Concentration At a Crossroads

Computer Science Professors Debate Direction Their Program Will Take

In any field of study, professors and students must struggle to keep up-to-date with changing concepts and applications.

In computer science (CS), however, where today's technology is tomorrow's trash, and the job market has been transforming for several years, Harvard has been careful to remain grounded in theory.

The theoretical approach fits well within Harvard's philosophy of being a liberal arts school, rather than a vocational institute: The department doesn't train students for jobs, it teaches them to think.


But while the curriculum has remained relatively static in most classes, some professors now say they are recognizing the growing impact of new fields on the subjects they teach--and adapting the department to meet those changes.

An Evolving Focus

While the computer science program remains grounded in theory, recent changes and planned innovations--such as a recently-announced technology center--will give students an exposure to the practical side of the field.

"[Harvard computer science graduates] are very well liked by people on the outside, be it in industry or in graduate schools, but that doesn't mean we can't do better in terms of the breadth of our course offerings," says Dean of the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences (DEAS) Venkatesh "Venky" Narayanamurti.

According to Narayanamurti, the computer science program plans to double its number of faculty members over the next several years. The increase is needed not only to provide a wider variety of course offerings, but also to meet the demands of a growing number of concentrators.

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