For students who are passionate about a specialized subfield of computer science, Texas Computer Science has made it easier for them to enhance their skills and set themselves apart by choosing a concentration.

Concentrations, a structured sets of elective courses around specific topics, are now available in the areas of computer systems, cybersecurity, game development, machine learning and artificial intelligence, mobile computing, and big data.

These concentration areas are all growing fields in research and industry. The specialized experience found in the courses included in the programs will give students the skills and knowledge necessary for internships and careers in these fields.

Computer science is a dynamic and rapidly growing area, and Associate Chair for Academics Bruce Porter said he expects to add more concentrations as the field continues to evolve and new technologies emerge.

“The great thing about the concentrations here at the department level, we can create new ones or tear down old ones, we can just do it here with the wave of a wand,” Porter said. “If a student group were to come and say, how about a new concentration area, I would be very open to seeing if we can make that work.”

In the past, UT computer science students took more required core classes and were able to take fewer elective classes, Porter said. But when the number of required classes was reduced about eight years ago, students were better able to pursue their interests by choosing more specialized upper-division electives. The idea behind the concentrations is the same.

“Now, students have the opportunity if they’re really fascinated about, say, robotics, or they’re really fascinated about computer systems, and that’s where they’re planning to make their mark and take a career, now they can choose their elective options in that area and get a certificate along the way,” Porter said. “I am expecting that industry is going to be really excited about these new pipelines for talent.”

To put together the concentration areas, Porter found a faculty leader enthusiastic about each area of study who could design the curriculum.

Next, the challenge was to implement the curriculum and ensure that the classes would always be accessible enough for students to easily get into the courses they need.

“It’s not always straightforward, because sometimes the curriculum draws on courses from other departments, or they draw on courses that the department doesn't offer regularly,” Porter said. “In order to put a course into the concentration, we had to find ways of making sure that the courses that are in the concentration would be offered regularly.”

Porter emphasized that students are still able to sample as many different areas of interest  as they want during their time at UT, but now there are more opportunities for students who have a passion for a particular field and want to learn more. The concentrations are designed to add no time to a degree plan, so students interested in any of the concentration areas are encouraged to talk to their advisor about fitting the course requirements into their degree plan.

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