Archive for November 12th, 2010

 

Presidential Early Career Awards… The Value of a CS Education… and More

November 12th, 2010

Lots of interesting stories this past week of relevance to the field:

Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers

On Tuesday, the White House announced the names of 85 early-career researchers who will receive the government’s highest honor for young scientists and engineers — the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). The PECASE awards were established in 1996 and are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Awardees are selected on the basis of their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology as well as their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

Among this year’s awardees, at least 12 are in computer science or allied fields:

- Scott Aaronson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Eugenio Culurciello, Yale University
- Andrew A. Houck, Princeton University
- Manolis Kellis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Bradley A. Malin, Vanderbilt University
- Jose H. Blanchet Mancilla, Columbia University
- Emilia Morosan, Rice University
- Reza Olfati-Saber, Dartmouth College
- Eric Pop, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Michelle L. Povinelli, University of Southern California
- Rahul Ramachandran, The University of Alabama in Huntsville
- Edo Waks, University of Maryland, College Park

For a complete list of awardees, see the official White House press release. More information about NSF’s nominees, including detailed descriptions of the game-changing research they are conducting, can be found here.

Congratulations to all of the 2010 PECASE recipients!

“Decoding the Value of Computer Science”

On Sunday, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a terrific article contributed by Kevin Carey describing the importance of computational thinking in everyday life — and warning that we’re failing our next generation when it comes to teaching such lifelong principles. Carey writes:

In The Social Network, a computer-programming prodigy goes to Harvard and creates a technology company in his sophomore dorm. Six years later, the company is worth billions and touches one out of every 14 people on earth.

Facebook is a familiar American success story… But it may also become increasingly rare. Far fewer students are studying computer science in college than once did. This is a problem in more ways than one.

The signs are everywhere. This year, for the first time in decades, the College Board failed to offer high-school students the Advanced Placement AB Computer Science exam. The number of high schools teaching computer science is shrinking, and last year only about 5,000 students sat for the AB test. Two decades ago, I was one of them.

I have never held an information-technology job. Yet the more time passes, the more I understand how important that education was. Something is lost when students no longer study the working of things.

He goes on to articulate multiple examples of computational thinking from his own life, comparing a misplaced semicolon in an early Pascal program he wrote to a sports car with a single piston out of line; describing how he rewrote from first principles a financing formula for Indiana’s school districts, and watched as the formula became law months later (“good public policy and good code, it turned out, go hand in hand”); and noting how “writing a great deal in a short amount of space” harks back to the days NASA coders had to fit every procedure for a space-probe into tiny chunks of memory (“writing, in other words, is just coding by a different name”).

The entire story is a must-read — http://chronicle.com/article/Decoding-the-Value-of-Computer/125266/ — as it jives quite nicely with the themes of Computing in the Core and CS Education Week.

Advances in quantum computing

Also this week, The New York TimesJohn Markoff wrote about recent advances in quantum computing.

The President discusses mHealth while visiting India

And on Tuesday at the mHealth Summit — a conference co-sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to explore ways mobile technology can increase the access, quality, and efficiency of healthcare — Aneesh Chopra, the nation’s Chief Technology Officer, delivered President Obama’s recent remarks about the power of research and development in mHealth:

…in many rural areas in the United Sates, it’s hard sometimes to get to a hospital… and to the extent that we can use technology to provide people with basic health information, in some cases simple diagnoses, that can save people time, it can save the government money, and we can end up with better health outcomes.

Another featured speaker, Bill Gates, talked a bit about the inherent complexity of biological systems, how computation is changing the way we study these systems, and how the drug discovery landscape is likely to be “utterly different just 10 years from now.”

About 2,500 researchers, technologists, and policymakers from around the world engaged in mHealth attended the Summit in Washington, DC, Monday through Wednesday.

(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)