45 By Kelsey Fox
Since the first programmable electronic computer was born in the 1940s, computer science has been among academia’s fastest-moving disciplines. Today, the subject’s influence is seen everywhere — from space exploration and air-traffic control, to the emerging fields of artificial intelligence and robot-assisted medical procedures.
Leading universities have been at the vanguard of this technological development. Indeed, we can thank universities for the super-fast supercomputers we carry around in our pockets all day. Excitingly, such innovation continues at a rapid pace.
With the technological revolution in full swing, computer science has emerged as one of the most stimulating and important subjects to study at undergraduate or graduate level. Here, we take a look at the 50 most innovative college computer science departments in the U.S.
To come up with our ranking of the most innovative computer science departments, we began by compiling a list of any and all U.S.-based departments. We consulted QS TopUniversities’ 2019 & 2020 “Computer Science & Information Systems” rankings, as well as U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 list of the “Best Grad Schools: Computer Science.” Appearing on either of these prestigious rankings suggests that a university’s computer science department is at the forefront of its field. We also scoured the internet, journals, and blogs in our own search for universities offering innovative computer science programs.
To narrow down our list to just 50 departments, we used the following points-based system:
Note: To ensure consistency, we consulted only those applicable rankings produced by QS TopUniversities, U.S. News & World Report, and Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Top 100 — 1 point
Top 50 — 2 points
Top 40 — 3 points
Top 30 — 4 points
Top 20 — 5 points
Top 10 — 6 points
Top 5 — 7 points
Graduate Degrees Offered:
Master’s Degree Program — 1 point
Doctoral Degree Program — 1 point
Finally, we used an holistic approach to break ties in points and determine a final ranking order. For this reason, not all computer science departments listed below are ranked in descending order of points. During this process, we considered:
- Student Research Opportunities
- Computer Science-specific Study Abroad Opportunities
- Computer Science Scholarship Offerings
- Awards and Recognition
- On-Campus Centers and Institutes
- Student Organizations and Societies
- “It” Factors and “Wow” Moments
50. Emory University
Computer Science Department
Previous Ranking: n/a
The Computer Science Department at Emory University is well known for its state-of-art facilities, and top-rate interdisciplinary research. Emory’s Computer Science students have access to teaching labs, a massive collection of software, and high-performance research computers. As expected, all classrooms employ advanced technology. While individual degrees are offered at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, ambitious students have the option of completing a combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program.
49. Georgetown University
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: n/a
The collaboration between students and faculty that takes place at Georgetown University makes the school’s Department of Computer Science hugely attractive to talented young students. Even undergrads are given the opportunity to conduct their own research, or to work alongside experienced researchers. Studying computer science at Georgetown would be the best route for the student who thrives on community and healthy competition. Students are encouraged to present their work publicly and to attend and compete in competitions. The many clubs associated with the department include a women’s computer science club and a competitive programming team.
48. Northwestern University
Computer Science Department
Previous Ranking: 40
Northwestern University’s Evanston, Illinois-based Computer Science department combines an acclaimed teaching staff with cutting-edge research facilities. Among the latter is the Assistive and Rehabilitation Robotics Laboratory, which strives to forward human performance through the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The Bio-Inspired Sensors and Optoelectronics Laboratory, meanwhile, develops light-processing tools with a concentration on miniature lasers and infrared detection systems. Multiple full-time faculty in the computer science department at Northwestern have received the honor of being voted into the National Academy of Engineering, while many others have been decorated by the National Science Foundation.
47. Case Western Reserve University
Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering
Previous Ranking: n/a
46. Colorado School of Mines
Computer Science Department
Previous Ranking: n/a
45. Dartmouth College
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: 36
Hanover, New Hampshire
Cutting-edge research is at the heart of Dartmouth’s Department of Computer Science, with the Hanover, New Hampshire-based institution involved in projects ranging from protein structure to robotics. The department is seemingly a big believer in collaboration. Students and professors work side-by-side on academic inquiry that’s not only exciting, but also potentially life changing. Among the school’s research labs are the Visual Learning Group, which uses visual data to develop real-world representation models, and the computational biology-focused Grigoryan Lab, which looks into protein programming, alongside other topics.
44. Indiana University
School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering
Previous Ranking: 49
Indiana University’s Bloomington-based School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering stands out from the crowd thanks its variety of offered disciplines, including computer science, informatics, information science, and library science. The school’s facilities boasts 15 different labs and research centers. These include the Center for Programming Systems, the Center for Critical and Humanistic Computing, and the Center for Algorithms and Machine Learning.
43. University of Utah
School of Computing
Previous Ranking: 39
Salt Lake City, Utah
The University of Utah’s Salt Lake City-based School of Computing strives to achieve excellence in three core areas: education, research and industry collaboration. Renamed from the Department of Computing in 2000, the school has an illustrious past: it was here that the world’s oldest algebraic math system remaining in use was developed, while technology for magnetic ink printing also came into being at the institution. Indeed, groundbreaking research has been undertaken at the school since its establishment in 1965, and today’s specialties include computational geometry, natural language processing and embedded systems. Much academic investigation is carried out at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, where students work side by side with distinguished scientists to come up with pioneering biomedical solutions.
42. University of Illinois at Chicago
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: 26
The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Computer Science attracts more than $6 million in research endowments every year, helping it to explore a variety of hypothetical and collaborative subjects – everything from artificial intelligence and parallel algorithms to data mining and multimedia communication. Research is undertaken at centers including the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Computational Population Biology Laboratory and the Electronic Visualization Laboratory. In 2020, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked University of Illinois at Chicago as one of the top 100 universities in the world for computer science.
41. Rutgers University
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: 45
Piscataway, New Jersey
In 2020, the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked Rutgers University’s Piscataway, New Jersey-based Department of Computer Science as one of the top 100 in the world. This favorable reputation may be partly down to the School of Arts and Science department’s wide-reaching research, which focuses on disciplines such as computer security, artificial intelligence and systems – with some projects attracting funding from the likes of Google, Intel and NASA. Department facilities, meanwhile, include the Collaborative Academic Versatile Environment and the Hack R Space, the latter of which equips students with the knowledge to fashion electronic devices while learning some of the intricacies of computer programming. Faculty at Rutgers’ computer science department have also proved their innovation credentials, most notably Apostolos Gerasoulis – founder of internet search firm Teoma, which was acquired by Ask Jeeves in 2001.
40. Brown University
Computer Science Department
Previous Ranking: 22
Providence, Rhode Island
Located in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown University’s computer science department champions cooperative research initiatives among staff and students as well as in its groups and associated centers. The Center for Computational Molecular Biology, for example, uses innovative processing methods in the realm of life sciences, while the Center for Vision Research explores machine vision. The department’s study initiatives are far-reaching, covering disciplines as varied as artificial intelligence, robotics, computational photography and nanocomputing. Moreover, research and learning opportunities are supported by first-class teaching facilities, including top-quality computer clusters and the Center for Computation and Visualization’s intriguing sounding Immersive Virtual Reality Cave. In 2020, Brown University’s computer science program was ranked in the top 100 globally by Academic Ranking of World Universities.
39. Yale University
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: 14
New Haven, Connecticut
Upon its establishment 45 years ago, Yale’s Department of Computer Science outlined four principal spheres of computer science research: numerical analysis, computation theory, artificial intelligence and systems. Today, with the technological revolution firmly underway, the department’s research efforts explore numerous sub-specialties – for example, the likes of robotics, programming languages and computer vision. What’s more, because computer science is so fast moving, the school tells new undergraduates that the curriculum “can change significantly” during their years of study. In 2020, the computer science program at Yale was rated the world’s 50th best by Academic Ranking of World Universities. Among the department’s innovative faculty are people like parallel computation pioneer David Gelernter, who co-wrote the groundbreaking programming language Linda.
38. University of Minnesota
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
Previous Ranking: 37
Original research projects at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis-based Department of Computer Science and Engineering are certainly well backed financially, with $35 million in support having arrived since 2012. Research is conducted in ten computer science spheres, including bioinformatics, data mining, graphics and visualization, and human-computer interaction – with centers like the Charles Babbage Institute and the Digital Technology Center aiding students and faculty in their projects. Another facility, the Laboratory for Computational Science and Engineering, champions original advances in hardware and system software and aims to produce novel high-performance computing in conjunction with government and business partners. A 36-strong faculty caters to the department’s nearly 1,000 learners, and existing staff are credited with some 800 journal pieces and over 2,500 peer-reviewed papers. ARWU = 41.
37. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: 46
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Department of Computer Science faculty is passionate about synergetic research, with present projects seeing the department work alongside geneticists and radiation oncologists. The departmental home is the 2008-dedicated Brooks Building, and research facilities include the Graphics, Imaging and Robotics Laboratories, the Graphics and 3D Vision Laboratory, the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Laboratory, and the recent Computer Security Laboratory. The Graphics, Imaging and Robotics Lab features 3D digital workspaces for medical operation preparations and prototype robotics intended for use in surgery. The department’s Applied Engineering Laboratory, meanwhile, specializes in the development of microtechnology-based systems, while the Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Laboratory conceives novel computer-based approaches crucial to biological studies. ARWU = 39
36. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: 31
Blacksburg-based Virginia Tech’s formidable computer science programs can be partly attributed to its close commercial ties. Having established an association with leading industry partners – such as the likes of Microsoft, Google and IBM – the department aims “to bridge the gaps between industry and academia” via knowledge-sharing and collaborative projects. The aforementioned household name firms are most likely attracted to the department’s impressive research facilities, including the Software Engineering Laboratory and the 3D Interaction Laboratory – the latter of which explores “immersive virtual environments.” Specific research disciplines, meanwhile, include systems and cybersecurity, digital education, and software engineering. Among the department’s most celebrated professors is Naren Ramakrishnan, who has achieved numerous innovation and excellence honors throughout his career and now heads the interdisciplinary Discovery Analytics Center from the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington, Virginia. US News 2020, top 30.
35. North Carolina State University
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: 34
Raleigh, North Carolina
The year 2014 has been an exciting one for North Carolina State University Department of Computer Science researchers – especially in the video games field. In September, computer science professor James Lester revealed new software that identifies players’ aims while they’re in the thick of a gaming session, and this is likely to lead to an enhanced gameplay experience. Such developments at the Raleigh-based department go hand in hand with its welcoming atmosphere, which was recently praised by alumna Bushra Anjum. Now a distinguished computer science teacher in Pakistan, Anjum said that the school is “very warm and welcoming” while also recognizing its “encouraging and motivational” culture. Attributes like these are fostered at the school’s research labs – including the Visual Experiences Lab, which explores human responses to digital imagery, and the Senior Design Center, which works with industry partners on leading design schemes. Among the department’s most decorated faculty members is Donald Bitzer, who in 2013 was added to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. U.S. News, 2020, Top 30.
34. University of California, Davis
Department of Computer Science
Previous Ranking: 30
UC Davis’ Department of Computer Science champions an approach to teaching that arms students with the knowledge required to drive their discipline forward, and through its research it develops “creative solutions” for the modern age. To achieve its goals, the faculty collaborates with innovative key players via its Industrial Affiliates Program. This enables staff members to understand rapidly changing commercial challenges, while businesses can benefit from some of the sharpest academics in computer science. The department utilizes a dozen research groups, which cover specialisms ranging from computational biology and bioinformatics to visualization and interface design innovation. Dedicated research labs, meanwhile, accommodate developments in computer architecture, computer security and parallel computing, among other areas. ARWU = 30
33. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Computer Science Department
Previous Ranking: n/a
Troy, New York US News, 2020 = Top 30
32. Boston University
Computer Science Department
Previous Ranking: 33
Boston University’s Computer Science Department promotes “notable research on critical topics” such as operating systems, e-commerce and computer interaction. Current research contributions total over $24 million, helping the department convert cutting-edge ideas into real and at times entrepreneurial ventures. These can be tied in with tech organizations like Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Sprint Labs and Fortress Technologies via the department’s Industrial Affiliates Program – which offers students a wealth of professional work experience and knowledge transfer opportunities. Affiliated research centers include the Center for Information & Systems Engineering, the Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cyber Security, and the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering. The latter of these champions groundbreaking cross-disciplinary exploration and scientific advancement and houses three diverse research labs. US News, 2020, Top 30
31. University of California, Irvine
The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences
Previous Ranking: 24
The Irvine, California-based Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences is unusual in that it’s an entire separate institution dedicated to these subjects. This allows the school to explore the many differing branches of the field, focusing on novel technologies through cutting-edge multiparty research. Accommodating an esteemed faculty, the school conducts investigations into computation areas like databases and information systems, biomedical informatics, and computer architecture and embedded systems. The school’s Center for Emergency Response Technologies, meanwhile, aims to develop original studies to assist critical-event decision-making. Elsewhere, the Center for Machine Learning and Intelligent Systems looks into the compelling capabilities of algorithms, while the Institute for Virtual Environments and Computer Games is committed to embracing and producing technologies that change the way people teach, interrelate and observe the planet digitally. ARWU = 29
30. University of Wisconsin-Madison
School of Computer, Data, & Information Sciences
Previous Ranking: 16
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Computer, Data, & Information Sciences is known for progressive research in the fields of computer architecture, nonlinear optimization, grid computing and database systems. It is also particularly passionate about the development of cloud computing, which the department highlights as facilitating everything from medicinal research to social media. Indeed, the Madison, Wisconsin-based university was recently chosen to host one of three CloudLabs funded by the National Science Foundation. The school’s own CloudLab is to be a dedicated facility aiming to pave the way for next-gen cloud systems and the activities of researchers in key related areas such as storage, networking and security. The department in addition boasts highly accomplished faculty members like emeritus professor James R. Goodman, who is acknowledged for his pioneering work in snooping cache coherence protocols. ARWU = Top 100, 2020, US News, Top 30.
29. University of Pennsylvania
Department of Computer and Information Science
Previous Ranking: 20
The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Computer and Information Science is part of the institution’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). Its research areas embrace graphics, software principles, systems, theory and artificial intelligence, with its program in the latter covering advanced fields such as computational linguistics, robotics, vision and learning. Accommodating such a broad range of disciplines are facilities like the Center for Human Modeling and Simulation and the General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception Lab. The university moreover has a long history of innovation in the arena of computer science. For instance, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, the first ever electronic computer designed for general use, took shape at the university’s Moore School of Electrical Engineering – today part of SEAS – between 1943 and 1946. These days, the department’s alumni include the distinguished likes of Cygnus Solutions co-creator and former Open Source Initiative president Michael Tiemann. ARWU = top100, US News, 2020, Top 30
38. Department of Computer Science, University of California, Santa Barbara – Santa Barbara, California
The University of California’s Santa Barbara-based Department of Computer Science at the school’s College of Engineering boasts a collection of affiliated centers and facilities: the California Nanosystems Institute, the Brain Imaging Center and the Center for Bioengineering, to name but three. The department also has five research institutions of its own, including the Center for Cybersecurity and the Information Network Academic Research Center. In recent news, 2014 saw professors Matthew Turk and Tobias Höllere from the university’s Four Eyes Lab – a collaborative facility operating in partnership with the Media Arts and Technology Program – allocated over $477,000 by the National Science Foundation. The funding is being used for the scholars’ “Crowd-sourcing the World” project, which will utilize freely available images and portable networked devices to construct large 3D models “that cover the entire world.” Other department research specialties include computational science and engineering, machine learning and data mining, and security and cryptography.
48. Department of Computer Science & Engineering, Texas A&M University – College Station, Texas
Principal research at Texas A&M University’s Department of Computer Science & Engineering focuses on systems, theoretical foundations, intelligent systems, human-centered systems and software. The department also undertakes multidisciplinary research in areas like security, digital humanities, bioinformatics, and computational science and engineering. Labs at the faculty’s disposal, meanwhile, include the Brain Networks Laboratory, the Distributed AI Robotics Lab, the NetBot Laboratory, the High Performance Computing Laboratory and the Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue. With all this and more on the table, the department equips computer science students to join an internationally focused job market. Accordingly, it offers learners the opportunity to study overseas via its international programs and considered global partnerships. Notable computer science graduates include Steven Swanson, who in March 2014 boarded the International Space Station for a half-year mission in the capacity of flight engineer.
47. School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering, Arizona State University – Tempe, Arizona
Arizona State University’s School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering conducts boundary-pushing computer science and informatics research, integrating diverse disciplines like biology, anthropology and public health. The Tempe-based school also offers degree courses in computer systems engineering, where students are taught how to tackle problems from a technical perspective as well as ways in which to develop software and hardware solutions – from microprocessors to supercomputers. The school’s research centers, meanwhile, include the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing, the Center for Excellence in Logistics and Distribution, the ASU-Mayo Clinic Imaging Informatics Laboratory, and the Partnership for Research in Spatial Modeling lab. In recent news, June 2014 saw department professor and computer engineering specialist Sethuraman Panchanathan being asked by President Obama to join the U.S. National Science Board following his work as senior vice chair at the school’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development. The board exists to influence federal policy on science and technology.
44. Department of Computer Science, Stony Brook University – Stony Brook, New Yor
Exciting times are ahead for Stony Brook University, with the Long Island-based institution’s new $40.8 million computer science building scheduled for completion in late 2014. The 70,000-square-foot facility will accommodate multiple research labs, a pair of teaching rooms, and spaces for collaborative projects. In fact, shiny new facilities seem to be a feature for Stony Brook, given that the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology – which initiates research into robotics, mobile computing and cybersecurity, plus many other fields – opened in 2008. In terms of career prospects, many computer science graduates have landed roles at the likes of Google, IBM and Microsoft, while others have combined academic positions with more scholarly inquiry. Among the faculty members, meanwhile, professors Yanhong Annie Liu and Scott Stoller were in 2014 granted $1.5 million by the National Science Foundation to further their pioneering algorithms research.
43. Department of Computer Science & Engineering, Washington University in St. Louis – St. Louis, Missour
Washington University in St. Louis’ Department of Computer Science & Engineering stresses the impact it has had on research and industry, with members of the department exploring varied disciplines like human-computer interaction, machine learning and artificial intelligence, and computational systems biology. Spurring such research, the Cyber-Physical Systems Lab undertakes leading cross-disciplinary investigations into reactive systems, wireless sensor networks, and embedded plus cyber-physical systems, while the Stream-based Supercomputing Lab focuses on complex scientific apps. Additional research facilities, meanwhile, include the Looking Glass Lab, the Applied Research Lab and the Advanced Sensors Lab. The department also collaborates with a variety of university facilities, among them the Center for Genome Sciences and the Laboratory for Experimental Astrophysics. What’s more, in the decades since the 1950s it has been a pioneer in subjects such as high-performance networks, distributed computing and medical-related computer science research.
42. Department of Computer Science, Purdue University – West Lafayette, Indiana
Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana proudly claims that its Department of Computer Science faculty greatly influences the direction of information technology by undertaking “cutting-edge research.” The award-winning staff cover subject areas such as bioinformatics and computational biology, databases and data mining, computational science and engineering, and machine learning and information retrieval. Adding to the department’s research credentials, Purdue’s versatile Computing Research Institute aids in computing fields like aeronautics and astronautics and climate, environment and agriculture. Other affiliated research facilities include the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security, the Cyber Center, and the Indiana Center for Database Systems. Purdue’s Center for Integrated Systems in Aerospace, meanwhile, brings together faculty who teach computer science, computer engineering, I.T. and more in the development of pioneering defense and aerospace systems.
41. Computer Science Department, New York University – New York City, New York
New York University’s Computer Science Department is part of the New York City-based school’s distinguished Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. The department prides itself on a diverse range of research areas – from cryptography to computational biology – and has strong ties to further faculties and schools, such as the world-famous Stern School of Business and the NYU School of Medicine. The department’s research centers, meanwhile, include the Computational and Biological Learning Lab, the Courant Math and Computing Laboratory, and the Media Research Laboratory. In 2014 NYU computer science professor Subhash Khot was honored with the coveted Rolf Nevanlinna Prize for, in the words of the International Mathematical Union, his “prescient definition of the ‘Unique Games’ problem.” Other esteemed faculty members are Academy Award for Technical Achievement winner Kenneth Perlin, Guggenheim Fellow Richard Cole and Humboldt Prize winner Patrick Cousot.
35. Department of Computer Science and Engineering, The Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio
The Ohio State University’s Columbus-based computer science programs are designed to lead the way in computer tutoring and study. They do so via collaboration with significant associates from industry and academia – and the results should enhance the computer science field and lead to solutions for real-world computer-based problems. Core departmental research spheres range from artificial intelligence and computer graphics to theory and algorithms, while multidisciplinary inquiry includes the area of social network analysis – which aims to produce more reliable, safe and hardworking “network services and architectures of tomorrow.” Among the Department of Computer Science and Engineering’s alumni are Jeff Wolverton, who has written an Oscar-winning animated short-form movie and worked in computer effects on films including Noah (2014), Iron Man 3 (2013) and The Amazing Spider-Man (2012).
29. Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Pennsylvania State University – University Park, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering is based at University Park’s 199,000-square-foot Information Sciences and Technology Building. Here, researchers apply the central concept of core computing to matters of energy, health, the environment, defense and more. Projects are carried out at facilities including the Embedded and Mobile Computing Center, the Institute for Networking and Security Research, and the Institute for CyberScience. Founded in 2012, the latter utilizes a “virtual laboratory” to launch in-depth investigations that would be unfeasible using traditional means. In 2013 a team headed by Penn State professor Vijaykrishnan Narayanan received a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop an innovative digital vision system – one that aims to give computers the equivalent of a human’s capacity to both take in and comprehend what they’re seeing.
28. Department of Computer Science, Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, Maryland
Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland is known around the world for its pioneering contributions to research, and the Department of Computer Science aims to maintain this tradition. Part of the Whiting School of Engineering, the department leads the way in boundary-crossing areas such as medical operations using computers and computational biology. The faculty works in partnership with other engineering departments and initiates progressive research that allows “new modes of thought” that can “transform society.” For example, in 2013 two computer scientists, Mark Dredze and Michael J. Paul, established that social media giant Twitter could precisely follow cases of influenza and determine how the infectious disease proliferates and adapts. In 2014, meanwhile, the department launched the Center for Encrypted Functionalities, which explores issues surrounding protected masking software. Plus, in the same year the university joined forces with Google in a venture to turn the school’s research findings into marketable products.
27. School of Computer Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst – Amherst, Massachusetts
The University of Massachusetts Amherst’s School of Computer Science champions convention-breaking research and cooperation. Working with over 30 influential technology businesses, staff and learners alike are involved in an abundance of interlinked endeavors requiring substantial investment – indeed, the school’s research grants topped $15 million for the 2011 fiscal year. The school accommodates various research clusters covering topics that range from robotics, computer vision and graphics to information software systems and architecture, while additional groups include the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval. Faculty members, meanwhile, have produced a range of oft-cited documents, and a number have secured lifetime achievement awards and instruction prizes. The most recent of these honors came the way of professor W. Bruce Croft in 2014 when he received the IEEE Computer Society Technical Achievement Award.
25. Rice University Computer Science, Rice University – Houston, Texas
In 2014 the graduate program of Rice University’s Houston-based computer science department was ranked joint 20th in America by U.S. News & World Report. The faculty is recognized for its contributions to topics including distributed programming systems, compilers and programming languages, while work in parallel computing is conducted in tandem with the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computational and Applied Mathematics departments. A professor from the computer science department, Dan Wallach, also helped break new ground within cybersecurity research at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. Faculty facilities, meanwhile, include the Center for Multimedia Communication, the Multi-Robot Systems Lab and the Center for High Performance Software Research. Highlighting the department’s contemporary relevance, associate professor Christopher Jermaine was awarded a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant from September 2014 to pioneer new cloud-computing tools that “optimize statistical machine learning techniques for distributed computing systems.”
23. Department of Computer Science, University of Maryland – College Park, Maryland
The University of Maryland’s College Park-based Department of Computer Science has an impressive pedigree: it has granted in excess of 600 Ph.D.s since its establishment in 1973, while its acclaimed full-time faculty of more than 50 remain engaged in forward-thinking research. In 2014 U.S. News & World Report ranked the department’s graduate computer science program joint 15th nationwide, with similar positions assigned for its artificial intelligence, programming language and systems specialties. Research facilities include the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, which explores new technologies based on individual requirements, and the Institute for Advanced Computer Studies, which looks at applying computer science to technological problems. Among notable former students, meanwhile, are Google co-founder Sergey Brin, ITA Software co-founder David Baggett and real-time speech recognition pioneer Ponani Gopalakrishnan, the latter of whom went on to become director at IBM India’s Research Laboratory from 2003 to 2006.
21. Department of Computer Science, University of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
Research at the University of Chicago’s Department of Computer Science is dedicated to key areas such as systems, the theory of computing, programming language and machine learning. Adding to this, research facilities at the Chicago school include the Futures Laboratory and Distributed Systems Laboratory, the latter of which pays special attention to creating, utilizing and assessing related applications, protocols and systems. As for the department’s faculty, among its number is award-winning theoretical computer science specialist and discrete mathematics expert László Babai, whose joint-authored paper on interactive proof systems shared the 1993 Gödel Prize – an award that recognizes “outstanding” theoretical computer science papers. Instrumental in the field of algorithmic theory, the scientist’s “Babai points” are often referred to on the subject of mobile communications. Elsewhere, in 2011 former Intel research vice president Andrew Chien was made the department’s new William Eckhardt Professor in Computer Science, an appointment described by Robert Fefferman, then dean of the Physical Sciences Division, as “game-changing.”
19. Department of Computer Science and Engineering, University of California, San Diego – La Jolla, Californi
According to U.S. News & World Report, the graduate program of the University of California, San Diego’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering was the joint 15th best in the country for 2014. Even more impressive is the fact that the school’s systems and theory specialties were ranked higher, at 11th and 14th positions respectively. The department boasts a faculty of some 50 individuals, who play key roles in areas of expertise that include bioinformatics, high-performance computing and software engineering. These staff members have been honored with numerous awards for their contributions to the field of computer science and engineering, while previous graduates have taken positions at major tech companies and research colleges. The forward-thinking department’s fall 2014 quarter will see the launch of a unique data science and engineering master’s program that is tailored largely for professionals in full-time occupation.
18. Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California – Los Angeles, California
The graduate curriculum of the University of Southern California’s (USC) Los Angeles-based Department of Computer Science was rated joint 20th in the country by U.S. News & World Report in 2014, scoring a very decent 3.7 out of five. Alluding to the department’s innovative qualities is the fact that many of its teachers are part of the celebrated Information Sciences Institute, which was crucial in the formation of the internet – specifically, through core elements TCP/IP and the Domain Name System. Other departmental innovations include kick-starting DNA computing and initiating one of the country’s early game development programs. Elsewhere, computer science research professor Paul Debevec was in 2010 honored with a Scientific and Technical Academy Award for co-developing groundbreaking cinematic digital lighting systems. Among the Viterbi School of Engineering department’s research centers, meanwhile, are the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems, the Information Sciences Institute, and the Center for Systems and Software Engineering.
17. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, Michigan
The University of Michigan’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) is a firm believer in fostering relationships with industry key players. It does so via the Ann Arbor, Michigan school’s Corporate Relations team, which enables companies to collaborate on research projects and recruit innovation-driven graduates. The Office of Technology Transfer, meanwhile, facilitates the licensing and commercialization of EECS-developed technologies. Besides this, the faculty’s research facilities include the Advanced Computer Architecture Laboratory, the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the Software Systems Laboratory, while students and staff also have access to a range of affiliated centers, labs and units. Numbering among the notable former students are Scientific Games Corporation co-founder and genetic engineering pioneer John R. Koza.
15. College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology – Atlanta, Georgia
The Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Computing stresses the interconnected nature of computer science, and its diverse research initiatives cover information security, programming languages, software engineering and more. In 2014 the college’s graduate computer science program was ranked joint ninth nationwide by U.S. News & World Report, which also rated its specialties in artificial intelligence and systems as the sixth best in the country. Based at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Atlanta campus, facilities include the pioneering Center for Robotics and Intelligent Machines and the Georgia Tech Information Security Center, which focuses on cyber threats. Elsewhere, in bringing together science, engineering, computing and mathematics, the School of Computational Science & Engineering devises innovative models capable of addressing significant real-world issues. Among the college’s notable graduates are Google News founder Krishna Bharat and hacker-cum-computer security specialist Tom Cross.
13. Department of Computing + Mathematical Sciences, California Institute of Technology – Pasadena, California
Located within the Division of Engineering and Applied Science at Pasadena’s California Institute of Technology is the highly respected Department of Computing + Mathematical Sciences, which offers both undergraduate and graduate computer science programs. The majority of faculty members are accommodated in the glass-fronted Annenberg Center, a LEED Gold-certified building whose use of natural air and light creates an uplifting ambiance. The department also takes a diverse and interdisciplinary approach to research, through the products of which it attempts to “meet today’s and tomorrow’s challenges.” Research facilities include the Center for Advanced Computing Research, the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, and the Center for the Mathematics of Information. The Applied Geometry Lab, meanwhile, centers on discrete differential modeling from a geometric perspective. The school is affiliated with a number of Turing Award winners, including Caltech graduate John McCarthy, who popularized the term “artificial intelligence” and is recognized as one of the field’s founders.
12. Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Urbana, Illinois
The Department of Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is housed in the “living laboratory” of the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, a building situated on the school’s Urbana campus. The department hosts teaching staff together researching just about every area of the discipline, including the likes of artificial intelligence and database and information systems. The department prides itself at having “long been at the forefront” of advancements in computing, and it’s an assertion that holds up. Nowadays, its innovation comes courtesy of a number of interdisciplinary research centers, which include the Advanced Digital Sciences Center, the Institute for Advanced Computing Applications and Technologies, and the Institute for Genomic Biology. State-of-the-art facilities are one thing; capable people are another – but the department also boasts its fair share of award-winning teachers and notable alumni. Among the latter are Turing Award winner Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, computer science pioneer Mary Jane Irwin and networking forerunner Greg Chesson.
11. Department of Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin – Austin, Texas
As the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Computer Science explains in its mission statement, “The jobs of tomorrow will use technologies not yet invented.” This mantra alludes to the school’s forward-thinking approach, which is perhaps best demonstrated by the recently opened Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall. Costing $120 million, the facility is home to ten “research clusters” housing super-modern labs. Research areas include bioinformatics and computational biology, computer architecture, theoretical computer science, and artificial intelligence. Moreover, the faculty features Turing Award winner E. Allen Emerson and National Academy of Engineering members Simon S. Lam and J. Strother Moore. The school’s computer science curriculum was placed sixth globally in the 2014 Academic Ranking of World Universities.
10. Department of Computer Science, Cornell University – Ithaca, New York
Cornell University’s influential Department of Computer Science celebrated its 50th anniversary in September 2014, but you wouldn’t know its age by looking at it. That’s because the Ithaca, New York school’s state-of-the-art Bill & Melinda Gates Hall opened in February that same year. Designed by Los Angeles- and New York-based architectural practice Morphosis, the $60 million new building brings together Cornell’s information science and computer science faculties. It also houses labs with particular focus in the fields of human-computer interaction, robotics, cybersecurity, computational sustainability and computer vision. The department positions itself as a “leader” in the information revolution owing to the breadth of its research, which covers developments in everything from artificial intelligence to database systems. Among the teaching staff are Turing Award winners John Hopcroft, who specializes in formal language theory, and professor emeritus Juris Hartmanis, whose interests lie in the complex quantitative laws that surround computing.
9. UCLA Computer Science Department, University of California, Los Angeles – Los Angeles, California
The University of Los Angeles, California’s Computer Science Department is housed at “the birthplace of the internet” – the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science. It was here, in 1969, that professor Leonard Kleinrock and his research team sent the first electronic message from one computer to another via the ARPANET network, an early version of the internet. This tradition of industry-defining innovation continues today, with faculty members undertaking important research in the fields of artificial intelligence, computational systems biology, graphics and vision, and information and data management. Research facilities include the Computational Genetics Laboratory, the Laboratory for Advanced Systems Research and the Cognitive Systems Laboratory. Furthermore, figuring among the department’s acclaimed teaching staff are Turing Award winners Alan Kay and Judea Pearl, who serve as adjunct and emeritus professors respectively.
8. Department of Computer Science, Princeton University – Princeton, New Jersey
Princeton University boasts an eminent computer science department notable for its specialties in systems, programming language and theory. Based at the university’s Princeton, New Jersey campus, the department’s facilities include the main Computer Science Building, research labs in the attached Friend Center, and the Center for Information Technology Policy in Sherrerd Hall. As far as research goes, the department’s focus areas cover, among other fields, artificial intelligence and machine learning, bioinformatics and computational biology, computer architecture and compilers, and security, privacy and policy. As well as excelling on the innovation front, Princeton can name some highly accomplished people among its computer science graduates, including former NASA astronaut Daniel Barry, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, and Avi Wigderson – a 1994 winner of the Rolf Nevanlinna Prize, which is awarded to those who have made “outstanding contributions in Mathematical Aspects of Information Sciences.”
7. Computer Science Division, University of California, Berkeley – Berkeley, California
UC Berkeley’s Computer Science Division is part of the university’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (EECS) department, which in turn falls within the College of Engineering. Based at the Berkeley, California campus’ Soda Hall, the school’s computer science program placed third on the Academic Ranking of World Universities’ 2014 list, while it was rated sixth globally on QS Top Universities’ computer science and information systems ranking. According to U.S. News & World Report, meanwhile, in 2014 the department was joint first among comparable graduate-level schools nationwide, excelling as it does in the areas of artificial intelligence, programming language, theory and systems. As for notable former students, they include Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and “father of the Amiga” Jay Miner. Also among the school’s alumni of note are Turing Award winners Ken Thompson, who jointly developed the Unix operating system; Leonard Adleman, a key figure in the advancement of cryptosystems; and the late Doug Engelbart, an organizational computing pioneer.
6. Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University – Cambridge, Massachusetts
Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) prides itself on its groundbreaking computer science faculty. Based at Harvard’s Cambridge, Massachusetts campus, SEAS computer scientists undertake pioneering research in fields such as computational theory, artificial intelligence, systems and networks, privacy and security, linguistics, and imaging. Because such research transcends various disciplines, students can specialize in multi-focused study areas including computational and data science, computational neuroscience, economics and computation, and information and society. Facilities, meanwhile, include the Center for Research on Computation and Society, the Center for Integrated Quantum Materials, the Institute for Applied Computational Science, and the Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering. As for notable graduates, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Turing Award winners Fred Brooks and Dennis Ritchie count among their number. Brooks helped to transform data processing by overseeing the development of the IBM System/360, while Ritchie conceived the C programming language.
5. Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
In 2014 U.S. News & World Report ranked Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science (SCS) joint first among equivalent graduate-level schools nationwide, listing some of its highly-rated specialties as artificial intelligence, programming language, theory and systems. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania school’s state-of-the-art, $98 million SCS Complex – which features the Gates Center for Computer Science and Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies – opened its doors in 2009. “I’m always inspired when I come here,” said benefactor Bill Gates during his opening ceremony address, with the Microsoft co-founder congratulating the school’s pioneering contributions to computer science, robotics, artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction. He also praised its Open Learning Initiative, a scheme aiming to improve students’ knowledge while allowing teachers to analyze their performance. SCS facilities include the Human-Computer Interaction Institute, the Institute for Software Research, the Robotics Institute and the Lane Center for Computational Biology. Interestingly, SCS professor Scott Fahlman is credited with having co-invented the smiley face emoticon in 1982.
4. Computer Science & Engineering, University of Washington – Seattle, Washington
Seattle’s University of Washington is one of the country’s top research schools, and its Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) department is likewise held in high regard. For example, in 2014 U.S. News & World Report ranked it as having the joint sixth best graduate school computer science program nationwide. As of 2003, CSE has been based at the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering, a $72 million facility named after the Microsoft co-founder. Since the center’s opening, lab space at the department has been augmented threefold, and today cutting-edge research is conducted in everything from artificial intelligence and computational synthetic biology to game science. Among the school’s notable advancements is its age-progression software, developed by two members of CSE’s faculty and a graduate student. Given airtime on The Today Show, the technology produces a sequence of images from one childhood photograph, revealing the appearance the child will take as he or she ages.
3. Department of Computer Science, Columbia University – New York City, New York
Based at New York City’s Columbia University, The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science boasts one of the top computer science departments in the world, with some truly cutting-edge research underway. For example, one computer science professor, Peter Allen, is currently collaboratively working on a project that allows seriously disabled people to take advantage of a groundbreaking arm and hand device. The system incorporates a brain muscle computer interface, and it is hoped that patients will be able to execute complicated grasping actions by way of robotics. Elsewhere, the department covers contemporary computing issues such as social networking algorithms and how online electronic devices collect personal data. The school’s section is also involved in the emerging field of computational biology, which scrutinizes life sciences using computer analysis. Moreover, behind such work is a highly decorated faculty, including programming languages expert Alfred V. Aho and Shree K. Nayar, the latter of whom designed a build-it-yourself camera aimed at children.
2. Computer Science Department, Stanford University – Stanford, California
Based in Silicon Valley, California, Stanford University is surrounded by technological advancement and innovation, and its influential Computer Science Department is recognized as a world leader. George Forsythe – described by computer science godfather Donald Knuth as “the Martin Luther of the Computer Reformation” – set up the department in 1965, and tech heavy-hitters such as Google, Yahoo! and Cisco are all linked to it. Previously influential in turning computer science into an academic discipline, the department also modernized its curriculum in 2008 to enable graduates to “cast a wider net.” This has essentially meant allowing majors to utilize their technical skills across a range of subjects where computers have become more important, from biology and medicine to environmental sciences. Indeed, according to Mehran Sahami, a Stanford Computer Science associate professor, “Virtually every field is touched by computer science in some way. [For example] in investing and finance, algorithmic approaches are widely used.”
1. MIT Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts’ Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is known for its cutting-edge research and academic prowess. Moreover, the school’s Electrical Engineering & Computer Science department is partly responsible for this favorable reputation through its fusing of “the rigor of science, the power of engineering and the thrill of discovery.” The department’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory partners with forward-thinking companies to push the boundaries of artificial intelligence and computer science. For example, in 2014 it was revealed that the laboratory worked with Microsoft and Adobe to create an algorithm that retrieved tiny vibrations from objects shown – but not heard – in videos and reconverted them into intelligible audio signals. This technology enabled vibrations from a bag of potato chips to be transformed back into comprehensible speech. Notable MIT computer science graduates include Google Analytics and Google Voice developer Wesley Chan and Internet Hall of Famer Brewster Kahle.