Department of Mathematics and Computer Science
Computer scientists study fundamental questions about knowledge and computation: how to gather information, store it, transform it, and learn from it. Computational thinking permeates nearly every modern human endeavor, and computing plays a key role in recent advances in mathematics, natural sciences, economics, and many other fields. Students learn much more than computer programming — they apply computational ideas to solve problems, examine ethical issues at the intersection of computing and society, and study the theoretical and practical limits of computation.
Informed by the ACM/IEEE Computer Science Curricula, students gain an education that offers breadth across computer science and depth in areas of interest. Our computer science faculty's scholarship in a variety of research areas enhances the classroom experience, enabling the program to offer courses in diverse areas:
- Computer programming, data structures, and analysis of algorithms
- Logic and discrete mathematics
- Programming languages theory, design, implementation, and translation
- Networks, operating systems, and computer architecture
- Computer vision, graphics, and data mining
- Ethical issues in computer science
Learning Computer Science Within an Inclusive Environment
The computer science program empowers students to be informed and active participants in the study of computation, one of the most fundamental and dynamic areas of human inquiry. This mission is attained through rigorous study of the core principles of computer science, and it is sustained by a liberal arts approach to cultivating the habits of the mind needed for lifelong learning, for clear thinking, and for active and meaningful engagement as a member of society.
While our educational focus is computer science, we seek to provide a friendly and dynamic atmosphere that nurtures a diverse community. We actively welcome students from a variety of backgrounds and those without any prior experience in computer science. The study of computer science complements many other disciplines, and we encourage students to combine the pursuit of a computer science major or minor with study in other departments. Additionally, our program is structured to provide an atmosphere of academic and social collaboration between faculty and students, enhanced by extracurricular activities, including:
- Math and Computer Science Club
- Off-campus social outings
- Collaborative group projects
- Workshops for introductory courses led by students further in the program
Liberal Arts and Technology: A Match for the New Millennium
Mathematics is a fundamental and dynamic area of human endeavor. It is the language of the sciences and social sciences, and in our increasingly technology-driven society, it is part of our daily public discourse. As a part of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, students in the mathematics program become knowledgeable and sophisticated learners, able to think and work independently, able to work productively in concert with their peers, and able to communicate effectively.
The primary goal of the programs in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Holy Cross is to enable students to become active participants in the study of fundamental and dynamic areas of human endeavor. The mathematics program is informed by other disciplines and seeks out ways that mathematics has an impact on the world at large. With a faculty of active scholars, many of whom are engaged in nationally-funded research, students in the mathematics program become logical problem solvers. With appropriate course selections, math majors can graduate prepared for graduate studies, medical or law school, careers in education, insurance, national security, finance, banking, and business.
All majors are educated in central areas of mathematics including calculus, multi-variable calculus, mathematical structures, linear algebra, real analysis, and modern algebra. Majors then choose a path through upper-level courses based on their interest, choosing courses from these areas:
- Geometry and Topology
- Applied Mathematics
Developing a Deep Understanding of Mathematics
The mathematics major at Holy Cross reflects a liberal arts perspective of delving beyond the simple understanding of subject matter to understanding why it matters. Students develop deep knowledge of the content they study and build an ability to see how to apply that knowledge to impact change in society. Our rigorous program provides both a breadth and depth of knowledge in undergraduate mathematics, while providing the opportunity for students to pursue a path of interest. For example, students interested in actuarial work can take a range of courses to prepare them for the preliminary actuarial exams and develop the modeling skills sought by employers.
Teachers and Scholars
Faculty in the mathematics program are all active scholars in a range of fields including several theoretical areas in geometry, topology, algebra, and analysis as well as various applied areas in differential equations and statistics. Faculty publish original mathematical research in journals, author undergraduate and graduate textbooks, are supported by a variety of research and teaching grants, and serve the profession as reviewers, editors, and society leaders. Students are invited to join faculty in multiple outreach events, including tutoring services provided to local Worcester children and providing professional development training to local teachers.
Top of His Field
Professor John Little is a co-author of “Ideals, Varieties, and Algorithms: An Introduction to Computational Algebraic Geometry and Commutative Algebra,” perhaps the most respected undergraduate text on this topic that is also consulted by scientists outside of mathematics.
Statistics is the science of drawing insight from the data that has come to pervade all aspects of our lives in the modern world. It is a large and increasingly important part of the mathematical sciences with numerous connections to other fields of study.
Our statistics minor teaches a way of thinking that identifies patterns in data and draws inferences from those patterns. We focus on developing students’ understanding of how and why statistical techniques work as well as developing skill in applying them in modern software packages. This solid knowledge of statistics can be a springboard into interesting and stimulating careers in business, biomedical research and many other areas. The program is set up for maximum flexibility and creates opportunities for integration with popular major programs in areas where statistics is used as a tool.
Statistics minors take a minimum of six semester courses. At the beginning level, the required courses are Calculus 2 and any of the introductory statistics courses taught in the biology, economics, psychology, sociology or mathematics/computer science departments. The minor requires two intermediate courses in linear models and categorical data analysis and two elective upper-level courses rounding out the minor. These advanced courses will often make connections with the student’s major program and involve using statistical thinking in other areas.
The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science has extensive dedicated computer resources including:
- a lab-classroom with networked PCs, used by calculus and elementary computer science courses.
- a departmental network of computers running Linux including both desktop machines and thin clients used for computing and advanced mathematics courses.
These labs were recently renovated as part of our state-of-the-art facility for teaching and learning.
Leaders in Their Fields
Professor Laurie Smith King is co-editor in chief of the ACM magazine, Inroads, a global print publication for professionals interested in advancing computing education. Professor Catherine Roberts (pictured) is executive director of the American Mathematical Society (AMS).
Opportunities for Additional Studies
The 3-2 Program in Engineering provides the opportunity to combine the study of mathematics with training in engineering. Students spend three years as full-time students at Holy Cross and two years as full-time students at Columbia University.