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Looking to the Future: EECS Department Evolves Structure

Department will be divided into three academic divisions to improve visibility and enhance collaboration

Randy BerryThe Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has created a new administrative structure that better aligns with the evolving landscape in computational education and research. 

The department – the largest at McCormick with more than 50 faculty – will now be divided into three academic divisions: electrical engineering, computer engineering, and computer science. Each division will have its own faculty cohort, based on research and teaching interests, and many faculty will have appointments in multiple divisions. The new structure aligns the department with its academic disciplines as it continues to respond to increasing interest in EECS fields from across the University and the world. The new academic divisions position the department to improve external visibility and enhance faculty collaboration.

Gokhan Memik“This reorganization will help propel our department forward, increase our visibility, and position us to innovate in a society that is increasingly interdisciplinary and reliant on computation,” said Alan Sahakian, chair of the department who led the reorganization.

Three faculty have been selected as division directors: Randy Berry will lead electrical engineering, Gokhan Memik will lead computer engineering, and Larry Birnbaum will lead computer science.

Academic programs within EECS have shown significant growth, with increases in course enrollments in all three academic programs. The growth is most pronounced in computer science courses, in which enrollment in undergraduate courses has tripled over five years. While the number of computer science majors has nearly doubled, many students enrolled in the courses are nonmajors looking to enhance their skill sets. 

Larry BirnbaumFaculty from beyond the engineering school are also seeking more research partnerships with EECS faculty as the opportunities of computational research grow. Last fall, the department held a symposium titled “Computer Science Everywhere: Exploring Collaborations Between Computer Science and Other Disciplines at Northwestern.” Northwestern faculty discussed new ideas and challenges in develop research partnerships in areas such as networks, language, sounds and images, and education.

“We are excited by these new possibilities to extend our reach, and we hope this new structure will make that process as smooth as possible,” Sahakian said.