skip to main content

Crop Sciences and Music join growing collection of CS + X degrees at the University Of Illinois

11/6/2017 5:12:21 PM David Mercer, CS @ ILLINOIS

CS @ ILLINOIS has joined with the University of Illinois School of Music and the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences’ Department of Crop Sciences to add two bachelor’s degrees to the growing collection of innovative CS + X majors: CS + Music and CS + Crop Sciences.

The new degrees will enroll their first students in the fall of 2018, and they expand the list of pioneering CS + X degrees developed over the past few years, blending a strong grounding in computer science with training in the arts or sciences.

Crop Sciences Department Head German Bollero
Crop Sciences Department Head German Bollero

Agriculture Technology Companies at Research Park

Computational technology is a growing part of agriculture, reflected in the data that drives plant and animal research, the sensors and GPS technology that make precision agriculture’s efficient planting and use of chemicals possible, and the weather and climate data so important to both the immediate decisions being made on farms and the future of food production.

That growth is behind the roster of agriculture technology firms that are part of the Research Park at the University of Illinois, which include both long-established corporations with decades of history and startups:

Agrible Inc.Ag-SensusApptimmuneArcher Daniels Midland CompanyDeere & Co.Dow AgrosciencesEarthsense Inc.FruitVaccineGranularGSIIndigo AgricultureIntelinAir, Lipotec Laboratories LLC, Japan Corn StarchRabo AgrifinanceSoil Diagnostics, and Syngenta

CS Associate Department Head Lenny Pitt
CS Associate Department Head Lenny Pitt

The new BS in CS + Crop Sciences is the first degree of its kind in the country, said German Bollero, a professor of biometry and head of the Department of Crop Sciences.

A degree for students whose ambition is to apply computation to agriculture is a natural fit for the University of Illinois. The state is routinely among the top producers of corn and soybeans in the country and one of the top 10 states for the value of crops and livestock produced. Illinois also is the home of major agriculture-related corporations such as the Archer Daniels Midland Company and Deere & Co. Those two companies and many others are part of the Research Park at the University of Illinois.

And, as Bollero pointed out, agriculture’s growing reliance on technology is producing vast amounts of data from molecular genetics, the study of weather and the climate, GIS-based data gathering, and the many applications of drones, to name just a handful of areas.

“This major is a response to the increasing demand for expertise in data analytics in agriculture,” Bollero said. “The generation of huge data sets has expanded the demand for people with the skills to integrate computer science and agriculture.”

The new degree is expected to be in high demand, and has the potential for high impact, said Lenny Pitt, the associate head of the Department of Computer Science and its director of Undergraduate Programs.

“When we talk about this partnership, it has an opportunity to really impact the world, in terms of food production, in terms of high-tech farming techniques, in terms of the environment, and costs and efficiency,” Pitt said.

CS + Crop Sciences plans to begin with five to 10 students in the fall of 2018 before eventually enrolling 60-80 students.

The new BS in CS + Music will be the first degree of its kind in the Midwest and will offer students a path toward careers in music technology or the cutting edge of music composition.

As School of Music Director Jeffrey Magee points out, the degree also builds on longstanding ties between engineering, computation, and music at the university, one that continues to this day.

Electrical Engineering Professor Joseph Tykociner in 1922 became one of the first researchers to add sound to ?lm. And in the 1950s Professor Lejaren Hiller established the Experimental Music Studio, the first of its kind in the world.  Along with Leonard Isaacson, Hiller used the ILLIAC 1 computer to compose the “Illiac Suite,” the first piece of music composed by an electronic computer.

School of Music Director Jeffrey Magee
School of Music Director Jeffrey Magee

“Our two disciplines have enjoyed a close connection at UI for decades, and this reinforces that link and takes it to a new level,” Magee said. “The new degree program addresses an area of intense student demand and positions us well to educate leaders in music technology.”

The degree also fills a longstanding void for computationally minded young musicians, CS Associate Professor Paris Smaragdis said.

“As a teenager, I was very frustrated that there were practically no options for me to pursue university-level studies combining computing and music. I studied these two disciplines separately, and slowly on my own discovered many of the deep connections between them,” he said.

CS Associate Professor Paris Smaragdis
CS Associate Professor Paris Smaragdis

“We expect some of the students in this program to either engage as composers, exploring new sonic possibilities or experimenting with artificial intelligence for composition and performance,” Smaragdis added. “But we also anticipate a lot of students to only take on the technical challenges, such as pushing the state of the art in networking to allow real-time music performances across the world.”

An initial class of 10-15 CS + Music majors is expected to enroll for the fall of 2018.

The two new degrees join four existing CS + X degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: CS + Anthropology, CS + Astronomy, CS + Chemistry, and CS + Linguistics, as well as two other blended bachelor’s degrees: Mathematics & Computer Science, offered since 1964, and the Statistics & Computer Science degree, added in 1988.

More potential CS + X degrees are in the pipeline.