Regent’s Professor and Founding Chair of the School of Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) Richard Fujimoto is this year’s recipient of the Class of 1934 Outstanding Interdisciplinary Activities Award.
According to the Georgia Tech Faculty Honors Committee, Fujimoto is being recognized for his distinguished record of leadership in establishing CSE as a school, along with several of its ancillary student programs.
“Georgia Tech has a different view of computational science and engineering than other universities,” said Fujimoto.
“We view CSE as a discipline in its own right, focusing on knowledge at the intersection of computing, mathematics, and science and engineering applications, and have created a department focused on this area. Few other universities have such a department.”
According to Fujimoto, there are distinct advantages to CSE’s designation as a formal department. “In particular, it allows us to hire faculty strategically in important areas. And, there is evidence that other universities are beginning to emulate this approach,” he said.
Building a school from the ground up
Fujimoto came to Georgia Tech as a faculty member shortly before the creation of the College of Computing in 1990. During those initial years, the College’s leadership was navigating issues of scale and change.
“In the early years we had the College of Computing, but in many ways, it looked a lot like a big computer science department. There was tremendous growth in the 1990’s which created many challenges related to scaling our activities,” he said.
Rich DeMillo was hired as dean in 2002 and scalability was one of the issues he aimed to address. His first step was to split the college into two parts: the Division of Computer Science (to become the School of Computer Science in 2007) and the Division of Interactive Computing (to become the School of Interactive Computing in 2007).
Then, in 2005, DeMillo began an initiative in the College focused on high-performance computing. This eventually led to the formation of the CSE school.
“He wanted to take a broader look at the intersection of computation with science and engineering, and that’s really what formed the beginnings of the school. So, in 2005, Rich asked me to serve as chair and founder of this new division, which would officially become the School of Computational Science and Engineering in 2010,” said Fujimoto. “We broadened the initiative to extend beyond high-performance computing to encompass other areas such as data analytics and modeling and simulation. These formed the foundation for the CSE school.”
“When getting started in 2005, all of the faculty in CSE had to be hired, which was very different from the other schools, which were composed of existing faculty. The initial faculty were me and two new faculty, [current CSE Chair] David Bader, and [CSE Professor] Haesun Park. And, we were more or less tasked with figuring things out from there.”
Fujimoto served as CSE chair from 2005 to 2014. During this time, he, Park, and Bader worked together with faculty across campus to establish CSE’s graduate programs and curriculum including:
- The interdisciplinary CSE M.S. and Ph.D. degree programs
- The CSE thread of Georgia Tech’s undergraduate computer science program
- and two undergraduate minor programs
This group also led in creating the Computing Research Undergraduate Intern Summer Experience (CRUISE) program as well as the College’s first online degree program with the online MS program in CSE. Fujimoto later co-led the development of Georgia Tech’s MS in Analytics with faculty from the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering and the Scheller College of Business.
Life after building CSE
Since he ended his role as chair in 2014, Fujimoto says he has spent his time focusing on his research.
“I took a detour from my research activities to start the school. Now, I am focusing on my own core research program in parallel and distributed simulation,” he said.
“My current research is looking at energy issues in distributed simulation. It’s an area that is well studied in embedded systems and mobile systems, but has not been heavily studied in the modeling and simulation community. My mission for the past few years has been to get more people in the modeling and simulation community to engage in this area, which is really important work.”
Fujimoto currently has many active collaborations across Georgia Tech. He has several projects focused on sustainability with the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, research in distributed simulation and transportation systems management with Civil and Environmental Engineering, and materials research and education through the NSF-funded FLAMEL Program.