History, Accomplishments, Accolades

History of the Department 


Jerry Feldman.
Jerry Feldman, first chair of URCS

The University of Rochester Computer Science Department (URCS) was founded in 1974 to be a world class research and PhD granting department with Jerry Feldman (recruited from Stanford University) as chair. Jerry brought his own ARPA grant funding with him which provided early resources for the fledgling department. He hired the first two faculty members, Jim Low and Paul Rovner, and Jill Forster as the first staff member. Together they began to build the department, one faculty member, grad student, computer and desk at a time. The department focused on research and granted only PhD degrees. Around 1975 the department became the first site outside of Xerox to have Alto computers and Ethernet. We were also one of the first small handful of departments to be linked to the ARPANet. Faculty hired during the 1970's included Christopher Brown, Carla Ellis, Dana Ballard, Joel Seiferas and James Allen.


An exterior view of the Computer Studies Building at night.
Computer Studies Building

After a lengthy design and construction process led by Chris Brown, the computer science department moved in 1987 from Hylan Hall to the 6th and 7th floor of the new Computer Studies Building. Thanks to NSF Infrastructure grants, our research facilities were strengthened to support additional research projects in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Systems. The department faculty continued to grow with these additional faculty: Lenhart Schubert, Paul Dietz, Randal Nelson, M. Srinivas, Henry Kyburg, Doug Baldwin, Rob Fowler, Lane A. Hemaspaandra, Danny Krizanc, Mark Fulk, Tom LeBlanc and Michael Scott who were all hired during the decade.


A new era began in 1996 as the department was approved by New York State to offer undergraduate degrees (BS, BA and minor). The undergraduate curriculum was modeled after the theoretical and research-oriented graduate program and grew slowly for the first decade. Nine students graduated in our first undergraduate class. In the late ‘90s, our undergraduate program grew due to the dot.com explosion. Nat Martin was hired as our Undergraduate Program Director.  Upon his departure, Ted Pawlicki was hired to continue in that position. Tenure track faculty also grew with the addition of Wei Li, Kyros Kutulakos, Mitsu Ogihara and Sandhya Dwarkadas.  

Faculty standing on pillars at a retreat.
Faculty retreat at Geneva-on-the-Lake, October 1998.


The University of Rochester celebrated its Sesquicentennial and the department celebrated its 25th anniversary. Jill Forster retired in 2002 as department administrator after 43 years at the University and 29 years in the computer science department. Eileen Pullara assumed administrator duties.  The dot.com bust negatively impacted the undergraduate enrollment during the mid-2000s. In an effort to increase the number of women enrolling in computer science, we held our first Rochester Scholars Jr. courses for middle school girls to help them experience hands-on research and technology. Tenure track faculty added were:  Chen Ding, Kai Shen, Amy Murphy, Chris Pal, Daniel Stefankovic, Henry Kautz, Jeff Bigham, Engin Ipek and Daniel Gildea and Henry Kyburg passed away. In 2009, the department moved from the School of Arts and Sciences to the Hajim School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


The department saw significant enrollment growth and added both instructional faculty and tenure-track faculty lines. In 2017, we relocated to the new Wegmans Hall along with the Goergen Institute of Data Science. Both  Chris Brown and Joel Seiferas retired. The research areas of human computer interaction and data science expanded. URCS became a BRAID school to improve diversity in computer science. Faculty hired included: Muthu Venkitasubramaniam, Jiebo Luo, Ehsan Hoque, John Criswell, Chenliang Xu, Yuhao Zhu, Zhen Bai and Fatemeh Nargesian.

Faculty listening to a speaker at the 2016 retreat.
Faculty retreat 2016 on Canandaigua Lake.


Our department has now grown to 20 tenure-track faculty and several instructional faculty members located in Wegmans Hall as well as 10 affiliated faculty in departments across campus. See our faculty directory for a list of all faculty in the department.

An exterior view of Wegmans Hall.
Computer Science’s new home, Wegmans Hall. Photo by J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester.

Department chairs since 1974:

  • Jerome Feldman (1974-1981)
  • Joel Seiferas (1981-1984) (Professor Emeritus)
  • Christopher Brown (1984-1987) (Professor Emeritus)
  • James Allen (1987-1990)
  • Thomas LeBlanc (1990-1996)
  • Michael Scott (1996-1999, 2007, 2017)
  • Mitsu Ogihara (1999-2007)
  • Henry Kautz: (2008-2014)
  • Sandhya Dwarkadas (2014-present)