Computer Science Fact Sheet
We offer courses in every area identified as core by national curricular
Introductory courses emphasize different approaches to problem solving.
The first course
stresses functional and imperative programming, using Scheme
(a dialect of LISP, the major research language for artificial
The second course
stresses object-oriented programming, using Java
(the major language for Web-based applications).
An accelerated introductory course (CS
153) presents functional and object-oriented programming in Scheme and
Java for well-prepared students (e.g., with strong
scores on Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams).
After the introductory year-long sequence, students may work on many core
and elective topics.
Upper-level courses in broad range of topics:
theory of computation.
Special courses provide additional coverage, with
recent topics including multimedia, Web software design, cryptology,
algorithms for practical problems, and neural networks.
Additional information is available by following
the Information for Prospective Students link from the department's
home page at
Grinnell's computer science curriculum is distinctive in requiring and using a
significant amount of mathematics. This provides special depth and insight
in many areas.
While the curriculum emphasizes principles, techniques, and structures,
students do a considerable amount of programming as well.
Programming assignments highlight ideas and provide much experience and
Languages are selected for courses based on how well those languages
support the relevant ideas. For
example, C is used heavily in the operating systems course.
Tentative placement is available through a Web-based expert system, based
on over 90 rules.
Continuing student-faculty research involves adapting techniques of neural
Placement recommendations are informed by on-going studies of
the success of students in their first courses at Grinnell.
Placements are refined or confirmed through student-faculty conferences
during New Student Days.
Students participate in ongoing summer research by students in such areas
as hypermedia, neural networks, Web-based data collection, and database
(see links for
We offer many independent projects and guided reading activities during the
Students have presented papers at regional, national, and international
Projects and papers, co-authored by students, have received
national visibility, comment, and awards.
Recent Developments and Anticipated Directions
Following the expansion of CS faculty in 1997, the CS program
grew significantly, and about 15 CS majors now graduate each year.
The CS faculty expands again in Fall 2001, and already several new courses
are scheduled. With an additional new faculty member hired to cover
anticipated leaves, expanded course and student research opportunities
should continue for the foreseeable future.
Measures of Quality
Grinnell ranks 8th of 518 private 4-year institutions
in computer science on the Franklin and Marshall
study for 1986-1995 (number of graduates earning Ph.D.s in computer science).
On the ETS Major Field Test in Computer Science, our department ranked at or
above the 95% percentile each year our students took it (1998 - 2000).
We have a consistent record of receiving nationally-competitive grants.
The Arthur Vining Davis Foundation provided $150,000 for new lab and
An NSF grant supported equipment to expand the use of multimedia in
A 1999-2000 Grant from Computing Research Association supported women
involved in undergraduate research (1 of 9 grants awarded nationally).
Our on-line materials for the introductory Scheme-based course are used
heavily by others, with an average of roughly 5,000 hits per day for the
2000-2001 academic year.
Computer science graduates nationally are in very high demand.
Many students may take jobs in business/industry in virtually any area of the
world they wish.
Starting salaries are high (occasionally over $70,000), our students
indicate they are will prepared, and employers give excellent reports.
Some students go immediately to graduate school. In the last 3 years,
our computer science graduates were accepted for Masters' or Ph.D. work
at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of North Carolina
at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland,
Dartmouth College, the University of Massachusetts, the University of
California at Berkeley, Northeastern University, Brown University,
and Boston University.
Over the years, graduates have received advanced
degrees from Indiana University and Carnegie-Mellon University.
Distinguished Grinnell Alumni who have made major contributions to computing
Robert Noyce '49, inventor of the silicon integrated circuit and co-founder
of Intel, and
Nathaniel Borenstein '80, primary designer of the MIME format, the mechanism
used to send most attachments for e-mail.
The four regular computer science faculty and our leave-replacement faculty
member have a wide range of interests
Each faculty member has important professional ties beyond Grinnell:
Two are principal members of international conference committees.
One is prominent nationally and internationally in the areas of hypermedia
One is nationally known for work in Scheme.
One serves in several national or international roles involving computer
All three senior faculty have published or are under contract for
(at least 10 books published or under contract).
Our CS faculty have published over 25 papers in since 1998.
All faculty are actively interested in working with students -- at all
End-of-course evaluations show that almost all
students interact with faculty outside of the classroom.
Faculty involve students in many elements of their research and professional
All departmental classrooms and labs are equipped with computers and
Labs are designed for both individual and collaborative projects.
The department maintains its own local-area network, comprising about 70
workstations and servers. We maintain our own Web server, ftp server,
e-mail server, file server, and computation server. All these resources
are accessible from dormitory rooms and labs over the campus network.
PC-based equipment runs in a dual-boot mode, allowing use of both
Linux and Windows.
Glimmer, the Grinnell Laboratory for Interactive Multimedia
Experimentation and Research, includes Macintosh and Linux/Intel
computers, scanners, digital cameras, printers, etc.
This document is available on the World Wide Web as