Although supercomputers have the potential to make significant discoveries in a variety of subject areas, they are often limited in their application because of computer scientists’ ignorance of subjects other than computer science, presenters at the National Science Foundation supercomputer symposium said on Thursday.
Russ Miller, a professor of computer science and engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said university computer-science departments need to recruit graduate students who have undergraduate degrees in diverse fields, such as biology, physics, and humanities. Currently, most computer-science students know a lot about computer science, he said, but not much else.
“They don’t have a broad enough worldview of what they’re doing computer science for,” he said. “So they’re just interested in building the next best computer-science widget and hope somebody is interested in that.”
John Sasso, who works for the New York State Office of Technology, said computer-science departments needed to take students with diverse skills and use them to think creatively when solving problems. It’s too often, he said, that universities teach students how to create a computer program to solve a problem, but not how to identify the problem in the first place.
“Students are being taught to solve things in more of a recipe kind of fashion,” he said. —Dan Carnevale