Skip to Navigation Skip to Page Content

MU College of Engineering computer science programs thriving

There have been five chairs in the Computer Science Department since it joined the College of Engineering beginning with Professor Su-Shing Chen (middle), to the present chair, Professor Dong Xu (far right). The others, l. to r., and their order of service are Professor Bob Tzou (4), chair of mechanical engineering; Professor Harry Tyrer (2), professor of electrical and computer engineering; Chen, a professor of computer information science and engineering with the University of Florida; Xinhua Xhuang (3), professor of computer science; and Xu, a James C. Dowell professor of computer science. Photo by Kannappan Palaniappan/University of Missouri College of Engineering

In the mid-1990s, the bachelor of science degree in computer science left the University of Missouri’s College of Arts & Science, and became a new department within the College of Engineering.

The stage was set for the discipline to skyrocket into career prominence with broad applications of computer technologies in virtually all disciplines and industries, as well as increasing usage of Internet in daily life.

Faculty research and opportunities for students to explore their interests have blossomed in the information age. Faculty expertise covers topics ranging from multimedia communications and visualization, to database theory and design; from wireless communication to advanced computing and high-speed networking systems; from computational intelligence to bioinformatics. Faculty within the department lead two prominent research centers: the Center for Computational Biology and Medicine, and the Information Security and Assurance Center.

In 2005, a degree program in information technology was added to the curriculum. Originally funded by a gift from AT&T, the program is now self-sustaining, including updates for state of the art equipment that is crucial for students in this field. The program provides training in information system management, networking and “entertainment engineering,” which includes video and audio editing, special effects and game design. Production of four feature length films has originated in the department.

Most recently, the bachelor of arts degree in computer science joined the department. Department Chair Dong Xu, the James C. Dowell professor in computer science, explains that though the degree program has a smaller enrollment and offers opportunities for students who would like a computer science background, but want to pursue non-technical degrees.

“It may lead to opportunities for students who want to, for instance, attend law school, work on Wall Street or start their own companies,” Xu said, explaining that a BA degree is easier to combine with other disciplines as there are fewer computer science requirements.

“Students who want careers as software developers, software engineers, database developers, or who want to go to grad school will pursue a BS in computer science. Others who want to pursue more applications-oriented careers, such as media technology, data center management, and system administration may fit into the BS in information technolgy better.” Xu said. “And all of the major industry sectors are in need of CS/IT majors. Each of our three degree programs has its own value and a different outcome.”

Xu pointed out that a national push to convert all medical records to electronic formats is an initiative that will create many jobs for all three computer science disciplines

The department currently has 176 students in the BS/CS program, 154 students in the BS/IT program 104 students in the BA/CS program. Although enrollment is up, Xu noted that since all computer science students take some of the same classes, the growth hasn’t required lots of extra resources beyond increasing the number of teaching assistants for some of the larger lecture classes.

“Things are going well,” he said “and we have many student success stories.”