Computational Science for Undergraduates

March 1, 2010

In November, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching named Angela Shiflet of Wofford College the 2009 South Carolina Professor of the Year. The honor for Shiflet (who was selected from a U.S.-wide field of professors in all disciplines) could be seen as an affirmation of the increasing importance of computational science in academic curricula. Shiflet chairs the Department of Computer Science at Wofford, where she also heads the computational science emphasis. Co-author (with her biologist husband, George Shiflet) of an undergraduate textbook on computational science, she is a member of the SIAM Education Committee and has spoken at recent SIAM conferences about academic programs in CSE.

A Wofford student who receives a BS with an emphasis in computational science, Shiflet says, majors in a laboratory science or mathematics, with a program of study that includes five required courses (Calculus I, Programming and Problem Solving, Data Structures, Modeling and Simulation, Data and Visualization). Each student also completes a summer internship involving computation in the sciences at a variety of institutions, including the Jet Propulsion Lab, Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore National Labs, NASA Ames, the University of Vienna, the University of Bath (U.K.), the Scripps Research Institute, and the Vanderbilt Medical School, among many others. To date, she reports, all of the students have graduated in four years. Graduates have gone on to PhD programs in genetics, computer graphics, physics, and organic chemistry; master's programs in biotechnology and biomedical engineering; and medical school.

"I feel very honored," Shiflet says of the teaching award, "but honors are nothing in comparison to the excitement of learning new things, making connections among disciplines that often have been too isolated, empowering others to participate in this revolutionary area, and imagining what they can achieve."

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