Computer Science Sees Unparalleled Growth in SEAS

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“Computer science is a highly interdisciplinary major, so it makes sense,” she said. “Any area of study nowadays can benefit from efficient computation on large data sets.”

Morrisett noted the “vast majority” of his students were not planning to become computer science concentrators but were rather drawn from across campus—“everything from art history to biology to economics to mathematics to physics.”

Other initiatives by the department have also been instrumental in the growth of enrollment. The CS faculty has implemented an interactive “project-based” focus in many of its courses and developed new ones covering topics in visualization, privacy, and human-computer interaction. Moreover, the establishment of the computer science secondary field—which requires only four computer science courses—has played an integral role in growth, according to Morrisett.

“I’d say a pretty significant fraction of the students in CS51 will go on to do a minor,” he said.

The growing demand for employees with programming experience has also been cited as an important cause of growth.

“I also think that the rise of Facebook and, more generally, an awareness that you can change the world through just a little bit of knowledge about computation is attracting students,” said Morrisett.

Even Hollywood may have played a role.

“I don’t underestimate the impact of ‘The Social Network’ in planting an idea in somebody’s head, even though that film doesn’t accurately depict life of a CS concentrator,” said CS professor Harry R. Lewis ’68.

—Staff writer David W. Kaufman can be reached at davidkaufman@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Akua F. Abu can be reached at aabu@college.harvard.edu.

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