Computing + Mathematical Sciences

Discrete Differential GeometryCMS is an academic department of the Engineering and Applied Science division, located in the spectacular Annenberg Center for Information Science and Technology on the campus of the California Institute of Technology---a world-renowned private university widely acknowledged to be among the best universities in the world despite its notably smaller size compared to peer institutions. Our department holds, at its core, over twenty faculty members, fifteen staff members, and about seventy graduate and eighty undergraduate students.

Consistently ranked among the top programs in the US, our department is active in many areas of Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Communication & Networks, and Control & Systems, and is engaged in a broad range of interdisciplinary initiatives: our research projects frequently involve connections with other disciplines such as Applied Physics, Bioengineering, Biology, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Geology and Planetary Sciences, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, and Physics.

Relentless Focus on Foundations

Our department is structured and functions quite differently from many other computing-related departments for it shares Caltech’s special characteristics: small size (around twenty core faculty members), broad interdisciplinary reach (from quantum computation to social information systems), and an overall emphasis on scientific foundations.

Common to all CMS members is a drive to develop the fundamental underpinnings of computing and mathematical sciences. We aim to produce foundational advances which promise high, long-term impact on science, engineering, and society. Caltech CMS members investigate topics ranging from the design of biological systems, to quantum computing, stochastic computing, geometric mechanics, and computational aspects of economic markets and social networks.

Unabashed Interdisciplinarity in Research

Discipline boundaries are almost nonexistent in CMS, offering opportunities for unusual interactions and insights. In fact, we firmly believe that solving complex engineering problems will increasingly require contributions of people from many disciplines. Consequently, our faculty regularly collaborate with (and co-advise students from) Economics, Electrical Engineering, Math, and Control & Dynamical Systems, making CMS an important participant in many interdisciplinary initiatives such as CACR, JPL, the Caltech PSAAP effort, and all the IST centers.

Custom-Fitted Education

The CMS coursework and research experience are designed to provide basic foundations and to foster the development of logical, analytical, and computational thinking for students who seek careers in the forefront of computing, be it in computing systems, theory of computer science, and/or mathematical computing. Our program concentrates on both the practical and theoretical aspects of computing sciences such as numerical computing, dynamical systems, algorithms, complexity, coding theory, and graph theory. While sometimes collaborating on large projects, each student is treated as an important individual, with unique goals and drives. They are encouraged to tailor their programs of courses and research to fit their specific needs. Moreover, the collegial atmosphere of our Computing + Mathematical Sciences department at Caltech facilitates close working relationships among faculty and students, and encourages novel research topics.

Student Vignette
Evan Gawlik
BS in ACM/CDS, 2010
Graduate student at Stanford
Evan Gawlik

Evan graduated from Caltech in 2010 with a B.S. in Applied and Computational Mathematics and a minor in Control and Dynamical Systems. As an undergraduate, he conducted research in applied math with Drs. Mathieu Desbrun and Jerrold E. Marsden. Applications of his research ranged from space mission trajectory design to fluid and plasma simulation. He won the Doris S. Perpall SURF Speaking prize---not just once, but twice in a row! He is now at Stanford pursuing a Ph.D. in Computational and Mathematical Engineering.

"Caltech is an amazing place. Aside from being a top-notch academic institution, there are a couple of things that come to my mind that made Caltech an unusually special place for me. Number one is the availability of research opportunities, particularly for undergraduates. Being such a small school, Caltech is the kind of place where, if you find a research project you are passionate about, you can get involved in it, and people will welcome you with open arms. Number two has to be location. I love the outdoors, so having the beach in my front yard, the mountains in the back and year-round sunshine really made my stay something I will always cherish."
Department of Computing + Mathematical Sciences