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About the Computer Science Program


Our faculty often “step outside the box” and use non-traditional methods to help our students gain understanding of difficult concepts.

CS Department History

Hunter College created the Computer Science Department in 1981 by selecting five faculty members from the Mathematics Department, hiring Thomas Wesselkamper from Virginia Polytechnic Institute as chairperson, transferring one faculty member from the School of Health Sciences, and recruiting two junior faculty members. Two of our current faculty, Professors Daniel Cohen and Christina Zamfirescu, were among those chosen from the Math Department, and a third, Prof. Virginia Teller, was one of the junior people hired that year. A third faculty member from the Math Department, Prof. Howard Rubin, served as the chairperson from 1995 to 2000. The Department was initially envisioned to have thirteen to fifteen faculty members; it presently has thirteen.

The Department grew and occasionally shrunk over the next thirty years: Some of the original faculty left or retired; Constantin Negoita joined it in 1983 and retired in 2011; Susan Epstein, in 1984; Stewart Weiss, in 1987; Cullen Schaffer, in 1990; Chris Ward, in 1993; Subash Shankar in 1999; William Sakas and Eric Schweitzer in 2000; and Ioannis Stamos, in 2001. Chris Ward left in 1996 to join the IBM T.J. Watson Research Laboratory. Saad Mneinmeh joined as a visiting assistant professor in 2006, Felisa Vazquez-Abad joined the faculty in 2009, and Lei Xie, in 2010.

Under Prof. Wesselkamper's leadership, several initiatives were undertaken, including a Women in Computer Science Program and the creation of a Master's degree program. The program was suspended in 1993 and currently does not accept admissions.

In 1990, with Sun workstations he acquired through a successful grant proposal to the National Science Foundation, Prof. Weiss established the Department's first research laboratory, and began planning the installation of one of the College's first departmental local area networks with the help of Prof. Mihaly Mezei from the Chemistry Department. In the summer of 1991, Prof. Weiss single-handedly pulled the cables and installed the network, connecting the Department to the Arpanet. A second large grant awarded to the Department in 1993 as a result of a joint proposal by Profs. Epstein, Teller, and Weiss enabled the Department to acquire several more Sun workstations and create the Faculty Research Laboratory, which continues to be a vital research laboratory under grants received from the National Science Foundation by Prof. Epstein. The arrival of Chris Ward in 1993 boosted the support network even further, as he was instrumental in upgrading the LAN and improving its overall performance.

During the stewardship of Prof. Rubin, the department acquired a lab known as "Lab G" that would eventually become the departmental UNIX laboratory. At the time that it was created, it contained only Windows hosts, and all college students could use it, but it contained software needed by computer science majors and improved the computing environment for them.

When Ioannis Stamos joined the department in 2001, he also added to the research facilities in the department. His work, in image processing and reconstruction, required high-end workstations, which the college provided for him, and which he also acquired through grants from the National Science Foundation. His machines added storage capacity to the research network.

In 2005, the Department forged a partnership with the Departments of Biology and Mathematics and Statistics to enhance the science curriculum in the area of quantitative and computational biology. The initiative created a bioinformatics concentration in each discipline. One outcome of this partnership was a change in the nature of Lab G; the lab was outfitted with new workstations that dual-booted Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Windows XP, and students enrolled in almost all computer science classes were given accounts on the department UNIX network. Moreover, it became a place where CS students could "hang their hats," since no one had access to this lab except those students who had accounts on the system. One year later, the department decided to convert the lab to a Linux-only lab, which it remains today.

When Prof. Vázquez-Abad joined the department in 2009, funds were allocated to build a lab for her as well as to renovate Lab G. In 2012, the new lab and renovation of Lab G were completed.

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