Jeannette M. Wing

Jeannette M. Wing

Jeannette M. Wing is assistant director of the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation. A doctoral graduate of MIT, she is also the President’s Professor of Computer Science in Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science department. In 2007, CISE’s more than $527 million budget funded 86 percent of all federally subsidized research in computer science. The organization also contributes to the education and training of future generations of computer scientists and engineers. Wing’s recent research has focused on strengthening software security.

T&L contributing editor Matt Bolch talks with Jeannette M. Wing

MB: How does CISE funding impact technology advances in K-12 education?
JW: CISE directly impacts advances in K-12 education in two ways: through the research we fund in advanced learning technologies, e.g., cognitive tutors for teaching algebra and assistive technologies for persons with disabilities, and through the educational projects we support, e.g., computer science education alliances that engage local middle schools and high schools, and computer science curricula designed to promote the use of robots, multimedia technology and virtual organizations to attract youngsters to computing. CISE funds also support top-notch researchers who as part of their research projects do educational outreach to K-12 students, explaining how computing technology can help tackle societal grand challenges like energy, environment, climate change and health care.

MB: Are you seeing gains in computer science and engineering graduates as a result of NSF funding?
JW: Happily, the whole computing community is thrilled to see a recent upward trend in the number of computer science and engineering enrollments. I expect this trend to continue at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I like to think NSF funding has helped, but I would not take all the credit. The need to fund basic research in computing is never more important than now. Computing technologies foster innovation—in computing and other disciplines—and innovation means economic prosperity, new industries,and jobs for our country. NSF funding for basic research in computer science and engineering spurs the innovation that can arise from a computing-savvy workforce, and the demand for such a highly skilled workforce will only increase in the future.

MB: What are you working on now?
JB: In my research, I am working on foundations of privacy. I have a longstanding interest in trustworthy computing, whereby “trustworthy” I mean security, reliability, privacy and usability. My approach in research has always been to seek a fundamental understanding of systems and their desired (and often) complex properties, and always in the context of problems we face in the real world. I would like to understand the characteristics of privacy and then devise automated analysis techniques for determining whether a given software system satisfies or violates a desired privacy property. I would like to understand what privacy properties are technically possible or impossible to achieve, and I would like to see how a deep technical understanding of privacy can impact policy-making.

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