Computer science Ph.D. program coming fall ‘17

Ethen Menele, sophmore of Corpus Christi takes advantage of the computer lab at the Rogers Engineering building on Baylor's campus.

By: Rachel Leland, Reporter

Next fall, Baylor University will welcome the Department of Computer Science’s first PhD program.

Nearly two years after the program was first approved by the department in the fall of 2014, the Baylor Board of Regents accepted the department’s proposal on Friday, February 12.

“I’m very excited and proud of the hard work that the department has done to get the proposal forward,” said Dr. Speegle professor and chair of the Department of Computer Sciences. “I’m very proud of the fact that Baylor has recognized the accomplishments of the department. This is something we’ve wanted for a while, and it’s a great opportunity for us.”

Speegle, along with professors Dr. Erich Baker and Dr. Greg Hammerly, co-authored the proposal after the department recognized a need to bring in PhD students in order to expand the computer science program’s research.

The department is responsible for multiple interdisciplinary collaborations with other Baylor departments that are able to take advantage of computer capabilities and big data analytics.

For example, in October 2014, Dr. Greg Hammerly launched the White Eye Detector app. The app was co-created by Baylor chemistry professor Dr. Bryan Shaw and a graduate student. It scans images of infants and detects Leukocoria, or white pupils. Since the retina is red and should reflect red when light hits it, white pupils could indicate a tumor.

“We’ve said that we have in this department expertise that gives us the nucleus of a group that can take advantage of this combination of new areas combined with new things in computer science,” Speegle said.

The department is only lacks one thing: PhD candidates.

“There are just simply too many things that need to be done for faculty to get it all done,” Speegle said.

Faculty must divide their time between teaching and research, so PhD candidates will dramatically increase the research potential of the department because they are able to do research full time.

Once the program is developed, the department hopes to hold around 35 PhD candidates. Compared to the 11 faculty currently employed, the PhD candidates provide more potential for research.

One of the ways the department hopes to attract candidates is through the International Collegiate Programming Contest. Though it is a worldwide contest where over 20,000 students compete, its headquarters are located at Baylor. Finals are held all over the world, and the department plans to recruit candidates through the competition as well as through its own program.

“We have really good students who graduate from Baylor,” Speegle said. “Faculty are also going to talk to other universities in the state.”

Speegle hopes that the program will accept its first PhD candidates in the fall of 2017 and said he was glad that the university recognized the opportunities the program will bring for the university and the department.

“Baylor is very prudent when it comes to adding PhD programs they feel benefit the university as a whole,” Speegle said.