College of Engineering to offer computer science doctorate program

VCU professor and chair of the Computer Science Department Krzysztof Cios and dean of the VCU School of Engineering Barbara Boyan pose for a portrait with the collaborative robot “YuMi” in the recently renovated Engineering Research Building. YuMi is being used as part of a project that makes it easy for non-programmers to program robots to do useful tasks. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Dylan Seay, Contributing Writer

The College of Engineering will enroll the first cohort of students in its new computer science doctorate program beginning this fall, according to a university release

Krzysztof Cios, a VCU professor and chair of the university’s computer science department, worked with school faculty to establish the program, which was submitted for approval from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia three years ago. 

Dean of the School of Engineering Barbara Boyan said having a computer science program at a top-ranked public arts school will make the experience unique for students.

“If you are interested in a confluence of algorithms and art, this is the place to be,” Boyan said. “If you want to grow up to be somebody that does the next Walt Disney movie, this is the place to be.”

After the arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters in Northern Virginia, the political climate changed favorably for the program, Cios said. Massive tech companies moving into the region rapidly increased the demand for higher computer science education.

“Those who are running SCHEV understood that the more Ph.D. programs in computer science we have, the better for the commonwealth of Virginia,” Cios said. 

According to Boyan, while the job market is stable and still expanding for computer science students with undergraduate and graduate degrees, there is now a growing demand for postgraduate students.  

“What you’re doing is you’re learning a way of thinking and a way of questioning and examining problems that you don’t learn as an undergrad and you don’t learn as a master’s student,” Boyan said. “Companies want that kind of thinking.” 

Cios expects the program will draw students as the only other doctorate program for computer science at VCU is an engineering program with a computer science concentration. 

“Some students want to study pure computer science, not engineering with a specialization,” Cios said. “The program is also needed to attract better faculty.”

Boyan said 75% of the College of Engineering’s graduates remain in Richmond.

“There’s no other Virginia school that can say that,” Boyan said. “Richmond is a growing region. It’s a happening place.”

There were 14 applicants to the new program as of this past Friday, Cios said.

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