Ted H. McCourtney Professor of Computer Science and Engineering
As a senior in high school, I visited Notre Dame with my father, who had been invited to give a talk on engineering. I was really impressed by the quality of the questions the students asked, and I soon joined them, enrolling here the following fall and graduating with a B.S.E.E. in 1968.
When my division at IBM was sold in the early 1990s, I knew I wanted to go to academia for the freedom to pursue ideas—what I had achieved as an IBM Fellow. In addition, I liked the idea of a joint computer science and engineering department, something that was not the norm at the time. Engineering is about the creation of artifacts and identifying when such artifacts are optimal; computer science, when done right, has those same properties. The crossover of the two is incredibly important to me, and Notre Dame’s Department of Computer Science and Engineering (CSE) has long been devoted to just that. This environment has allowed me to pursue topics in supercomputing that led to my receiving one of the highest honors in computer engineering, the 2012 IEEE Seymour Cray Award.
I have also found that faculty at Notre Dame do not treat it as just a stopping place or a step in some personal ladder but as a community where freedom to think is combined with a collaborative sense of responsibility to ourselves, those at the University, and society at large. I think this attitude helps elevate research because it permeates discussions of “What are you doing?” with “Why should you do it?” It clearly elevates teaching, especially when we see so many of our students making life choices that include service in them.
Finally, the University has been extremely supportive of me using ideas that came out of Notre Dame research to launch a high-tech startup, Emu Solutions, with my CSE colleague Jay Brockman and a third partner from CalTech/NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Rather than subtracting from my ND research agenda, my experience has been that the startup has advanced it by identifying where the real long-term problems lie and what are the truly impactful solutions that address them.