With some 4,000 enrolled students, the Knight Foundation School of Computing and Information Sciences turns out critical talent to fill the ever-growing demand in South Florida’s booming tech economy. An expanding faculty roster likewise is increasing the innovation research that feeds new advances in the field. Leading the dynamic enterprise is Jason Liu, an expert in computer modeling and technology who has been with the university for nearly two decades. The newly appointed director, who previously served in an interim capacity, lays out his vision at this exciting and pivotal time for the school, which resides within the College of Engineering and Computing.
What immediate goals do you have for the school?
My core goals are to boost research and student success. Our school is in the heart of a city with a flourishing technology scene, and we are rising to meet the demand. We have added 24 excellent faculty members in the past three years and our enrollment has increased by more than 1,000 students since 2018. With the substantial support we are receiving from the Knight Foundation and FIU overall, I want us to continue growing and reaching for the top.
I see that you have been a professor at FIU since 2007. Can you tell us a little about your research?
My background is in using computers for modeling and simulation. This area of research helps scientists improve the performance of computers and networks. For example, if someone is developing a videoconferencing app, models and simulations can help him or her test for what might go right or wrong in certain scenarios. Over time, I have expanded my research, for example, on how to use machine learning techniques to help create more efficient models. I also conduct research in computer systems and computer architecture, such as high-performance computing systems and memory systems design.
What do you consider to be some of the school’s research strengths, and how do you plan to capitalize on them?
I think there are several areas where we are at the forefront of technological progress and advancement. One example is AI and machine learning, areas in which we are building a critical mass of superb faculty and securing many competitive research grants. We also have substantial strength in bioinformatics, computer systems, and software engineering. Our school’s expertise in cybersecurity is top notch. We will see our school gain recognition as the center for first-class research and talent in South Florida over the next few years.
What makes FIU uniquely positioned to contribute to the Miami technology boom?
Our alumni have the skills that companies here are looking for. If you think about it, computing and technology touches almost every facet of society. Whether you operate in financials, health care or tourism, at some point you will need a software engineer or a data manager. We are providing this talent both in quantity and quality. These alumni are highly motivated people from diverse backgrounds who know how to think across disciplines. They are true problem-solvers that will boost Miami’s technology scene and our society overall.
We all see that technology is constantly evolving. That said, why do you think it is still important for people who want careers in technology to pursue a computer science degree at FIU?
That is a great question. First, learning the fundamentals of computer science will help students as soon as they enter the workforce when they are faced with real-world problems to solve. Second – and this is a deeper point – a degree in computer science teaches students not just what they need to learn, but how to learn. At the school, our students interact with faculty members and students from other majors and see how their knowledge transfers. They also take on course projects and participate in programming contests with our fantastic student organizations where they learn the importance of teamwork. To summarize, our graduates are prepared for more than just one job. Technology evolves, but the students are ready. They have built the foundation they need to grow and succeed for their entire careers.