Engineering’s new era

Dean: added school, labs and degrees forecast ‘bright skies ahead’ for College

School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science 2018

With the return of the computer science department to the College of Engineering and Mines, the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education approved a proposal to combine departments into a new School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science in December. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

It’s a new year with a new school, new degrees, and brand new labs at the College of Engineering & Mines.

With the return of the computer science department to the College of Engineering and Mines, the State Board of Higher Education approved a proposal to combine departments into a new School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science in December.

The move, part of a larger goal to expand degree offerings and research, has been in the works for some time, said Hesham El-Rewini, dean of the College of Engineering & Mines. “This will give our students greater learning opportunities,” he said.

With the new school and just-approved degree programs in cybersecurity and data science, the College expects an expanded era of student opportunities, faculty research and collaboration.

“These changes allow UND to offer programs and conduct research in interdisciplinary areas like never before, including cybersecurity, data science, machine learning, biomedical engineering and bioinformatics,” said El-Rewini.

Hesham El Rewini mug

Hesham El-Rewini, dean of the UND College of Engineering & Mines

Fresh beginnings

The State Board of Higher Education approved new bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a minor in cybersecurity at its meeting Jan. 25, along with graduate certificates in behavioral data analytics and cybersecurity and behavior.

Last July, the computer science department was moved from the Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences back to its original home in engineering. Most computer science programs in the U.S. are housed within engineering colleges, said El-Rewini, and the goal of the move was to place UND’s program on par with others across the nation and make computer science graduates more competitive in the job market.

In December, the State Board approved a proposal to combine departments into a new School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science.

And over the winter break, faculty, classrooms and labs moved from Streibel Hall to the main campus.

Opportunities galore

“The School opens doors for a lot of new opportunities,” said Ron Marsh, associate professor of computer science and co-chair of the School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. “Overall, this is a good thing for everyone.”

Marsh said that most students, especially undergraduates, won’t see much difference at first, except for the new location.

“The difference for graduate students and faculty is that it will make it easier for departments to collaborate on research,” Marsh said. “Down the road there will be more opportunity for that, and we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. There will be opportunities to work together on research, grants and degrees.”

“We are looking forward to the possibilities and opportunities for students and faculty as we work together to deliver and innovate in curricula and research,” said John Mihelich, professor and interim chair of electrical engineering.

“The new school allows computer science to borrow from the expertise the College of Engineering has in online programs to offer their own online programs,” said El-Rewini. The College’s ABET accredited engineering programs were the first in the nation to be offered online.

“The new entity will allow greater opportunities for collaboration in interdisciplinary areas that overlap, such as computer science and electrical engineering,” El-Rewini said. “This idea is not new, and has been done before at several large universities.”

School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science

With the new School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and just-approved degree programs in cybersecurity and data science, the UND College of Engineering & Mines expects an expanded era of student opportunities, faculty research and collaboration. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

Best and brightest

“We created two new state-of-the art multipurpose computer labs that could be used as classrooms or labs in Leonard 110 and 112,” El-Rewini said, adding that all computer science faculty were outfitted with new computers.

El-Rewini credited the engineering IT team and students who built the labs, created computing environments for students, and made sure everything was ready for the spring semester. “Sometimes they worked until 4 a.m.,” he said.

The School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science will be co-directed by Marsh and Mihelich until a director can be hired.

El-Rewini sees bright skies ahead.

“Having computer science and electrical engineering in one college will help us cover the entire continuum of subjects in data, hardware and software,” he said. “It will make it easier to collaborate in the areas of cyber security and big data.

“Our projection is that this school will allow us to recruit the best and brightest faculty and new students in new interdisciplinary programs and increase our external funding and research productivity,” continued El-Rewini.