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After a Momentous Era in Computer Science, a Rutgers Professor has a New Mission

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Thu Nguyen has grown accustomed to working on the cusp of change. As a professor and chair in the Department of Computer Science, Nguyen helped the department respond to record enrollment surges brought on by the worldwide tech boom. As he worked to make sure teaching and research remained on the leading edge, he took steps aimed at increasing the number of women and people of color entering the field. In 2019, Nguyen was named Dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences in the School of Arts and Sciences, a key role that oversees some of the university’s largest departments. In the interview below he discusses the rapid advances of the last decade and what's in store for the future.

 Q: You handled various leadership roles in the Department of Computer Science during the 2010s—a time of rapid, global technological change. What was the impact on the department?

A: In 2010, we awarded less than 100 bachelor’s degrees in computer science. Last year we awarded 640. That’s just an astronomical increase, and it’s reflected in course enrollments too. In 2010 we had roughly 300 students a year taking introductory computer science. We are now at 2,000.

Q: What was that experience like and how did it prepare you for your role as Dean of MPS?

A: There was a whole learning curve of managing the curriculum, making sure it’s up to date and relevant, and then getting enough staffing. We grew from 2 to 12 teaching professors during the seven years I was associate chair and chair.

But there is also the larger picture of computer science and its connections across the academic spectrum, from humanities to engineering. As chair I needed to work with other departments and schools to figure out their needs and how we can collaborate. It was invaluable for what I am doing now.

For full the version of the interview, please visit: https://sas.rutgers.edu/news-a-events/news/newsroom/faculty/3455-thu-nguyen-q-a