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New NMSU computer science department head hopes to expand department role

Enrico Pontelli will serve as the new academic department head of computer science at New Mexico State University's College of Arts and Sciences.

Professor of computer science at New Mexico State University Enrico Pontelli will serve as the new department head. (NMSU Photo by Darren Phillips)

Pontelli was appointed the new department head of computer science at the beginning of February. He received his Ph.D. from NMSU and joined the faculty as an assistant professor in 1997. His teaching and research interests include programming languages, parallel and distributed processing, bioinformatics and computable set theory.

With this recent appointment he has some goals in mind, and he gives credit to the work done before him by faculty and previous administrators. "We would like to expand the role of the computer science department in the College of Arts and Sciences, the entire university and the community," he said.

A new general education course in computer science was approved for students to learn about computer science and how it can be applied in real world situations. Pontelli will assist the department with the development and dissemination of this course. Several faculty members in the department are receiving research funding for projects dealing with artificial intelligence and bioinformatics. Others are exploring how robotics and computers can assist the disabled and even coordinating and implementing summer programs intended to spark the interest of young computer scientists. "I see the department offering great potential to initiate new projects, especially interdisciplinary projects," Pontelli said. "I intend to work with my colleagues in exploring new opportunities and help in the creation of new proposals."

Faculty and staff growth, increasing the undergraduate and graduate student enrollment and offering dual-credit enrollment classes for high school seniors and college freshmen are other priorities high on the department's list in the years ahead, he said.

He has authored and co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications and edited four books. His research and teaching programs are augmented by close to $10 million in cumulative grants on which he is either principle or co-investigator; $7 million of it is in currently active research. He has garnered numerous honors and awards including the NMSU University Research Council Award for Creative Scholarly Activities, the Roush Award for Excellence in Teaching and a career award from the National Science Foundation.

Pontelli succeeds Desh Ranjan, the former computer science department head and a current professor of computer science at NMSU's College of Arts and Sciences, who stepped down from the position.