CMU Alumnus Is Prominent Educator and Researcher
PITTSBURGH—Frank Pfenning, a professor of computer science who played a key role in the recent update of Carnegie Mellon University's introductory computer science curriculum, is the new head of CMU's Computer Science Department (CSD).
Pfenning earned his doctorate degree at Carnegie Mellon. His research focuses on applications of mathematical logic in computer science. This includes the design of programming languages, systems for reasoning about computer programs and logics for ensuring computer security.
He succeeds Jeannette Wing, who stepped down to become head of Microsoft Research International. Randal E. Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science, said Pfenning has been heavily involved in the school's educational activities and has shown great care for the welfare of students.
"At the undergraduate level, Frank has taught an amazing array of courses, from the very theoretical, such as mathematical logic, to the very applied, such as computer systems and computer graphics," Bryant said. "At the graduate level, he served as director of the computer science Ph.D. program, keeping track of the progress of around 150 Ph.D. students. He also served on the committee that designed our recently introduced computer science masters program."
Pfenning developed a new course, Principles of Imperative Computation, that is part of CSD's updated introductory computer science curriculum. This and other new courses, which have been implemented over the past several years, reflect a more rigorous approach to developing reliable software. They place greater emphasis on parallel computation and incorporate concepts of computational thinking — the idea that computer scientists have developed unique ways of formulating and solving problems.
Born in Rüsselsheim, Germany, Pfenning studied mathematics and computer science at the Technical University Darmstadt. With the support of a Fulbright Scholarship, he attended Carnegie Mellon, where he earned a master's degree in mathematics in 1981 and a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1986. He subsequently joined CSD as a research scientist, receiving an appointment as associate professor in 1999 and full professor in 2002. He served as CSD director of graduate programs from 2004 to 2008 and as associate dean of graduate education for the School of Computer Science from 2009 to 2010. He also holds an adjunct appointment in the Department of Philosophy.
Pfenning has been a visiting scientist at the Max-Planck-Institute for Computer Science in Saarbrücken, an Alexander-von-Humboldt Fellow at the Technical University Darmstadt, and a visiting professor at école Polytechnique and INRIA-Futurs. He won the Herbert A. Simon Award for Teaching Excellence in the School of Computer Science in 2002.
He has served on numerous boards of international professional organizations, research journals and academic conferences.
As head of the Computer Science Department, Pfenning will lead a distinguished faculty of more than 70 members. Established in 1965, CSD was one of the first computer science departments. It is part of the School of Computer Science, which is tied for first place among U.S. computer science Ph.D. programs by U.S. News and World Report.