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UTEP adapts to evolving technology: Computer science program develops a friendlier curriculume


Dr. Modave
Dr. Francois Modave
 
In the Information Age computers have become an integral part of our personal and professional lives. Whether one works at an office or at a lab, being computer savvy may not come easy, but it is integral to know.

A partnership between the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Economics and Finance and the Department of Biological Sciences has vowed to give students in any of these fields, the necessary tools to adapt to this multilayered work environment.

A program available through the National Science Foundation, CPath looks at ways of reconciling Computer Science with other disciplines. CPath extended to UTEP this fall semester with the goal of developing a friendlier Computer Science program.

"The idea is to look at educational hurdles of multidisciplinary programs," said Francois Modave, computer science professor and principal investigator of the NSF-funded project. "Our aim is to revitalize computational education."

Because the College of Engineering does not allow minors, computer science majors that may have shown interest in the sciences and in business, particularly Biology and Finance, would have trouble with prerequisites, according to CIERP enrollment data. Since part of UTEP's mission is to support more interdisciplinary programs, CPath will look at how students can ground more computer science into these areas, Modave said.

"Both biology and finance involve data," Modave said. "In biology, for example, all areas have a computational aspect."

According to Modave, eco-informatics gathers data from the eco-system to look at human impact on the water system, ice in the North Pole, and the Amazon, much of which needs to be analyzed with computer tools.

Software is also relevant with drug discovery and understanding how cancer cells metastasize.

"The list is not exhaustive by any mean," Modave said.

In finance, Computer Science allows students to be able to use software and algorithms to solve financial problems, said Oscar Varela, professor of finance.

He said finance is very data-intensive, and having students in areas such as portfolio analysis with a computational background will allow them to be more marketable.

Whether students are going into investment banking or any other financial field, CPath will help students get rigorous training in both finance and computer science.

"Students that have a variety of talents will be a lot more comfortable no matter what the state of the economy," Varela said.

With falling enrollment of Computer Science at the national level, CPath will also help open the gates to other disciplines. "You can apply Computer Science to anything," said Valeria Estrada, senior computer science major.

If successful, Modave said, Computer Science will collaborate with other departments such as health sciences, more specifically, kinesiology and liberal arts to help bridge the academic gap that may exist across different fields.

Andrew Latimer, freshman computer science major, sees the departments as relatable to Computer Science.

"(Computer Science) is just a way of solving problems," said Latimer, who eventually plans on going into business. "It's about applying what you learn in a different field."

Jorge Gomez may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

– Jorge Gomez

The Prospector. Citing Internet Resources. [Online], September 23, 2008.