President's Teaching Scholars Program

The Computational World

I would like to develop an undergraduate-level course that helps students not only develop a basic understanding of computational ideas, but also to situate those ideas within a broader portrait of modern scholarship. This course, tentatively titled “The Computational World,” would focus not on particular applications (spreadsheets, word processors, and so forth), but rather on the ways in which computers have impacted scientific and artistic thinking. The course would likely include topics such as: (a) the role of simulation as a source of experiments in science and mathematics; (b) basic ideas of algorithms and their representation; (c) the notion of a “language” or notation for communication procedural ideas, as an artifact of design in its own right; (d) computational models of mind and how they have affected the study of vision, language, and creativity; (e) “emergence” in computation and how computational models enable us to create many complex systems as a collection of myriad simpler, interactive entities; (f) the notion of “information as an object of study. To my knowledge, there is no undergraduate course quite like this in existence, and I woud like to accompany the development of the course with both innovative laboratory materials and a textbook to encourage the creation of other courses in this genre elsewhere. More generally, I would like to us this course and its development as a springboard for promoting and encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration for students and faculty in computer science.

Michael Eisenberg
Computer Science