With the highest-ever number of students taking computer science courses, the department is looking to usher in a new era with broader research and scholarship opportunities.
Zoe Berg, Photo Editor
Facing record-high demand for its courses, the computer science department hired nine tenure-track faculty members and four teaching-track lecturers over the summer and added nine new courses for the semester.
Computer science is the second-most popular major in Yale College, and total enrollment in computer science courses reached a new record high of 3,260 students for the fall 2022 semester, according to Department Chair Zhong Shao. The computer science department announced its new hires on Sept. 3, highlighting the faculty members as a way of expanding the department’s expertise and meeting rising student demand. Shao added that the department is looking to expand its course offerings in the coming years, with more courses for both undergraduate and graduate students.
“As we move forward, we also want to improve and restructure the computer science core curriculum and offer a wide variety of quality computer science courses to the broader Yale community,” Shao wrote in an email to the News. “The department’s broad goals are to train and educate aspiring leaders, perform outstanding research and scholarship, and help transform Yale into a world-class university at the forefront of the computer science and AI revolution that is reshaping our world.”
This semester, the department added its first-ever class aimed at students outside of the computer science major, titled “Python Programming for Humanities and Social Sciences.”
The course, co-taught by newly-hired lecturers Ozan Erat and Sohee Park, will teach students the basics of programming and data analysis and give them a chance to apply simple machine learning techniques to different datasets.
“You might be interested in political science and have no interest in computer science, but maybe you should learn to program,” Erat said. “You might use some data visualization tools or some basic prediction methods. [Artificial intelligence] is everywhere now.”
Erat also said he is looking to improve a popular computer science class, “Data Structures and Programming Techniques,” by adding lab sections that will give students hands-on coding experience and help them connect the theory they learn in class with more practical skills.
In addition to their input on existing courses, the new faculty will also help to address demand for education in spheres like artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity and distributed computing.
Professor Tesca Fitzgerald, another new computer science hire, focuses on interactive robot learning. Her new Yale lab is currently under renovation, but she said she is excited to hire students and begin working on research soon. This semester, she is teaching a graduate-level robotics seminar, and next spring she will begin teaching an undergraduate course on artificial intelligence.
“Because robotics is such an interdisciplinary space, you really need several people in that space before you can get momentum,” Fitzgerald said. “[You need] shared equipment, shared students, representation of all sorts of spaces of perception, manipulation, control theory, interaction. I feel like we [at Yale] have a good base and representation in each of those areas, which is fantastic. I really hope we keep that momentum up.”
According to Fitzgerald, all new tenure-track faculty received a grant for starting their research labs, which have enabled them to purchase the equipment they need.
This year, according to Shao, the computer science department was also able to streamline its advising for undergraduate senior projects. Starting this fall, the department has designated faculty member Sohee Park to be in charge of helping students connect with professors, identify potential research projects, create initial proposals, develop midterm progress reports and prepare final reports and presentations, Shao explained.
New Yale students will be able to benefit the most from the recent hirings.
Anton Melnychuk ’26, a prospective computer science major, is interested in using artificial intelligence in music. He said he is excited that the study of artificial intelligence is highly represented among the new faculty.
“I would love to take a class or work with [the new professors],” Melnychuk said. “I am sure Yale selected the best candidates.”
The Yale College Department of Computer Science offers both bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees.