'Exciting time' of growth for Rice Computer Science

Increased enrollment, new faculty and expanding research highlight department's bright future.

rice computer science growth

The Department of Computer Science at Rice University is on schedule to nearly double its tenured/tenure-track faculty in a six-year period.

“It’s an exciting time for computer science," said Reginald DesRoches, the William and Stephanie Sick Dean of Engineering. "Enrollments are soaring, and computing is having a transformational effect on nearly all fields, including engineering, science, law, medicine, policy, social science, journalism and many more."

Luay Nakhleh, the J.S. Abercrombie Professor and chair of CS, has announced that the Rice Board of Trustees approved investment in nine new faculty members to be hired in the four years beginning July 1, 2020. When Nakhleh became chair in 2017, the CS faculty numbered 18. By July 1, 2023, it is scheduled to total 34.

The department at Rice is ranked 20th among CS graduate programs in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report, and 11th among schools with a specialty in programming language, prompting Nakhleh to say:

“Among the top-20 departments, we are the second- or third-smallest in terms of tenured/tenure-track faculty. While we are still a small department, even with this new investment, I can’t wait to see the new heights we will reach.”

The hiring will proceed like this:
By July 1, 2020, one assistant professor, one endowed full professor
By July 1, 2021, two associate professors, one endowed full professor
By July 1, 2022, two assistant professors, one endowed full professor
By July 1, 2023, one assistant professor
The plan will be funded with gifts, central funds and revenues drawn from the CS professional master’s program.

“We already have our eyes on the talent pool out there,” Nakhleh said. “This effort is not starting in a vacuum. We know the areas in computer science we want to address.”

To accommodate the new faculty, plans are underway to open 37 offices and a large multi-workstation office in Duncan Hall in December 2020 or January 2021, when the statistics department will have moved to Maxfield Hall.

Nakhleh credits DesRoches, university president David Leebron, interim provost Seiichi Matsuda, senior associate engineering dean Rob Griffin and vice president for finance Kathy Collins with working out the details, endorsing and finalizing the CS investment plan.

“We should seek to hire the very best talent and in that effort assure that we attract a diverse group of faculty to Rice. The investment in computer science is part of President Leebron’s Vision for the Second Century, Second Decade (V2C2) strategy of investing in faculty to achieve preeminence,” Matsuda said.