Computer Science is here to stay

It’s time to make IT happen, Queen’s

Max Garcia, COMPSA President, says Queen’s is decades out-of-date in its treatment of Computer Science.
Max Garcia, COMPSA President, says Queen’s is decades out-of-date in its treatment of Computer Science.

Take 10 seconds to look around you. What do you see? I bet your smartphone, tablet or laptop are within arm’s reach. 

Magical though they may seem, these products are not the result of the supernatural or divine. They’ve mostly originated in the last 20 years thanks to the hard work of people with a passion for innovation and programming. 

However, while our generation has witnessed first-hand the fastest technological evolution in the history of mankind, Queen’s University still refuses to recognize this new era of technology and continues to treat the School of Computing as if it were 1995.  

In 1995 Netscape was the most valuable Internet Company in the world and Pixar Animation Studios revolutionized the film industry by releasing the first feature length computer-animated film: Toy Story. The thought of social media that could connect people from any corner of the world was unimaginable. 

1995 was also the last time the School of Computing was allowed to hire a new group of professors using university funds. One more position was opened in 2006 and the School won half of a position through a Queen’s National Scholar competition in 2015; the professor is shared with the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences.

Since then, thousands of Internet companies have come and gone, but their underlying technology has become engrained in everything we do. 

From requesting a cab via a mobile app to purchasing Christmas gifts online or sharing photos and videos on Facebook or YouTube, the field of computer science has never seen so much growth. 

Computers are evidently everywhere and constantly advancing — from business to education, communication, transportation, medicine and entertainment — but Queen’s has kept its gearshift on first for the last 21   years. 

While it’s astonishing that the School of Computing hasn’t been allowed to hire a new group of professors, the next facts are even more alarming:

1. In 2011, the undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio in Computing was 11:1. Today it’s 24.9:1. 

2. Seven professors have retired since 2007. None have been replaced. 

3. The School of Computing currently has only 18.5 faculty members who do teaching, research and administration; by 2017 this number is expected to be reduced even further due to retirement. 

4. In the next 10 years, the Arts and Science budget will be frozen. This will result in no potential hires for the School of Computing. 

As if this weren’t enough, there’s another side to the story, one that needs to be addressed urgently in order to maintain the top-notch quality of education Queen’s is known for: this is increased enrolment.

The amount of applications Queen’s Computing receives is something to be extremely proud of. It speaks to the stellar education available at the school — an education that’s sustained by some of the nation’s best researchers, lecturers and innovators of the computing industry. 

It also speaks to the diversity the School of Computing offers in its programs. In addition to its flagship Computer Science degree, the School of Computing has six different specializations — a clear demonstration that computer science is found everywhere. 

Biomedical Computing represents the future of computer-assisted health care and boasts the world-class Laboratory of Percutaneous Surgery. 

Cognitive Science, which programs neural models, was founded in 1984 by the late Roger Browse and is believed to have been the first such program in the world. 

Software Development students are highly recruited by banks to work in fields of security, network, data, quality assurance and graphic design analysis. 

Computing and the Creative Arts is home to the Human Media Lab — which is one of a kind nationwide. 

Game Development students have their work showcased in the annual Creative Computing Fair. And Wall Street is currently shifting its models to include algorithms that students in Computing and Mathematics work on.

Through these programs, the School of Computing fulfills Queen’s mandate to be an innovative and research intensive institution. 

Above everything, Queen’s has the highest percentage of women enrolled in a computer science program in the nation, with more than 33 per cent, while the average in other computer science programs is 20 per cent.

Computer Science isn’t a socially awkward man coding or playing World of Warcraft in his mom’s basement. 

Computer Science is a discipline that’s changed the way we transfer and analyze information and communicate. Computer Science will continue to grow and more industries will adopt a technological and digital focus. Industries like banking, medicine, consulting, automotive, film, sports, gaming, among others, have begun to adapt to the age of computers and a digital world. 

It’s time for Queen’s to do the same. Computer Science is here to stay and now is the time to support its development and the School of Computing. 

Support us in continuing to innovate and find ground-breaking research. Support the teaching and education of this science by hiring new professors. Because through professors we will be able to learn and master current concepts, concepts that when applied will change the world around us.

Computer Science is here to stay. Is Queen’s ready?

Max Garcia is a third-year Cognitive Science major and COMPSA president.

Corrections

February 11, 2016

Seven Computer Science professors have retired since 2007, not in 2007.

The Journal regrets the error.

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