From the Dean

Welcome to this edition of The Link, reporting on the latest activitiesby members of the community that surrounds and has grown out of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. In this issue, we highlight the ways that computer science can spread out and be applied to many different areas of human endeavor, ranging fromscience to the arts.

Of course, this theme has a long traditionat Carnegie Mellon--we have always been a very "outward facing"organization. Since our earliest days, our faculty and students havethought of ways that computer technology can benefit society, and atthe same time we've discovered new research and educational challengesin computer science that are posed by adapting and applying technologyto new areas.

I've been especially intrigued by the work of TomMitchell and Marcel Just on analyzing brain scans. Understanding howideas are represented in the human brain is one of the greatestunsolved problems of neuroscience. Tom and Marcel's approach is uniquein that it is based on studying high-level measurements of brainactivity, rather than low-level models of neurons and theirinteractions. It reminds me of how Allen Newell showed up at a 1956workshop at Dartmouth (where the term "artificial intelligence" wasfirst used) with the only working code, a program to prove theorems inlogic, while the other participants were theorizing about abstractmodels of neurons. The Carnegie Mellon approach has always been to letour thinking be inspired by real-world data.

We've all beeninspired by Randy Pausch's brave fight against pancreatic cancer, towhich he succumbed in July. We miss Randy and his effusive spirit inmany ways. Fortunately, one of Randy's greatest legacies, the AliceProject, lives on and promises to provide a new and compelling way tointroduce computer programming to people who might otherwise neverconsider this a useful and fulfilling activity.

We also are inthe midst of a major convergence of computer technology and the arts,building on two of the greatest strengths of Carnegie Mellon. Theseinclude the recent Robot 250 activities, involving robots and the artsas part of Pittsburgh's 250th anniversary celebration, and the recentintroduction of the Bachelor of Computer Science and Art degreeprogram, spanning SCS and the College of Fine Arts. Beyond the storiespresented here, we have a number of faculty and students in the twoschools working together to create new forms of artistic expressionusing computer technology.

Finally, our connections to industrycontinue to grow stronger. We've been fortunate to have Yahoo! provideour researchers with access to their M45 computing cluster, enabling usto work on problems at a scale that far exceeds what we could do withour own machines. General Motors has partnered with us to conductresearch on robotic technology, with the ultimate goal of havingvehicles drive themselves. Our strength in robotics has also motivatedDisney to set up a research lab adjacent to campus, developingtechnology for their movies, for their theme parks, and for sportstelevision.

P.S.: With this issue, I would like to introduceJason Togyer as our managing editor. Jason comes to us as both a CMUalumnus and with a lot of experience in writing and finding interestingstories. Welcome Jason!

For More Information: 

Jason Togyer | 412-268-8721 | jt3y@cs.cmu.edu