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Q&A with Dr. Robert Steele, Chair of Computer Science

This week, December 7-11, is Computer Science Education Week, which is focused on bringing awareness to the field of computer science while providing computer science resources to students and teachers

The Capitology Blog talked with Dr. Robert Steele, Chair and Professor of Capitol Tech's Computer Science Department, to discuss computer science and the importance of celebrating national events such as Computer Science Education Week.

Question: How would you define Computer Science?

Computer Science covers the study of all aspects of the design and use of computers. As a traditional computer can execute any process that can be described by a human designer via an algorithm e.g. step-by-step process (and with Artificial Intelligence, this extends to algorithms even beyond what a human can manually design!) the scope of the impact of computers and Computer Science on our world is essentially unlimited at this point.

Q: How does Computer Science impact people in their everyday lives?

As per the first answer above, Computer Science now profoundly impacts essentially all people in all aspects of their daily lives. The wide-spread use of the Web is only 20 years old, smartphone usage has only grown ubiquitously significant within the last 10 years (with now an estimated 3.5 billion smartphones in use worldwide, for a world population of 7.7 billion), and this impact is accelerating! Whether it is video conferencing systems, social media platforms, emerging smartphone apps, autonomous vehicles, search engines, artificial intelligence-based predictive models, electronic health records or military applications, Computer Science and particularly the innovative leading edge of Computer Science is defining and continually re-defining what each of these look like.  

Q: When did you first begin to work in the Computer Science industry?

Around the year 2000. A year or two before it struck me that search engines, a completely new term from only a few years earlier at that time, would be very important! I also observed that search engines amongst other indexing problems did not index dynamic Web pages, whose content may make up the vast majority of Web-accessible data. I proposed an innovative approach to indexing dynamic Web pages, it was patented as a US and successfully commercialized!

Q: How are the courses offered by Capitol Tech structured to position graduates to lead the Computer Science industry in the future?

The curriculum and courses are carefully designed to take students from a starting point of very little assumed knowledge, to build strong basic skills in software development and data storage and management, on to the skillsets most currently in demand: data mining, applied artificial intelligence, computer vision, natural language processing, cloud systems, mobile computing systems and at-scale software development. We provide an excellent preparation to move students towards some of the very best careers currently available in the whole US workforce:

  • Machine learning engineer–average base pay, $147,3001, ranked 1st in ‘best jobs in the US2
  • Data scientist–median base pay, $131,0002, ranked 1st in "best jobs in the US"3
  • Computer vision engineer–average base pay, $158,3002
  • Software engineer–median base pay, $104,0001, ranked 10th "best job in the nation"2
  • Data engineer–median base pay, $131,6731, ranked 8th "best job in the nation"3
  • Software engineering manager–median base pay $153,000, ranked 43rd ‘best job in the nation3
  • Enterprise architect–median base pay $122,5854

Q: Why do you think it is important for Capitol Tech as a university to celebrate holidays like National Computer Science Education Week?

Computer Science Education Week provides a great mechanism to make our best and brightest young (and older) people aware of the transformative opportunities currently available to them as they study Computer Science. Interestingly the biggest bottleneck in the development of Artificial Intelligence systems currently is well-trained human intelligence. I would encourage students to take advantage of these unparalleled opportunities!

Q: What advice would you give to students or prospective students who hope to have a career in Computer Science?

Study Computer Science, hone your basic CS skills but from there remember it is a field particularly fruitful for the best and most innovative thinkers to put forward implementable new ideas and through creativity and insight change the world! I would say no other field comes close to the level to which this is a possibility for CS.

Q: What kind of careers are available for people with degrees in Computer Science?

Including those mentioned above, some of the great careers include:

  • Machine learning engineer–average base pay, $147,3001, ranked 1st on "Best Jobs in the US" List2
  • Data scientist median base pay, $131,0002, ranked 1st on "Best Jobs in America" List3
  • Computer vision engineer–average base pay, $158,3002
  • Semiconductor engineer–average base salary $150,600 (in CA)1
  • Data engineer–median base pay, $131,6731 ranked 8th on "Best Jobs in America" List3
  • Enterprise architect–median base pay $122,5854

Q: What else would like to share about Computer Science?

I am always very open to discussions with potential students and industry partners about the exciting developments and future possibilities in Computer Science. Best first point of contact for me: rjsteele@captechu.edu

If you're interested in learning more about computer science in general or specific Capitol Tech computer science programs, contact Dr. Steele at rjsteele@captechu.edu, visit the computer science webpage, and watch a recent webinar led by Dr. Steele on The Role of Machine Learning in Emerging Computing Systems and Capabilities.

1. Indeed 2020 salaries
2. Indeed 2019 Best Jobs in US
3. Glassdoor’s 2019 50 Best Jobs in America
4. Salary based upon 2019 Glassdoor salary data