox Kinect as an example of an innovative piece of technology that came as a result of 20 years of investment and research. Today, Kinect is making changes to advance learning, health, and retail developments.

McKinley listed big data, privacy, secure systems, and computing performance as some of the most urgent and important research areas. She went on to discuss global competition in an effort to urge the government to keep providing funding for these research areas. “If the overall rate of innovation slows,” McKinley explained, “it will be easier for other countries to close the gap, and the U.S. will lose its economic and national security advantages.” 

McKinley’s final topic was education. She noted how the demand for computing jobs in the U.S. far outstrips the number of people earning bachelor degrees in the field.  McKinley defined the lack of women and minorities in computer science as one of the biggest challenges in computing today. According to her, there is a huge need for increased efforts to integrate computer science into the standard K12 educational system. She concluded her talk of education by warning Congress that “The U.S. simply cannot afford to fail to capitalize on 70 percent of its population if it wants to remain globally competitive.”

Although McKinley’s testimonial was addressed to members of the House, there is much for us to take away from her words. Understanding the importance of continuing to research and develop better technologies is crucial to our success as a nation. For computer science students at UT, McKinley’s speech serves as a reminder of the impact they will soon make on the country as a whole.

Article by Katherine Gordon

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