MathWorks announced recently it has donated $2 million to create an endowed chair in the Department of Computer Science at The University of New Mexico.

The gift will establish the Cleve Moler and MathWorks Chair of Mathematical and Engineering Software Endowed Fund, which will generate funds to hire a faculty member in computer science. The UNM Board of Regents today voted to approve the named chair, which is one of only a handful in the School of Engineering.

Lydia Tapia, professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, said that the endowed chair would significantly impact the department.

“Thanks to the generosity of MathWorks, the Department of Computer Science will be able to recruit a high-quality faculty member,” she said. “This honors the long tradition between UNM and MathWorks, recognizing the birth of the computer science program at our university.”

Tapia said that investing in the high-growth field of computer science is a strong strategic move that will help UNM and the state.

“Putting resources into a strong computer science department is vital for building connections between global companies like MathWorks, national labs, and other local research agencies through a focus on mathematical software,” she said. “This endowment will strengthen the state of New Mexico by growing UNM’s high graduation rate of computer science majors and will help us on our quest to recruit more underrepresented groups to computer science, especially Native Americans and females.”

MATLAB is a programming and numeric computing platform that millions of engineers and scientists use to analyze data, develop algorithms, and create models. Moler began developing MATLAB while he was a math professor at UNM in the late 1970s, so his students could easily access the LINPACK linear algebra libraries without writing Fortran. He was a faculty member at UNM for 13 years and became department chair in 1980.

Moler said that he is proud that MathWorks is investing in the Department of Computer Science at UNM.

“There are a lot of future topics and challenges for computer science, problems we don’t even know about yet,” he said. “It will be important to be adaptive to what is continuing to evolve, and it will be important to have a strong computer science department ready to work on solutions for these future topics. I’m hopeful that this endowment will help.”

Among the many students Moler advised during his time at UNM was Jack Dongarra, a recent Association for Computing Machinery A.M. Turing Award winner who earned his Ph.D. from UNM in mathematics and statistics in 1980. Dongarra visited campus for a lecture and reception on Oct. 10.  

Cleve Moler (front right) with current chair Lydia Tapia joined former Department of Computer Science chairs (back row, left to right) Brian Smith, Bob Veroff, Ed Angel, Henry Shapiro and Deepak Kapur at the Jack Dongarra talk at UNM on Oct. 10.