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Keck enhances computer science program

February 12, 2001

Lewis & Clark College received a $500,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles to enhance and expand the College’s computer science curriculum.

The three-year grant enables the Department of Mathematical Sciences to develop new courses, to fund a new faculty position, to create a computer laboratory, to increase faculty-student research opportunities, to support an interdisciplinary seminar series, and to purchase computers to support collaboration throughout the Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences.

“The Keck grant will enhance the computer science curriculum in ways that significantly benefit all departments in the division,” says Robert Owens, professor of mathematics.

“The foundation invited Lewis & Clark College to apply for the grant after its favorable review of a preliminary letter of inquiry,” he points out.

New position

The Keck Foundation grant provides partial funding for a new tenure-track position in computer science. The new position will add breadth and depth to the curriculum and will enable the department to offer upper-division courses in computer networking, database systems, artificial intelligence and software methodology.

New course

The Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences will develop an interdisciplinary team-taught course in electronic instrumentation.

“Students will learn to set up equipment to collect and analyze data and to display information from their experiments in real time,” Owens explains. “The course will benefit all departments.”

The new course will address instrumentation techniques in fields ranging from theoretical physics to population dynamics to physical chemistry.

Collaborative research

Student-faculty collaborative research is the hallmark of a Lewis & Clark education.

“The Keck Research Program complements and supplements the John S. Rogers Science Research Program,” Owens notes.

The grant will fund one research team during the first year of the grant, and two teams during the second and third years of the grant. Each team will include a faculty member and two or three students.

Students will present the results of their projects at the Summer Science Research Poster Conference.

Keck teaching fellows and laboratory assistant

The Keck grant will allow the division to award seven W. M. Keck Laboratory Teaching Fellowships. The fellows will demonstrate experiments and will assist faculty in introductory laboratory courses.

“In addition, we will hire a student with expertise in instrumentation to oversee our teaching laboratories,” Owens says.

A laboratory assistant will also serve as the system administator for the new computer science laboratory/classroom.

Interdisciplinary symposium

“The Keck Interdisciplinary Symposium will bring noted scholars to campus each semester to interact with faculty and students and to explore science topics that cross disciplines.”

Possible topics include Geographical Information Systems and computer modeling to analyze environmental problems, computer simulation and replication of human behavior patterns in psychology, computational chemistry and molecular modeling, and the use of artificial intelligence in international relations.

Computer science laboratory

This summer, the College will upgrade and equip two existing classrooms in Olin Center for Physics and Chemistry to create a computer science laboratory/classroom that will accommodate the popular introductory courses in computer science.

In addition, the College will remodel three other rooms on the first floor of Olin Center for discussion groups.


To support interdisciplinary computer use, the Keck grant will provide computers for biology, chemistry and physics laboratories. It will also fund computers that biology students can take into the field to collect data for immediate analysis.

The grant from the Keck Foundation is the second the College has received. The first grant created the College’s W. M. Keck Interactive Language Laboratory.

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