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UMass Lowell launches school of computer science with alum’s support


LOWELL — UMass Lowell announced on Thursday it will launch a new school of computer science that will be named after alumnus Rich Miner, the co-founder of Android, a company acquired and launched by Google.

The UMass Board of Trustees approved the Richard A. Miner School of Computer & Information Sciences at UMass Lowell through a $5 million donation from Miner, along with a $2 million matching contribution from the state.

“We are profoundly indebted to Rich,” UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney said in a press release. “His latest gift reflects his ongoing generous donation of his time, expertise and resources to support students through entrepreneurial competitions like UMass Lowell’s DifferenceMaker and prepare them to become leaders in their careers.”

The release states that computer science is the largest academic program at UMass Lowell and one that has consistently grown over the last several years.

The university’s undergraduate enrollment in computer science programs increased by more than 50% from fall 2016 to fall 2021. In 2022, 12% of students in the applicant pool listed computer science as their intended major.

UMass Lowell research expenditures in computer science have grown together with enrollment, jumping from $2.7 million in 2016 to $4.4 million in 2021. Faculty are authorities on several subjects including artificial intelligence, visualization, robotics, natural language processing, data analytics, computer security and privacy and health informatics.

Miner earned his bachelor’s degree (1986), master’s degree (1989) and doctorate (1997) in computer science from UMass Lowell. He co-founded Android, the world’s most popular operating system with more than 3 billion users.

After selling Android to Google in 2005 and launching the first few releases, Miner co-founded GV, Google’s first venture fund. GV has led investments in a number of startups over the past decade. In his role with GV, Miner backed some of Massachusetts’ top startups, including Recorded Future, Toast, Hubspot and Tamr.

During his time as an undergraduate, Miner wrote computer programs for the Commodore 64, a first-generation gaming system. In his graduate years, his work with the university’s Center for Product Enhancement led to breakthroughs in imagery, video digitization and videoconferencing. Miner also helped incubate Avid Technology, the world’s first computer video editing platform. He later went on to co-found Wildfire Communications, the first voice-based personal assistant, patenting many of the concepts now common in today’s voice assistants.

Miner credits his education as key to his success. He said he believes his donation will help computer science students see how unlimited their future is as they follow their passion.

“UMass Lowell prepared me academically and entrepreneurially for a career where I was able to contribute to so many impactful innovations,” Miner said in the release. “I am honored to be able to give back in ways that might encourage others to meet or exceed their dreams.”

The Richard A. Miner School of Computer & Information Sciences will be housed within the university’s Kennedy College of Sciences. According to the release, it will offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs blending applied and theoretical study of computation.

The course of study also includes options for minors in robotics, cybersecurity, data science and bio-cheminformatics. In partnership with the university’s Division of Graduate, Online and Professional Studies, the school also offers certificates in cybersecurity, systems models and management and telecommunication.

“The new Richard A. Miner School of Computer & Information Sciences is designed to provide educational and research opportunities to a diverse body of students and faculty,” Kennedy College of Sciences Dean Noureddine Melikechi said in the release. “Together, they will make significant discoveries and innovations that address many of the challenges that our world faces. In an increasingly interconnected world, the school will enlighten our future and reduce our uncertainties.”

UMass Lowell is planning a fall dedication ceremony to honor Miner and the new school.

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