50 Computer Science Schools That Are Changing the World

By Tiffany Trader

November 11, 2014

With the computing revolution well underway, computer science undergirds nearly every facet of modern life. Discovery and innovation are increasingly computational endeavors, not just in scientific research, but in medicine, business, humanities and the arts. As a field of study, computer science is attracting many of the most talented minds of our time. Graduates from computer science programs can use these skills to secure rewarding employment, to start their own business, or as a platform for pursuing advanced scientific or professional degrees.

In this field known for being on the cutting-edge, there are institutions that have pushed the innovation envelope more than the rest. An article at Computer Science Degree Hub has compiled a listing of the 50 most innovative computer science departments in the United States.

When you think about these centers of innovation and learning, some names immediately call out to you. Stanford. Harvard. Carnegie Mellon. They’re all in the top ten. As are Columbia, the University of Washington, Berkeley, Princeton, UCLA, and Cornell.

The number one spot, however, goes to the Harvard, Mass., landmark with the off-the-charts genius quotient: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The school’s Electrical Engineering & Computer Science department espouses the “the rigor of science, the power of engineering and the thrill of discovery.” The department is home to the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, known as CSAIL, the largest research laboratory at MIT and one of the world’s most important centers of information technology research. CSAIL alumni have launched more than 100 companies, including 3Com, Lotus Development Corporation, RSA Data Security, Akamai, iRobot, Meraki, ITA Software, and Vertica. The Lab also houses the Wide Web Consortium (W3C), directed by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and a CSAIL member.

While the target of this list was computer science programs, many of the same schools will be recognizable as premier computational science centers. While the two terms are linked in many ways, they are distinct.

As Robert Moser, deputy director of the University of Texas at Austin Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) and director of ICES Center for Predictive Engineering and Computational Sciences, offered: computational science is a tool that enables computers to be applied to investigate scientific questions.

“Computer science includes all the things we do on our computers and how we build systems to do those kinds of things. Computational science is about the application of computers to advance science, largely the modeling and simulating of the physical world,” Moser said in January.

There are a number of schools that offer master’s degrees in computational science/engineering, a wise path for those seeking a career in high-performance computing. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Georgia Tech, and the University of Southern California all offer degrees relevant to HPC and not surprisingly they are also top computer science centers (12th, 15th, 18th place, respectively). It’s worth pointing out that even when HPC isn’t treated as a full degree program, it might be offered as a specialization within more traditional departments, like math or computer science.

The top 50 list was compiled using QS TopUniversities’ 2014 and 2013 “Computer Science & Information Systems” rankings and the U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 “Best Grad Schools” Computer Science ranking. Programs were also evaluated based on their cutting-edge technology and facilities, faculty awards, and contributions to science/society.

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