Computer science hires first female head


Photo courtesy of CS Department

Nancy Amato, formerly a professor at Texas A&M University, will be the first female department head in computer science at the University. Students expect her o bolster the number of women entering the field.

By Xin Ding, Staff Writer

Nancy Amato, professor from Texas A&M University, will begin her role as the first female head of the Department of Computer Science in January.

“I’m really excited. It’s a big honor,” Amato said. “It’s also a little bit odd to come back to a place where you (were a) student and then join as the faculty member. It never occurred to me that I’d be able to do that and to come back as a department head.”

Grace Cao, sophomore in Engineering, said Amato’s appointment might encourage more women to enter the field. Cao said seeing more women in the field might motivate women already studying computer science.

“She was not chosen because she was just a woman. She was chosen because she was the most passionate about what she was talking about, the most passionate about her vision for the CS department,” Cao said.

According to the Office of Access and Equity 2018 Faculty Report, 84 percent of computer science faculty members are men and 72 percent of computer science undergraduate students are men.

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    “It’s really great. It will definitely inspire other women to follow her footsteps. I guess it really helps females to feel more confident in themselves,” said Alice Fang, sophomore in Engineering.

    Amato said diversity can benefit the field. When producing a product, such as an app, it’s necessary to have both male and female designers, since the app will be used by men and women.

    “My goal is to have to pass on the torch to the next generation and have them love their life as much as I love mine.” Amato said. “I want to give that experience to the students today. I’d like them to feel excited. I was really excited when I started out 25 years ago. I’m really glad I selected this career path.”

    Amato said she couldn’t think of a better job and would do it even if she didn’t get paid.

    Leonard Pitt, professor and associate head of Engineering, said in an email the computer science department is going to increase diversity in both undergraduate and graduate student bodies and faculty.

    “Nancy impressed our faculty in many ways — from her stellar research accomplishments in robotics and motion planning, to her strong leadership experiences in a number of national professional societies, to her reputation as a very well-respected and innovative educator, to her tireless efforts to incorporate more women and underrepresented minorities into computing at all levels. She was a clear favorite,” Pitt said. 

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