Message from the Founding Director

Dear Alumni, Students, Colleagues, and Friends of Boston University:

Azer Bestavros

Azer Bestavros, Director

The impact of computing on our society cannot be overstated. Despite its relative youth, computer and information technologies have changed our world in ways that could not have been imagined only a decade or two ago. Computing has become so ubiquitous and communication has become so seamless to the point that the “computer as a tool” is increasingly invisible. If not relegated to the cloud, computers are increasingly embedded in our environment; they are effectively integrated in the fabric of our daily life. As impressive as the pervasive use of computers and information systems in our society has been, the real impact of computing lies in its potential to change how we look at the world around us. The “computational lens” is transforming virtually every area of intellectual endeavor from biological and medical sciences to physical and engineering sciences, and from social and management sciences to arts, communication and education.

The transformative potential of the computational lens raises the question of how to most effectively foster and intensify synergies in computational research and education in a university setting. Thanks to a generous gift from alumnus and university trustee Bahaa Hariri, BU, which has been at the leading edge of computational science for the past 20 years, is firmly poised to tackle this challenge.

The mission of the Rafik B. Hariri Institute for Computing and Computational Science & Engineering is to initiate, catalyze, and propel collaborative, interdisciplinary research and training initiatives for the betterment of society by promoting discovery and innovations through the use of computational and data-driven approaches, and by supporting advances in the science of computing inspired by challenges in arts and sciences, engineering, and management disciplines. To fulfill its mission, the Institute will carry out a range of research, educational, and outreach activities both within BU and beyond.

The Institute will take a leading role in university research by acting as an incubator for new ideas and collaborations that bring together those who develop the models, algorithms, tools, and systems that constitute the computational lens and those who bring the computational lens to bear on various disciplines. Leveraging and perfecting the computational lens are symbiotic activities; they feed on one another and evolve together. Solving complex problems requires not only the use of sophisticated computational tools, but more importantly it requires a deep understanding of the fundamentals underlying these tools; and, in turn, the development of new computational capabilities is inspired by new questions raised in the course of work directed toward the solution of specific problems.

Given its unique position at the nexus of computing and computational sciences, the Institute will strive to marshal faculty expertise and other intellectual capital for the purpose of coordinating efforts targeting undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral education and training in computational methods.

As the interface to computing and computational sciences at BU, the Institute will foster computational research collaborations with other institutions, consortia, and industrial partners, regionally, nationally and internationally. And, more broadly, the Institute will lead programs that promote quantitative and computational literacy for K-12 students, and for society at large.

Ultimately, the Institute will solidify BU’s position as a recognized world leader in research and education in computing and computational sciences, and will significantly impact the role of computing in education and in the progress of society at large.

I hope that you will join us in making this vision a reality.

Azer Bestavros
Founding Director

September 2011