Computer Science

Academic Department Introduction

Computer science encompasses the study of computation, information processing, and the design and development of computer systems and software. Our goal is to prepare students to lead in a world shaped by computation and data. The curriculum covers the “big ideas” of computer science, and includes a wide range of topics such as software design, computer architecture, theory of computation, algorithms, programming languages, machine learning, artificial intelligence, distributed computing, human-computer interaction, social computing, and playable media. We provide students with theoretical, technical, and ethical foundations so that they can design and build applications and tools that will have a positive impact on individuals and society.

Faculty research is frequently published in leading venues and supported by competitive grants from major scientific funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Students often work alongside faculty, engaging with and contributing to cutting-edge research through independent research, research assistant positions, or honors thesis work.

Learning goals

  • Gain foundational knowledge in all areas of computer science, including its theoretical basis, software methodologies, computer hardware, and applications.

  • Formulate, analyze, and solve computational problems.

  • Apply computational thinking to new problems and adapt to new technologies.

  • Communicate technical material, including in a team-based setting.

  • Evaluate the impact of computer science on society and draw connections between computer science and other disciplines.

Programs of Study

Computer science major and minor

Students study computation, information processing, and the design and development of computer systems and software, with the goal of preparing to lead in a world shaped by computation and data.

Additional areas of study

Computer science is also a core requirement for media arts & sciences, data science, and cognitive & linguistics sciences courses.

Course highlights

  • What is artificial intelligence (AI) and should humans fear it as one of "our biggest existential threats"? In this course, we will grapple with these difficult questions and investigate them in different ways. We will discuss the development of the field from the symbolic, knowledge-rich approaches of the 20th century AI (e.g., rule-based systems), to statistical approaches that rely on increasingly large amounts of data, including an overview of contemporary deep learning techniques. We will explore how to apply these techniques in several AI application areas, including robotics, computer vision, and natural language processing, and consider ethical issues around AI in society. By the end of the semester, students should be able to answer the starting questions in-depth and with nuance. 
  • As technology increasingly integrates with our lives, how can we ensure that its design is inclusive of users' different abilities? CS 325 expands on the fundamentals of design and qualitative research to explore how technology can be made accessible for diverse users, with an emphasis on people with disabilities. In this course, we will read about and analyze approaches to inclusive technology, study how design intersects with disability justice, learn about the history of accessible and assistive technologies, understand how to create multimodal user experiences, learn accessible web programming, and test state-of-the-art tools. Students will also conduct a semester-long case study project in which they work in groups to identify accessibility issues on the Wellesley campus and work with the community to build appropriate technology solutions.

Places and spaces

  • Students sit around the table in the Human-Computer Interaction lab.

    The Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Lab is an integrated teaching and research space with state-of-the-art technology, including a driving simulator, interactive multitouch surfaces, and virtual and augmented-reality head-mounted displays.

  • Students sit at computers and walk around in the playable media lab.

    The Playable Media Lab houses 10 high-end computers and VR headsets to support development of interactive media, such as digital gaming and virtual reality. It also contains gaming consoles and a diverse collection of games.

  • Two students wearing mask work at computers.

    The CS Systems Lab has equipment for prototyping circuits and digital logic, along with 22 Linux/Windows workstations used for labs and assignments in CS240: Foundations of Computer Systems, and for computer systems research.

Research highlights

  • Carolyn Anderson stands in front of a chalkboard and lectures to a class. She is holding an iPad.

    Professor Carolyn Anderson has worked with Kiara Meng Hui Liu ’23 and Xiaomeng Zhu ’23 to build a natural language processing pipeline for processing Chinese literary texts. They hope to facilitate computational study of Chinese literature by allowing easy extraction of character mentions, events, and quotations.

  • Orit Shaer sits at a desk and gesticulates while smiling. She is wearing a purple blazer.

    Professors Catherine Grevet Delcourt and Orit Shaer have worked with Toshali Goel ’23, Connie Gu ’24, and teaching fellow Angel Cooper ’22 on examining the use of generative language models in the user-centered design process. Their goal is to identify best practices for using AI tools for creative and inclusive user experience (UX) design processes. They presented a paper on their work in CHIWork 2023.

  • Professor Eni Mustafaraj sits at her laptop while talking to students at a table.

    Professor Eni Mustafaraj has worked with Brooke Perrault ’24, Anya Wintner ’24 and Lan Dao ’23 to monitor Google search results with about 1,700 search phrases related to reproductive health and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson that overturned constitutional protection for abortion. They prepared a large dataset comprising 1.7 million search results pages and co-wrote a paper that was accepted at the 17th AAAI International Conference of Web and Social Media.

  • Two students wearing masks sit at a computer desk. One student is pointing to the screen of a computer while a professor leans over them, also wearing a mask.

    Peter Mawhorter, instructor in computer science laboratory, has worked with Aizah Rao ’23, Kaitlyn Tsien ’24, Nissi Awosanya ’25, Rachel Suarez ’25, Jada Onwuta ’25, and Kitty Boakye ’26 to come up with a formal theory of exploration poetics for understanding players’ exploration process within games. They are building a graph-based tool for recording and analyzing gameplay decision traces.

Opportunities and community

Our department aspires to be a leader in broadening participation in computing. We value diversity, equity, and inclusion in our department and in the field itself. We understand that we need to continuously and actively engage in inclusive practices that build a community where all feel welcome and empowered to learn and thrive. Equitable access to education is imperative; accordingly, we recognize that we all need to be aware of our conscious and unconscious biases, as well as systemic biases within our institutions, and we must do our best to counteract and erode those biases.

  • Projects for inclusive excellence

    Wellesley in Tech highlights Wellesley alums who are pursuing careers in technology and are eager to mentor our current students. Mind the Gap is a podcast that aims to empower underrepresented students pursuing computer science through interviews featuring alums in the technology field. We worked together as a department to craft and approve the CS community values statement.

  • MIT

    Students can take classes at MIT and join MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) in a number of departments.

  • Student research

    Computer science students have numerous research opportunities, including independent research during the academic year, honors theses, and the Wellesley Summer Research Program, which employs 20 students as full-time research assistants in a nine- or 10-week program.

  • Graduate school preparation

    The Clare Boothe Luce Program helps students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the computational and physical sciences engage in research that prepares them for success in graduate school.

Beyond Wellesley

Beyond Wellesley

Most of our computer science graduates work in the software and internet industries, a majority of them as engineers. Our grads also enroll in top graduate programs in computing.

Department of Computer Science

Science Center
106 Central Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
Sohie Lee, Orit Shaer
Department Co-Chairs
Sarah Block
Academic Administrator