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With the rise of social media, computer science isn’t just for geeks anymore

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The recent rise in female CS concentrators is another development that attests to the success of their accomplishments, according to Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith.

“As a CS faculty member, it’s great to hear that more students are interested in computer science,” Smith says. He adds that the department is “pleased that the concentration is seeing a surge in this area” and that administrators and faculty members have successfully developed CS “as a concentration that appeals to women.”

‘A HOT, COOL THING’

Key to the CS50’s popularity is the final project component, an exercise that enables students to develop their own web or mobile apps. Past projects, such as “I Saw You Harvard” and “Rover”—a mobile app that updates users on events, news, and deals around Harvard—have either won entrepreneurship competitions like the College’s four-year-old i3 Innovation Challenge or become enormously popular among the undergraduate community.

“A lot of people think [CS] is a hot, cool thing and they see the financial potential,” CS concentrator David A. Kosslyn ’11 says.

Kosslyn, who has initiated several web startups to date, co-founded Hack Harvard—a January Term program that aims to help students further develop their CS50 apps.

Kosslyn says he believes Hack Harvard and the student-initiated Hack Nights—weekly gatherings that extend Hack Harvard into the semester—have been instrumental to “fostering [a] community” that is similar to the experience that students enjoy from CS50.

Many students are interested in web development, whether it is through a non-profit project or a for-profit enterprise. History and Science concentrator Melissa C. Oppenheim ’12 serves as co-president of the Digital Literacy Project or “DigLit,” a web non-profit that promotes computer and internet access around the world. She says that technology non-profits like hers can use web platforms to help low-income communities.

“Over the last 10 years, the internet has become more ubiquitous,” Oppenheim says, adding that the success behind many web and mobile startups is that they are “accessible to large number of people.”

DigLit, which won i3 last year, is also one of several entrepreneurial enterprises that have been supported by the Undergraduate Council, which also endorsed Hack Harvard.

TALK OF THE TOWN

The popularity of computer science extends beyond CS concentrators.

Thomas Torello, lecturer on Molecular and Cellular Biology who advises about 200 students concentrating in MCB and Chemical and Physical Biology, estimates that between 10 and 15 percent of his advisees have taken CS50 to fulfill one of their concentration requirements.

“CS50 is a great course and I encourage it for students interested in programming, and in particular for students whose thesis research could benefit from it,” Torello says, adding that the problem solving and programming skills taught in the course help many students to write algorithms to analyze data.

Statistics concentrator Liyun Jin ’12, who is also an inactive Crimson editor, took CS50 in the fall after watching a video of Malan at Harvard Thinks Big last year and seeing the course occasionally mentioned on Harvard FML in chatter like: “My roommate will not shut [up] about CS50. It’s driving me nuts, and I’m not even in the class. FML”

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