UMass Lowell launches school of computer science
UMass Lowell will launch a new school of computer science to be named in honor of distinguished alumnus Rich Miner, co-founder of Android, the company and mobile operating system that was acquired and launched by Google.
University leadership had approached Miner, believing his story and accomplishments would contribute to the vision they had for the new school. Today, the UMass Board of Trustees approved establishing the Richard A. Miner School of Computer & Information Sciences at UMass Lowell through a $5 million donation from Miner as well as a $2 million matching contribution from the state.
“UMass Lowell’s newly named Richard A. Miner School of Computer & Information Sciences further elevates a program well known for transformative education and pioneering research in the field,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney. “We are profoundly indebted to Rich. His latest gift reflects his ongoing generous donation of his time, expertise and resources to support students through entrepreneurial competitions like UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker and prepare them to become leaders in their careers.”
An esteemed history
Miner, who holds three degrees in computer science from UMass Lowell (B.S. 1986, M.S. 1989, Ph.D. 1997) exemplifies the university’s longstanding investment in and commitment to preparing students for the ever-evolving industry.
Today, the department, elevated to a school with the trustees’ vote, is home to nearly 1,600 undergraduate students and more than 300 graduate students, making it the largest academic program on campus with nearly 6% of the total UMass Lowell undergraduate population. From fall 2016 to fall 2021, UMass Lowell’s undergraduate enrollment in computer science programs increased by more than 50%. This year, a record 12% of students in UMass Lowell’s applicant pool listed computer science as their intended major.
UMass Lowell research expenditures in computer science have grown in tandem with enrollment, jumping from $2.7 million in 2016 to $4.4 million in 2021. Faculty are authorities on a vast array of subjects from artificial intelligence, visualization, robotics, natural language processing, data analytics, computer security and privacy, to health informatics and more.
Miner co-founded Android, the world’s most popular operating system with over 3 billion users. After selling Android to Google in 2005 and launching the first few releases, Rich co-founded GV, Google’s first venture fund. GV has led investments in a number of the past decade’s most successful startups. In his role with GV, Rich backed some of Massachusetts’ top startups including Recorded Future, Toast, Hubspot and Tamr.
As a UMass Lowell undergraduate, Miner wrote computer programs for the Commodore 64, a first-generation gaming system. In his graduate years, his work with the university’s Center for Product Enhancement paved the way for breakthroughs in imagery, video digitization and videoconferencing. In that same university lab, he helped incubate Avid Technology, the world’s first computer video editing platform. He later went on to co-found Wildfire Communications, the first voice-based personal assistant – patenting many of the concepts now common in today’s voice assistants. He credits his UMass Lowell education as key to his entrepreneurial success and believes his donation will help computer science students see how unlimited their future is as they follow their passion.
“UMass Lowell prepared me academically and entrepreneurially for a career where I was able to contribute to so many impactful innovations. I am honored to be able to give back in ways that might encourage others to meet or exceed their dreams,” Miner said.
Miner has returned to UMass Lowell to share his story and mentor students, including those who participate in the university’s Rist DifferenceMaker Institute, a program which provides entrepreneurship education and opportunities. In 2012, he established the Professor Patrick D. Krolak Innovation Scholarship. Named for Miner’s mentor, a former UMass Lowell computer science faculty member admired for his collaborative approach to research, these scholarships are open to UMass Lowell computer science students.
The next generation
Establishing the school exemplifies UMass Lowell’s commitment to providing computer science students with the academic coursework, laboratory research, cooperative education, and internship opportunities they need to succeed in the rapidly evolving field.
Housed within the university’s Kennedy College of Sciences, the Richard A. Miner School of Computer & Information Sciences offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs blending applied and theoretical study of computation. The course of study also includes options for minors in robotics, cybersecurity, data science and bio-cheminfomatics. In partnership with the university’s Division of Graduate, Online and Professional Studies, the school also offers certificates in cybersecurity, systems models and management and telecommunication.
“The new Richard A. Miner School of Computer & Information Sciences is designed to provide educational and research opportunities to a diverse body of students and faculty. Together, they will make significant discoveries and innovations that address many of the challenges that our world faces. In an increasingly interconnected world, the school will enlighten our future and reduce our uncertainties. We are grateful to Rich Miner for this opportunity to significantly grow the school,” said Kennedy College of Sciences Dean Noureddine Melikechi, professor of physics.
The university is planning a fall dedication ceremony to honor Miner and the new school.