Computer Science 101: Gates And Google - InformationWeek

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6/3/2008
11:49 AM
John Foley
John Foley
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Computer Science 101: Gates And Google

A corner of Carnegie Mellon University's normally quiet campus is a noisy mess these days, due to construction of the new Gates Center for Computer Science, a steel-framed building perched high atop concrete columns. The site is only a hundred yards from CMU's Collaborative Innovation Center, home to none other than Google.

A corner of Carnegie Mellon University's normally quiet campus is a noisy mess these days, due to construction of the new Gates Center for Computer Science, a steel-framed building perched high atop concrete columns. The site is only a hundred yards from CMU's Collaborative Innovation Center, home to none other than Google.I checked out the Gates Center construction project on a recent visit to Carnegie Mellon, which is just east of downtown Pittsburgh. I was in town to meet with local entrepreneurs and tech startups and had arranged to conduct the interviews at CMU, which produces a lot of the local talent in software, video games, and Web technologies. Bill Gates knows that, of course, and Microsoft supports the university in a number of ways. Among other things, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $20 million to the construction of Carnegie Mellon's new computer science complex.

Hundreds of Carnegie Mellon graduates and former faculty have gone to work at Microsoft, including senior VP of research Rick Rashid, who was a computer science professor at CMU before joining Microsoft in 1991. The auditorium in CMU's new computer science complex is being named after Rashid. In addition to the Gates Center for Computer Science, a second building at the new complex will be the Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies. Together, the two buildings will comprise 200,000 square feet of offices, classrooms, and meeting rooms.

A stone's throw away is CMU's Collaborative Innovation Center, a 136,000-square-foot research facility built in 2005. The CIC, or CoLab as it's also called, represents a partnership among a variety of interests, including Carnegie Mellon University, the Carnegie Museums, the state of Pennsylvania, and the city of Pittsburgh. Its tenants include Apple, Google, Intel, and a half dozen other research-oriented organizations.

I got a tour of Google Pittsburgh's offices while on campus and met with Google engineering manager Kamal Nigam. Google employs about 75 software developers and engineers in its office there. The company hired CMU computer science and robotics professor Andrew Moore to head Google Pittsburgh. The office is typical Google -- bright, primary colors, scooters and bikes, a rec room, massage therapist, lots of healthy food and snacks, and Google doodles everywhere. It's kind of like an oversized day care center, albeit one where the intellectual property is closely guarded code, not construction paper taped to the walls.

I took some pictures of the under-construction Gates Center for Computer Science and Google Pittsburgh. You can see the photo gallery here.

Sometime soon, we'll also be posting video interviews with Google engineering manager Kamal Nigam and, from the site of the construction project, with CMU professor of computer science Manuela Veloso.

To what extent do Microsoft and Google collaborate in the relaxed environs of academia? From what I can tell, not much. Both companies are on campus to tap into the brain power of students and faculty, not strike up a friendship with each other.

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