Department History

Computing came to the University of Massachusetts in the early 60's, as a result of the needs of the Chemistry Department. What had started as a departmental operation became formalized as the Research Computing Center, under the Directorship of R. Rowell, and with crucial guidance from the Computer Committee, chaired by R. Stein of Chemistry. It became clear that, in addition to the computing services a center could provide, it was necessary to establish an academic program to provide students with a deeper knowledge of the computer than the mere rudiments of programming. To this end, in 1963 the Computer Committee recommended to the Dean of the Graduate School (then E. Moore) that a search for a Program Head be undertaken. As a result of that search, J.A.N. Lee (who had migrated professionally from bridge-design to computer science, and physically from Nottingham University to Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario) was appointed Program Head in September of 1964. At the same time, Lee was asked to direct the R.C.C. (Research Computing Center) and to undertake the selection and installation of a new computer system.

In 1964-65, the Board of Trustees approved an M.S. program in Computer Science. In September of 1965, the program moved to new quarters and admitted its first graduate student. Lee stepped down as Director of the R.C.C., thus freeing his energies for program development. C. C. Foster (an Electrical Engineer who had worked at the Mental Health Research Institute of Michigan, written a thesis on highly parallel computers and gone to Goodyear Aerospace Corporation before coming here) joined the program, and became Director of the R.C.C. At this stage, the program and the center became formally distinct entities within the Graduate School despite the joint appointments. C. Wogrin became the director of the renamed the University Computing Center (UCC), succeeding Foster in 1967, and also held a Professorship in the department.

We graduated our first M.S. student, James Bouhana, in 1966. A major factor in putting the University of Massachusetts on the map in the computer world was the development, under Foster's guidance, of a timesharing system acronymically known, of course, as UMASS (Unlimited Machine Access from Scattered Sites), whose elegant simplicity led Foster to refer to it, somewhat deceptively, as "An Unclever Sharing System" in an article in Computing Surveys. Students and faculty in the program undertook the writing of the language systems (BASIC, FORTRAN and SMALL) which were installed in UMASS in 1967 - However, with the increasing demands on R.C.C. computer time, it became clear that our students could not get sufficient "hands-on" experience using the R.C.C. machines. To this end, a Computer Science Laboratory was established in 1968, as a facility run jointly with the Computer Systems Engineering faculty of the Department of Electrical Engineering. The PDP-lB of those early days was replaced by three PDP-11's and a PDP-l5 with a graphics system.

In November 1969, Lee stepped down as Head, having directed the creation of a first-rate, highly practical, industry-oriented M.S. Program in Computer Science. The time seemed ripe to push for approval of a Ph.D. Program. A first proposal failed to gain approval, but it was clear that the faculty had the competence to supervise important doctoral research. Wogrin assumed the Acting Headship, and the search was on for a new Chairman to oversee a successful second try.

Photo: 1978 CS Faculty and Friends

M. A. Arbib became Chairman in September 1970. The Ph.D. proposal was approved in January of 1972, and we changed from an M.S. Program in Computer Science in the Graduate School to a Ph.D. Program in Computer and Information Science (COINS) in the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. We graduated our first Ph.D. student, Suad Alagic, in February of 1974.

The Department moved to the Graduate Research Center in 1972. In 1978, the undergraduate major in COINS was established under the leadership of R.M. Graham, who succeeded Arbib as Chairman in September of 1975. In 1980, there were 90 graduate students, 80 undergraduates, and 12 faculty. Enrollment in COINS courses was 2180 in FY80 and grant income was $665,608.

The Computer and Information Science (COINS) Department changed its name to the Department of Computer Science in March, 1992. In Fall 1999, the Department of Computer Science moved to its current home. The Computer Science Research Center is located at 140 Governors Drive.

Thirty years after the Ph.D. program was established, the Department had 38 faculty (tenure track plus research), 180 graduate students, 438 undergraduates, and 95 technical and administrative staff. Four of the faculty are University distinguished professors. Our grant activity was $12,401,713 in FY2001.

The following faculty have been Department Chairs:

J.A.N. Lee

1964 - 1969

Conrad Wogrin

1969 - 1970 (Acting Chair)

Michael Arbib

1970 - 1975

Robert Graham

1975 - 1981

Edward Riseman

1981 - 1985

Conrad Wogrin

1985 - 1986 (Acting Chair)

W. Richards Adrion

1986 - 1994

Arnold Rosenberg

1992 - 1993 (Acting Chair)

David Stemple

1994 - 1998

James Kurose

1998 - 2001

W. Bruce Croft

2001 - 2007

Andrew Barto 2004 (Acting Chair - Fall)
Andrew Barto 2007 - Present

Photo: CS Faculty Chairs