For the first time, an academic unit at the university is being housed, in part, at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center (CRC).

On Sept. 14 the Department of Computer Science (CS) in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech will officially open its new facilities to the public with an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. Guests will include Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and University Provost Mark McNamee. The open house will last until 4 p.m. and the computer science department hopes interested students will take advantage of the time to visit the new facilities.

“We are a high technology oriented department, making our talents available to the businesses at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center,” said Dennis Kafura, professor and head of the computer science department.

"Approximately one half of the over 130 tenants in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center are developing information technology products," said Joe Meredith, president of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. "It is my hope that these companies will be able to take full advantage of the resources offered by the computer science department as a result of their location in the park."

“Our faculty will commute back to campus to teach our undergraduates, using a dedicated shuttle system between the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center and McBryde Hall. We are retaining offices on the sixth floor of McBryde Hall where we were formerly housed,” Kafura added. “Our faculty will use these offices in much the same way that industry uses “hoteling” offices for mobile workers, and make them available for the faculty for office hours and meetings.”

The computer science department had outgrown its space on campus. Since joining the College of Engineering in 2004, it has added nine faculty members. Also, in a single academic year, 2004-05 the CS department added 50 Ph.D. students, bringing its total Ph.D. enrollment in 2005 to 127 students.

“The improvement to the department’s Ph.D. program is among the most noteworthy improvement in the history of the College of Engineering,” said Hyde Tucker, a 1956 graduate of the electrical engineering department and retired CEO and president of Bell Atlantic Corporation. Tucker, the head of an engineering alumni awards committee, awarded the computer science department $10,000 in recognition of the improvements to its Ph.D. program.

“But with such improvements comes an acute need for space,” Kafura said.

At the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center location, communal office space was specifically designed and dedicated to the graduate student needs. Also, communal areas for impromptu conferences and discussions were incorporated.

Among the computer science faculty moving to the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center are the directors of the Center for Human Computer Interaction and the Center for High-End Computing Systems.

The Center for Human Computer Interaction, directed by computer science professor Francis Quek, has participating faculty from 16 departments and four colleges. They are involved with diverse basic and applied projects in such areas as multimedia information systems, digital libraries, visualization of scientific data and processes, virtual environments, input and output devices, electronic conferencing, instructional technology, computer-supported cooperative work, community computing, user interface design, scenario-based design, usability evaluation methods and tools, design rationale, and task analytic notations.

Current and recent sponsors of the center include: the Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Department of Energy, NASA, Naval Research Lab, National Science Foundation, Naval Service Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, and the Southeastern Universities Research Association, as well as Apple Computer, Association of Computing Machinery, Bell Atlantic, Digital Equipment Corporation, Elsevier, Institution of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Intel, IBM, International Resources Inc., John Deere, Knowledge Systems, NCR, PRC Inc., Quasar Knowledge Systems, Siemens Automotive, Silicon Graphics, Sun Microsystems, Visual Numerics, and Volvo.

Members of the computer science department associated with System X, the university’s famed supercomputer known for its speed, novel construction, and relatively low price tag in the supercomputer world, have also moved to the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. Computer Science Associate Professor Srinidhi Varadarajan is the director of the Center for High-End Computing Systems, and System X is located in a nearby building in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center.

Although there are no firm plans for when the computer science department might move back to new facilities on campus, Kafura said he hoped it would happen in the near future “if all the stars were aligned.”