Message from the Department Head

Greetings and welcome to Computer Science at Johns Hopkins University!

The 2020-2021 Academic year promises to be the most dynamic period in the Department’s history. Our community is learning new techniques and building new infrastructure for research and teaching as the majority of our efforts have moved to online classrooms and virtual collaboration. 

We embark on this school year at the end of the most tumultuous and tragic period in recent history. In the six months leading up to this academic year, we have suffered a global pandemic that caused us to evacuate campus and curtail education and research. We have witnessed a series of appalling racial events that have spurred a international Black Lives Matter movement. We have seen the US government place visa restrictions on international students and scholars that have prevented many of our friends and colleagues from entering the US. 

I am deeply proud of the crisis response of the University and the Department. JHU has provided the authoritative public health data that has helped the world track and contain the spread of COVID-19. Computer science faculty have also risen to the challenge. We combat the spread of the misinformation on social media that has confused our response to disease, protest, and unrest. We build robots that automate interactions with patients in the hospital to prevent infection. We sequence and analyze the COVID-19 genome to determine the source and diversity of infections in the region. 

Computer science is fundamental to human prosperity, equity, and wellness. Automation is revolutionizing transport and manufacturing and data science is transforming health care. Technology also has negative consequences. Social media has become increasingly disruptive in global politics and cybercrime cost the world economy $600 billion last year. In this environment, computer scientists must embrace the issues of social justice, accountability, and ethics that arise from human-machine interactions. Our research advances the role of computing in the lives of people. I encourage you to explore our website to learn more. Beyond our broad research portfolio, we are translating research into practice, forging new relationships with corporate partners, and building companies from startups.  

The interest in computing has grown in proportion with its importance and we are teaching and mentoring more students than ever before. This includes our 600 undergraduate majors. Despite this growth, we are committed to an undergraduate experience that includes access to faculty and research experience. Aligned with a University report on the undergraduate education, we are redesigning the undergraduate major to provide more flexibility and choice, offering co-curricular education through internships, study abroad, and research, and building mentoring networks that support students during and beyond their time at Hopkins. 

The recent past has compelled us to change many of our processes. In doing so, we have the opportunity to improve and reinvent in pursuit of prosperity, diversity, and fairness in a technological world. 

Randal Burns, Professor & Head 

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