MCLA

Computing Opportunities

08/31/2011

Among the six new professors to join the College this fall is Mark A. Cohen, Ph.D., who left his tenured position at a Pennsylvania university to join MCLA as an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems.

While part of his decision to look elsewhere came after natural gas companies began to mine the shale near his previous place of employment, Lock Haven University, "The whole concept of a liberal arts college that is public and affordable was really exciting to me. That's a phenomenal idea - something you'd probably never see in Pennsylvania and it was something I wanted to be part of," Cohen said.

According to Cohen, MCLA's size and liberal arts nature was a big reason he made the move.

"But also, it was the computer science department. The faculty are great. They're very enthusiastic and bright, and have a good vision about what they want to do. They were very welcoming and made me feel like I would have a lot to contribute to the program. It looked like a great place to work, and with guys that would be a lot of fun to work with."

Cohen specializes in enterprise software development and has a background in human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence. He works with cognitive modeling, or computer models that think and solve problems like people. He also is interested in search algorithms like those used by  the Google search engine, which are able to able to intelligently process all the information found on the Web.

He looks forward to building MCLA's computer science program, which he expects will expand. Computer science, according to Cohen, is one career area the recession doesn't appear to have affected.

"I've been teaching through this recession and watching my graduates from Lock Haven walk out with great jobs and, in many cases, multiple offers in a time when many people are really struggling," Cohen explained. "You would think that students would be very excited about this, but there's this great mystery in that computer science enrollments have struggled despite the incredible marketability of the degree.

"I think it's really important for the success of our country to have growth in this area," he added. "Our goal is to try to get people excited about computer science."

Cohen also is particularly interested in software development

"One of the things that the computer science department does here is a really, really good job of preparing you to enter the world to develop software," Cohen said.

At MCLA, students who major in computer science learn skills that will make them immediately employable upon graduation. They focus on software development because, according to Mike Dalton, chair of the computer science department, there always will be a need for software developers. "Even during tough times, people still buy software," he said.

Students don't have to come to MCLA with a computer science background to be successful in the College's program, as long as they have some experience in math and science, Cohen said.

In addition to a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science, those interested in combining their skills in management and business with computing may opt for a concentration in business information systems. For more information, go to www.mcla.edu/Undergraduate/majors/computerscience or www.mcla.edu/Undergraduate/majors/businessadministration .