University of Colorado at Boulder
Computer Science Newsletter, Spring 1996
This is the inaugural issue of a departmental newsletter to let our
alumni and friends know how we are doing. We are only guessing about
what kind of information you will want to see. If you think the
newsletter is a good idea, or have suggestions for how it
could be made better by changes, let us know.
We would also appreciate your contributions in the way
of any news about yourself or CU alums out there in
the world. Send your comments to Gary Nutt ().
For this first issue, we are sending the newsletter
to you in hardcopy form,
but we expect to take advantage of the Internet in future editions
by publishing it on our web page.
(If you have not looked at our web page,
check it out!
If web pages are not easy for you to read, but you would still like
to get the newsletter, we can send you hardcopy -- let us know.
The Department is over a quarter of a century old. Lloyd Fosdick,
Professor Emeritus, was the original Chair during the formative years,
then resumed the duties again in the 1980s.
The Undergraduate Program started in 1984,
with the first graduates in 1987. We would like to hear from
you so we can inform your fellow alumni about what you are doing.
Alums in Touch
Professor Scott Henninger (Ph.D., 1993) now on the faculty at
the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Professor David Redmiles
(Ph.D., 1992) now on the faculty at the University of California at
Irvine have each been awarded a CAREER grant from NSF. Congratulations
Scott and Dave!
Ross McConnell (Ph.D., 1994)
has accepted a faculty position in the Computer Science
Department at Willamette University, after two years as a
Visiting Professor at Amherst College.
He continues research in his doctoral area of algorithms for perfect
graphs and k-structures.
... now this from Bruce
If you came through the undergraduate program,
you definitely know who Bruce is ... all majors have the pleasure of
spending many hours on the Senior Project with Bruce Sanders,
usually a highlight of the program. 336 of you have now completed
the Senior Project. 166 of these graduates are employed by 96 different
companies -- in Colorado and beyond. The biggest employers of CU students
are Hewlett-Packard and NCAR with 9 each. US West has 7 alums, Microsoft
and Quark each have 6, with 4 grads going to American Management Systems,
Andersen Consulting, CU CNS, Great West Life, Motorola, and Qualcomm.
Finally, Antalys, Astrobyte, Bell Northern Research, Coral Systems,
Green Mountain Geophysics, Storage Technology Corporation,
United States Air Force, and XOR Network Engineering all have
3 Buffs on their payroll.
You can read more about this year's
on the web.
Student Enrollment Increases
The Department continues to grow in the Undergraduate program, but
has leveled off in the Graduate program. In the Fall of 1995,
65 Freshmen, 50 Sophomores, 64 Juniors, 55 Seniors, and 46
Fifth year Seniors enrolled in the program
for a total of 280 students. 78 M.S. students and 77 Ph.D.
students enrolled at the same time.
At the campus level, the total enrollment was 24,440 students.
Of these enrollees, 4,182 were Freshmen -- 54% of which were
We are fortunate to have an unusual number of excellent teachers
in our Department, and the Fall FCWs reflect their skills.
We would like to recognize the following professors for the Fall term:
Name Course Enroll Course Instr
Main 2270 124 3.42 3.51
Main 1300 71 3.50 3.56
Bradley 3653 67 3.31 3.78
Sanders 4308 57 3.42 3.58
King 3287 38 3.59 3.72
Zorn 5535 21 3.75 3.88
Martin 5832 20 3.61 3.83
Wolf 4900 12 3.36 3.64
Gabow 6454 8 3.43 3.71
Martin 7135 7 3.67 3.67
Nemeth 4830 7 3.00 3.50
Zorn 7135 7 3.67 3.67
Byrd 6686 3 2.67 3.67
NSF Young Investigator Awards
The NSF recognizes new faculty with special
awards. The NYI and PYI programs are the most prestigious
of these programs, though others are also important for
new faculty members. In the last five years, Computer Science has had
five faculty winning these NSF awards: Liz Bradley,
Mike Eisenberg, Mike Mozer,
Liz Jessup, and Xiao-Chuan Cai.
Zorn and Grunwald Awarded Tenure
Assistant Professors Ben Zorn Dirk Grunwald
will be promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in August, 1996.
Most of you know from your years at CU that this is a tremendous
milestone in their careers. The Department is extremely pleased
about the promotion and tenure award, and look forward to continued
great work from Ben and Dirk.
Hello to our Newest Faculty Members
Kirk Johnson completed his Ph.D. at M.I.T. in December and joined
the faculty as an Assistant Professor in January, 1996. Kirk's
thesis is concerned with distributed virtual memory. His
research area is a cross between operating systems and
computer architecture -- he is a systems person.
Just before his first week on the job, Kirk broke his foot while
playing hockey. I guess we have some insight into this new professor's
Alex Repenning and Clive Baillie have been working in the
Department as postdoctoral researchers for the last several years, and both
have just been appointed as Research Assistant Professors in
Computer Science. Now Alex is
working with Gerhard Fischer in the new Center for Lifelong
Learning and Design. Alex completed his Ph.D. with Clayton
Lewis a few years ago. Clive earned his Ph.D. in Physics
and has been working with Oliver McBryan on
Grand Challenge problems. Welcome Alex and Clive!
The faculty continues to change, albeit at a slow pace. Last year,
Paul Smolensky left CU to join the Department of Cognitive Science
at Johns Hopkins University. We will miss Paul for his brilliance,
his insightful research,
his teaching, his natural knack for administration, but most of all
for his being a friendly, congenial colleague. Good luck Paul!
We also lost 75% of Bobby Schnabel to the Dean's Office.
In August, Bobby accepted an assignment as Associate Dean of
Academic Affairs in College of Engineering and Applied Science.
He is the first Computer Science faculty member to take an
appointment in the Dean's Office.
Changes in the Staff
The guard is changing in the Computer Science office. Last year,
Dotty Foerst, Graduate Secretary,
retired after serving the Department for about 20 years.
Vicki Emken is now
the Graduate Secretary, moving from the Receptionist position
to handle the difficult job Dotty did for so many years.
Vicki is also doing a great job.
Pat Libhart took Vicki's receptionist job, and now directs
all of us to the right places when we are lost.
In February, Arlene Hunter, Undergraduate Secretary, also retired
after about 20 years.
has just begun as the Undergraduate Secretary. Pam has "hit the
ground running", and is also doing a great job.
Laura Vidal has also joined the
Department as an administrator to assist Alex Wolf, Roger King,
and Dirk Grunwald -- welcome Laura!
All of us miss Dotty and Arlene, and
wish them well in their retirements, and welcome all the
new staff members.
Harriet Ortiz, the Departmental administrator,
is leaving at the end of May.
Harriet and her husband Richard are moving to Seattle,
where he has taken a position with Starbuck's.
Harriet has been the engine in the Department for
20 years; she knows more about how the Department/College/University
work, than anyone else. We are extremely indebted to her for all
those years of dedication and service and wish her the best in her
pursuits in Seattle.
Finally, Carolyn Mich, the Chair's
assistant, has (re)joined Bobby Schnabel as his
assistant in the Dean's office. Carolyn is
a 9-year contributor to the Department, and we will sorely miss
her as well.
Changes in the Laboratory Space
WE HAVE A WING. Okay, so it is the same space we already
had, but with a renumbering of rooms in the building.
It is the portion of the
old Engineering CR wing we currently occupy. It
will be renamed the Computer Science Wing in May.
The space committee
is now working on plans to request that old ECCR1-12 become lab space.
The Department will continue to occupy space around the building,
though we finally have an area where many of us are colocated.
MIT Officemates Have Huge Impact on CS Program
In 1991, Assistant Professor Mike Eisenberg graduated from M.I.T., and
joined the Department and the Institute for Cognitive Science.
In 1992, his officemate at M.I.T,
Liz Bradley also joined the Faculty as an Assistant Professor
in Computer Science. Since coming to CU, both have won
NSF NYI awards. Professors Eisenberg and Bradley work in
different areas, but each is making a substantial impact on
the Department and their respective disciplines.
Eisenberg's HyperGami Project
Mike Eisenberg and Ann Nishioka have built
a program that they describe as an "educational CAD system"
for creating paper polyhedral models and sculptures.
The basic idea behind the program is that it allows users to design
three-dimensional polyhedral forms on the computer screen;
HyperGami then "unfolds" those shapes into two-dimensional
patterns, called "folding nets". These nets may be decorated on
the screen by employing (among other methods) solid color
"fills", gradients, user-drawn figures, and geometric
(program-created) patterns. Once the user has created a decorated net,
she can send it as output to a color printer; and finally, she can
cut out the printed pattern and fold it into a tangible geometric model.
(A fuller description of the program can be found in Brian Hayes'
column in the November/December 1995 issue of American Scientist
In the past two years, Mike and Ann have worked with
elementary- and middle-school-aged children, tutoring them in
creating customized mathematical shapes with HyperGami.
Mike and Ann have themselves employed the software
to make an entire menagerie of (as they put it)
"gleefully weird" paper sculptures -- penguins, mushrooms,
a caterpillar, and dozens more. Visitors to their
can participate by downloading sample patterns to construct
a polyhedral sea monster.
More recently, Mike and Ann have been using the program to
explore new types of creations: customized mathematical puzzles,
science toys, working paper machines, and even wax polyhedral candles.
Their sculptures will be exhibited later this year both at CU's
Norlin Library and at the Boulder Public Library.
For Eisenberg, one of the important themes in the development
of HyperGami is the way in which it blends "low-" and "high-tech"
activities. Users spend much of their time designing abstract
forms on the computer screen; but afterward, they bring those efforts
to fruition using traditional materials -- scissors, paper, and glue.
It is this blending of craft and computational media that Eisenberg
and Nishioka are planning to explore further in their future work.
Bradley's Design Automation and Chaos Science Research
Liz Bradley is an over-achiever with a long track record. Besides
graduating from a school with an overwhelming male population, she was
a rower on the 1988 Olympic team (her team finished fifth, just out of
the medals). Since arriving at CU, Liz has begun to build a strong
program in artificial intelligence and chaos science, along the way
winning prestigious NSF NYI and Packard Fellowship awards. This
program attacks two intellectual frontiers: computer programs that
reason about engineering design and practical uses of chaos.
Modeling: Bradley's research group is working on a program that
automates much of the higher-level reasoning that is involved in the
process that control theorists call system identification. This
program, PRET, automatically builds hierarchies of ordinary
differential equation (ODE) models from information about a system,
presented in a variety of forms and formats: measurements made
directly on the physical device; a user's observations described to
the program, in varying degrees of precision, symbolically or
graphically; partial models and hypotheses suggested by a user; and
general mathematical theory that is encoded in the program's knowledge
Exploiting chaos in design: This is an exciting area, for a variety of
reasons, among them being that control theorists and designers in all
branches of engineering have traditionally been taught to avoid chaos
at all costs. This is an unnecessary restriction in many cases, but
convincing real-world designers of this has been difficult and thus
has required demonstration of robust, functional, physical
applications in real engineering domains. One such example is the
circuit in a tuner or receiver that locks in a station; the range of
this circuit can be improved by causing it to go chaotic in a specific
Chaos in combustion: This is an experimental and numerical
study on how to cause gases in a combustion chamber to mix more
thoroughly by intentional induction of chaotic flows.
Chaotic dynamics of the driven pendulum: This is a detailed study,
with graduate and undergraduate research assistants, of the chaotic
dynamics of the driven pendulum, coupled with a careful determination
of its ODE model. This is essentially an instance of the kind of task
that can be performed by the automatic modeling program described
above. The intent of this project is twofold: to obtain a really good
model of the pendulum, using nonlinear dynamics to surmount the
technical difficulties, and, in so doing, to compile information about
the modeling process -- for use as a case study: a point of
comparison between the program described above and a human expert.
Bradley's long-range research plan is highly interdisciplinary in its
focus, its approaches, and its techniques. Specific elements of this
plan are the extension of chaos and its properties to practical uses,
the construction of a suite of programs that explore different
high-level analysis and design paradigms and metaphors, the
examination of the hard questions that those tasks pose, and the
investigation of the unifying principles in the good answers to those
The Center for LifeLong Learning and Design Shifts into High Gear
Last year the
Center for LifeLong Learning and Design
began operation as an interdisciplinary center with the Institute for
Cognitive Science to study human and machine learning.
L3D is directed by Professor Gerhard Fischer.
The Center is an educational and
research unit whose mission is the
ongoing development of conceptual frameworks and computational artifacts,
as well as the cultivation of an understanding of their social and
organizational contexts. To this end, the center conducts research and
creates learning opportunities with other academic, research and industrial
partners nationally, and internationally, to develop innovative educational
models to prepare learners and workers for the challenges of the 21st
century. To this aim, L3D activities are focused on:
- foster learning as a lifelong process by developing a culture of
- support the integration of working and learning by
reconceptualizing learning as a new form of labor,
- augment human creativity and communication,
- support designers working on ill-defined problems in a variety of
- support the effective utilization of information.
In March, L3D hosted a meeting to introduce the Center
to various University dignitaries, including President Buechner,
Chancellor Park, Chancellor Lesh-Laurie (UC-Denver), Vice Chancellor Loh,
and various others. The Center was extremely well-received by the
More information about the
can be found on its web page.
Getting in Touch
The Department continues to be housed in the College of Engineering, with
the Departmental offices on the seventh floor. Our
contains information about both programs and people, have a look.
Dept of Computer Science, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0430,
303-492-7514 (Dept. Office), 303-492-2844 (Fax),