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April 14, 2015

New department advances computational science research, education

A new academic department at Michigan State University will bring together researchers from a variety of disciplines and will serve to advance cutting-edge interdisciplinary science and the training of undergraduate and graduate students.

The creation of the Department of Computational Mathematics, Science and Engineering is pending approval by the MSU Board of Trustees, which will consider it at its April 17 meeting.

Computational science focuses on the construction of mathematical models and quantitative analysis techniques, as well as using computers, to analyze and solve any number of scientific problems.

The department, which will be jointly administered by the College of Natural Science and the College of Engineering, is intended to position MSU as a world leader in scientific discovery through large-scale computation.

“The department will be distinct among computational academic units nationally,” said MSU Provost June Pierce Youatt. “Companion to the innovative research, CMSE will be home to a unique set of undergraduate and graduate degrees that bring together data science, scientific computing and a blend of traditional disciplines.”

MSU is committed to growing expertise in the area of computational and data science. Eight new faculty members specializing in these areas will be arriving on campus this fall. Subject to board approval, the new faculty would be the first cohort in a multiyear effort to grow the department.

The creation of the department is part of an effort to promote MSU academic competitiveness. Utilizing more than $15 million in recurring funds, the university will recruit new faculty with distinguished accomplishments and high potential in areas that address challenges for national research. Focused broadly on the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, or STEM, the Academic Competitiveness Fund also will provide support to augment the contributions of existing faculty experts in CMSE.

"A well-known venture capitalist recently quipped that ‘software is eating the world,’" said Stephen Hsu, vice president for research and graduate studies. “In the same way, algorithms and computational capabilities are becoming central to progress in diverse areas, ranging from nuclear physics to materials engineering to biology and genomics. CMSE will enhance MSU research across a number of frontiers, and at the same time provide an essential stream of applied computation expertise to Michigan and U.S. industry.”

Faculty involved in the department will use computing as a critical tool to explore fundamental scientific questions in subjects as diverse as nuclear physics and evolutionary biology. The potential impact is widespread across several disciplines in the colleges of Natural Science, Engineering, Social Science, Business, as well as the health-related colleges.

“We are very excited to be launching this department and the exceptional educational and research programs it will be offering,” said R. James Kirkpatrick, College of Natural Science dean. “CMSE will provide our students with the competitive edge they need to succeed in the 21st-century workforce, and its research programs will have broad and deep impact across the university.”

"Among the biggest beneficiary of the research in the department will be new materials," said College of Engineering Dean Leo Kempel. "Emerging computer platforms allow scientists to explore nature and how humans design in ways that could not be imagined a couple of decades ago.”


By: Tom Oswald