February 25, 2022
An accomplished administrator and specialist in computing and its applications in modern life has been named the first director of the new School of Computing at the University of Wyoming.
Gabrielle Allen, professor of mathematics and statistics and adjunct professor of physics and astronomy, who is also a special assistant in the Office of Research and Economic Development at UW, starts on March 1.
“We are extremely fortunate that someone of Dr. Allen’s experience and stature has agreed to lead the launch of what will be a transformational academic unit at UW,” said Vice President and Vice President executive Kevin Carman. “Her academic credentials are a perfect fit for this important leadership position, and we are confident that she will develop and lead an interdisciplinary team that will infuse computing on campus to benefit our students, faculty, and partners across the state.”
Allen played a key role in crafting the plan presented to the UW Board of Trustees, which approved the School of Computing in January. With Allen’s appointment, work will continue to hire other initial staff and advertise faculty members. One-time funding from the U.S. Federal Bailout Act allocated by Governor Mark Gordon is being used to accelerate the school’s development.
Allen holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Cardiff University and additional degrees from Cambridge University and the University of Nottingham. His research focuses on the development of community-based software platforms that enable large-scale scientific applications to take advantage of advanced computing technologies. His contributions to the application of computing to physics were recognized in 2017 with his election as a Fellow of the American Physical Society. She has also received a number of awards and accolades for her research in computing, including the Gordon Bell Prize for Supercomputing, the High Performance Bandwidth Challenge, and the IEEE International Scalable Computing Challenge.
Previously at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she served as Associate Dean for Research and Research Education at its College of Education – where she led an effort to develop college certification programs. Status for K-12 Computer Science Teachers – and as Director of the Office of Educational Research. At the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, she was associate director for research and education.
Her career includes serving as a faculty member in the Department of Computer Science at Louisiana State University, where she also served as Deputy Director of Computer Applications at LSU’s Center for Computation and Technology, and led the Louisiana Statewide National Science Foundation (NSF ) EPSCoR RII CyberTools Project.
Allen served as program manager in the Office of Cyberinfrastructure at NSF and led the computational science group at the Albert Einstein Institute in Golm, Germany. She was a member of the LIGO Science Collaboration, the research lab that detected the first gravity wave, a major prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
Allen has a strong track record of securing research funding from the NSF, Department of Energy, and other major federal agencies. His scholarly publication record is truly remarkable, says Carman: His work has been cited more than 36,000 times in the scientific literature, with publications ranging from physics to applications of computer science in fields as diverse as hurricane forecasting. to cultural science.
Allen’s current advisory roles include serving on the Cardiff University School of Computing and Computing External Advisory Board; on the governance board of the Irish Center for High End Computing; to the Supercomputing Wales Advisory Board; and external advisory board member of the NSF Computing Infrastructure Project “Accelerating Computing for Emerging Sciences” led by Texas A&M University.
The School of Computing will initially be under the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science, allowing resources to be focused primarily on student programs. During this start-up period, estimated at about four years, the school will focus on hiring teachers; prioritizing and offering courses and certificate programs; work with other UW units and Wyoming community colleges to develop a freshman and sophomore course sequence for students interested in majoring in computer science-related programs; and in partnership with UW departments to create minors in computer science.
Plans call for the launch of bachelor’s degree programs at the School of Computing — including 2-plus-2 agreements with community colleges — in the 2024-25 academic year.
“The School of Computing is fundamentally about the students,” says Allen. “Across all disciplines and majors, employers are looking for students who know how to use computers and data and how to apply that knowledge in new and interesting ways.”
School of Computing students will learn how to approach problems, use software options and work in interdisciplinary teams, Allen says. Similar to science and engineering research programs, students will be able to apply to become computer science scholars, earning money for their education as well as hands-on research opportunities. An internship program is also in the works where students will work in interdisciplinary teams with Wyoming companies.
“We want it to be an environment where students can take ideas and run with them,” says Allen. “They’re really going to come up with new innovations.”
At the end of its first five years, the School of Computing should have — in addition to a director, a commercial director and an office manager — 10 to 13 faculty members in IT, the majority of which are expected to be hired jointly with other UW departments; five graduate assistants; 15 undergraduate scholars; and 10 affiliated professors.
Ultimately, plans call for the school to have around 24 faculty members, with a dean, more graduate assistants and other support staff. This structure will support planned undergraduate and graduate programs in computer science, as well as research programs in collaboration with public and private sector partners. A nationwide search will be conducted to find a Dean before the school transitions to a stand-alone unit.
The incubation of the School of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Applied Science will also allow the new school to work closely with the soon-to-be-combined Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments, which are part from the college of engineers. While UW will continue to offer degrees in these areas, the degree programs envisioned at the School of Computing will have a somewhat different focus – examining how computing applies to a wide range of disciplines, with less emphasis on engineering.
“In reviewing Dr. Allen’s application materials, I felt very fortunate that someone with his experience and abilities was willing to serve as the inaugural director of UW’s new school of computer science,” Cameron said. Wright, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “I am confident that she will get the new school off to a good start.”
The School of Computing will provide connections and build on the variety of existing digital assets at UW, such as the Advanced Research Computing Center, Data Science Center, Information Science Center Wyoming Geographic, Shell 3D Visualization Center, Wyrkshop Innovation and UW Libraries. The new school will complement UW’s Tier 1 Engineering Initiative, Science Initiative, and Administrator Education Initiative, as well as UW’s relationship with the National Center for Atmospheric Research-Wyoming Supercomputing Center near Cheyenne.
The school will also help UW become more competitive for national research grants that provide research and educational opportunities for students. Federal research agencies such as the NSF are increasingly focusing existing research funding on areas advanced by computational approaches, and Congress is working to dramatically increase funding to the NSF, Department of Energy and other research agencies in these areas.
“The school will really help us provide that bridge between new technologies, computing and applications, and bring the varied expertise we have on campus to solve problems of regional and national importance, greatly increasing our ability to bring funds from outside of UW to support our students and faculty,” says Allen. “It will also put us in a better position to engage with more business partners to provide our students with the real-world experience they need.”