Monday, June 25, 2012

An education. Which one?

In the domain which I studied and I practice now, computer science, there are four universities that are constantly ranked (often with an equal score) the best in the world: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, University of California - Berkeley and Stanford University. Last week I was in Silicon Valley, on a business trip to Oracle head quarters and I took this opportunity to visit the campus of Stanford University which is nearby.
Let me give you a few facts about the Computer Science Department at Stanford:
  •  one of the emeritus professors they have is Donald Knuth, the author of one of the most influential books in this field, "The Art of Computer Programming"; on the cover of one of the editions of this book there is this quote from Bill Gates: “If you think you're a really good programmer… read (Knuth's) Art of Computer Programming… You should definitely send me a résumé if you can read the whole thing."; 
  • here studied the founders of Google and got the idea of the page ranking algorithm that transformed the on-line world in the last 10 years; you can read their paper here
  • a team from this department build the first self driving car (which I think it will transform our lives in the future) and won a contest organized by the US army research labs (DARPA); watch a presentation of the concept here
  • on the other hand this department is taking part in an experiment of distributed high quality education by offering to anyone in the world who is interested free on-line classes on various topics, like this one which I attended a few months ago, or these listed here
Bellow are a few pictures from campus where you can notice that all this is made possible partly by the donations of people and companies who truly believe in the value of education.
Campus entrance on Palm Drive:

Computer Science Department's building named after the biggest donor who helped to its building, Bill Gates:

The list of people and companies that donated for the new building of the Computer Science Department:

Now I'm back in Romania and here are some other facts that you might know about if you are around:
  •  two months ago a person nominated for the Romanian Ministry of Education was forced to skip the nomination after it was discovered that she lied about having a degree from Stanford University (the name of the university was actually miss-spelled as Standford in her CV); 
  • the next nominee, with a degree in computer engineering, was forced to resign after proofs of plagiarism in at least three of his published papers; 
  •  last week the prime minister of Romania was also accused of plagiarism in his Ph.D. thesis where he copied more than 100 pages from other books and papers; 
You should ask yourself in what kind of society do you want you and your children to live: one in which education is valued and can lead to advances in science and a better life for all of us, or one in which education is just mocked? And if you care you should act every time you can.

As for myself, I know what I stand for.
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