Atanasoff Today 2022-23: Letter from the Chair

Greetings, alumni and friends of the Department of Computer Science. I’m delighted to share with you the 2023 edition of Atanasoff Today. I hope in reading these pages, you will share my delight in reflecting on the last year that was so full of accomplishments for our department. As I look back on all we’ve accomplished in recent years, it invigorates a new sense of excitement for all that is to come.

Our department continues its upward trajectory. Just last year, we added six new faculty, developed two new degree programs (an M.S. degree in Artificial Intelligence and a B.A. degree in Computer Science), and completed a strategic plan for the next decade. Our enrollment has grown by 31%, our female enrollment by 45%, and we have seen a 35% increase in grant funding over the last five years. We also established a National Science Foundation (NSF) training program focusing on dependable data driven discovery, and built a new facility to accelerate research on autonomous systems and robotics. This is a testament to the hard work of our faculty and staff, but also to the continued excitement in computing as a discipline. The new students, along with the new faculty members, get to be a part of the rich history of our department; a legacy many of you undoubtedly contributed to.

In this magazine, you will see our complete 2022-2032 strategic plan. Thank you to Soma Chaudhuri, Gianfranco Ciardo, Myra Cohen (Chair), Wei Le, and Simanta Mitra for their work putting this very important document together. The defined mission and vision will help us set priorities, allocate resources, and ensure that we are all working towards common goals and objectives.

In our department's continued commitment to providing degrees of the future, we have recently received approval for a bachelor of arts degree in computer science. The degree program aims to accommodate students who want to major in computer science but are interested in developing a multi-disciplinary perspective by adding another major such as psychology, music or journalism. We believe that this new degree program is aimed squarely at theinterdisciplinary future of computing. Thanks to Soma Chaudhuri and Jack Lutz for their work in making this degree a reality.

We’ve also made incredible strides in research in the last year. Our world-class faculty received several National Science Foundation (NSF) grants and remained actively involved in various centers and institutes, furthering their contributions to academia. This year we cut the ribbon on the Autonomous Systems Laboratory, which is equipped with hands-on learning opportunities for our students, including a smart city, a driving simulator, and a net for drone flying.

Carl Chang retired from the department last spring after 20 years as a professor and former department chair. Carl certainly left a lasting impression on our department, and I’m sure many of you can attest to that. We are very interested in cementing his legacy in our department, if you are interested in helping us do so, please contact me at hridesh@iastate.edu.

This edition, we are celebrating the life and legacy of former professor Wayne Ostendorf, who passed away in June and who dedicated over 30 years of service to furthering the field of computing at Iowa State University. If you are interested in helping us memorialize Wayne and his legacy in our department, please contact me at hridesh@iastate.edu.

As we strive for excellence in our resource-constrained environment, your contributions are more important than ever. We could specifically use your help with hiring and retaining internationally renowned faculty by establishing chairs and professorships in three areas of strategic importance: quantum computing, autonomous and robotic systems, and smart health. We also remain dedicated to recruiting experts to lead initiatives in trustworthy AI, Cybersecurity, and Augmented Reality.

Since its opening in 1969, Atanasoff Hall has served us well; however, the facilities are now in need of significant improvements as the department has grown, both in size and in research activities. Thus, improving our current facilities in Atanasoff Hall continues to be at the top of our agenda. You can view our plan for building improvements on page 20. If you would like to support us in improving our facilities, please contact me at hridesh@iastate.edu.

I hope you enjoy reading about our accomplishments from the last year and I look forward to all that is to come. Your support is always appreciated.