Everyone wants what Vipin Chaudhary’s students can do, and that’s a (welcome) problem.
As the newly-arrived leader of the newest department at the Case School of Engineering, Vipin Chaudhary, PhD, faces an unusual predicament: Popularity.
Students are flocking to courses in the Department of Computer and Data Sciences, barely a year old. Meanwhile, schools and colleges across the university hope to collaborate, mindful of what data science can do for business, law and social sciences. So Chaudhary, who arrived in August, is planning for growth and the challenges that presents.
“The pull from the other departments is tremendous,” he said “They all want to do machine learning. They all want to learn how to deal with big data—so they all want to take our courses.”
He offers what is by far the most popular major at the Case School of Engineering—computer science. The number of computer science degrees awarded by CSE has more than tripled over the past decade, driven by a hot job market. With more than 450 students already in the program, finding room for more will be difficult. But Chaudhary is going to try.
The new department was born in 2019, when computer science was pulled away from electrical engineering and coupled with data science. That was made possible by a $5 million gift from Kevin Kranzusch ’90, a software engineer and a vice president at NVIDIA, a California gaming developer and technology company. Kranzusch said he felt his alma mater could excel in a rising industry and he wanted Case to seize the moment. (He shares his thoughts in a video posted on the department’s website).
Chaudhary, an entrepreneur with both academic and industry experience, was hired away from the National Science Foundation, where he was a program director in the Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure. He had been on leave from the University at Buffalo, where he was the Empire Innovation Professor of computer science and engineering.
He says he was drawn to Case by the opportunity to create something special. The department’s marriage of data science and computer science is unusual and powerful, he said. So is the neighborhood’s collection of world-class hospitals.
He said he talks frequently with Kranzusch and shares his vision of collaborating across disciplines and with hospitals and industry to make Case a hub of high-performance computing, especially in areas where the school is already strong, like imaging, predictive analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
“I think all of that is tremendously exciting,” he said.
To achieve that vision, he’d like to grow the department’s faculty ranks from 16 to something closer to 50, which will be its own challenge in a booming industry. The cramped department is going to need more space, he adds, maybe a new building.
“These are slow processes,” Chaudhary said. “That’s why I hope to get help from alumni. We’ll continue to be a smaller computer science department. But we want to be able to lead in some areas. We have exciting strengths. And we have our location”—University Circle. “That’s why I’m excited to be here.”
Meet Vipin Chaudhary, PhD
TITLE: Kevin J. Kranzusch Professor and inaugural Chair of the Department of Computer and Data Sciences at the Case School of Engineering
FAMILY: wife Parneet, children Prerna, 22, and Sanjana, 19
LANDING COMMUNITY: Highland Heights
HOMETOWN: Kharagpur, India
TOP DEGREE: Doctorate in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Texas at Austin
STARTUPS INVOLVED WITH: Corio, Cradle Technologies, Tata CRL, Scalable Informatics
COOL AWARD: The 1986 President of India Gold Medal for ranking first among graduates of Indian Institutes of Technology
FAVORITE PASTIME: Played competitive badminton at the national and international level