Jun 24, 2024  
2011-2012 Catalog 
2011-2012 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Computer Science

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The proliferation of computers and computer networks (the World Wide Web) is transforming the world rapidly and irreversibly. Developments in many fields such as medicine, genetic engineering, atomic physics, and telecommunications depend on computers to produce their work. The increasing use of and reliance on computers in our modern technological culture and society makes the study of computer science an exciting and challenging one.

Computer science at Western is organized around the study of design and analysis techniques used to write software or programs in various application areas, along with details about the internal workings of computers (known as computer architecture and operating systems). The design and analysis techniques encompass many areas of study such as algorithms and data structures (ways to organize instructions and information efficiently), programming languages (specific methods of delivering instructions to computers), software methodology and engineering (processes to develop software and ways to organize groups of instructions), databases and information retrieval, and artificial intelligence.

Faculty interests represent many diverse areas of computer science, including distributed and parallel computing, object-oriented development, graphics, games, computer networks, image processing, cryptography, robotics, and formal methods. Members of the department are also involved in collaborative projects with local industry and other academic units.


GEOFFREY B. MATTHEWS (1985) Chair and Professor. BA, University of California; MA, PhD, Indiana University.
DAVID C. BOVER (2002) Professor. BS, Monash University; PhD, Australian National University.
PERRY FIZZANO (2007) Assistant Professor. BS, Widener University; PhD, Dartmouth College.
MARTIN GRANIER (1997) Visiting Associate Professor and Director, Internet Studies Center. BS, Middle Tennessee State University; MS, University of Southwestern Louisiana; PhD, University of Oregon.
JAMES W. HEARNE (1986) Professor. BA, MA, PhD, University of California.
JAMES L. JOHNSON (1981) Professor. BS, University of Louisville; MS, PhD, University of Minnesota.
DEBRA S. JUSAK (1988) Associate Professor. BA, State University of New York at Potsdam; MS, University of Connecticut; PhD, University of California-Irvine.
MICHAEL MEEHAN (1996) Professor. BS, Birmingham-Southern College; MS, PhD, University of Alabama-Huntsville.
PHILIP A. NELSON (1987) Associate Professor. BS, Pacific Union College; MS, University of California-Davis; PhD, University of Washington.
JIANNA ZHANG (2002) Associate Professor. BS, MS, PhD, University of Regina.

Declaration Process

Bachelor of Science

Students must apply for admission to the major by completing a form in the advisor’s office, Communication Facility 459, or online at www.cs.wwu.edu. Students are assigned a faculty advisor when accepted as a major. Students who have not yet been accepted as majors or who need major evaluations for graduation should seek advice in the undergraduate advisor’s office. To graduate, the student must satisfy the requirements as stated in the catalog in effect at the time of declaration or in a subsequent catalog.

Other Departmental Information


The computer science department offers Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degree programs and cooperates with the department of mathematics to offer a combined major. The Bachelor of Science program is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, 111 Market Place, Suite 1050, Baltimore, MD 21202-4012, phone 410-347-7700. The department also offers two computer science minors, an interdisciplinary minor in Internet Resource Creation and Management, and three certificate programs (Web content development, Web programming, and E commerce). The ISC minor and certificate programs are designed so that computer science majors, as well as non-computer science majors, may gain the technical and communication background necessary for developing, maintaining, and managing websites and resources.

Career Opportunities

Computer science graduates often begin their careers as computer programmers or systems analysts. Expert programmers are widely sought and bring to bear a wealth of knowledge and creativity far surpassing mere knowledge of a programming language and/or its syntax. The Bachelor of Science degree provides a problem-solving and analytical background that is typical of the expertise employed by very good programmers and systems analysts to obtain programming solutions. Systems analysts assess the needs of a project for computer hardware and software, then proceed to design systems that meet those needs. Systems analyst positions are not entry-level positions, but rather are the typical career path for computer scientists with a bachelor’s degree.

Internet Studies Center and Minor in Internet Resource Creation and Management

The Internet Studies Center provides an adjunct program to a regular degree program. The center offers courses in Website development and management that enable students to apply their major field in the world of Web-based communications and enterprise. Students completing a sequence of these courses are eligible for certification. The courses follow three different tracks. Students from a wide variety of liberal arts and science majors can earn certification in Web content development. This certifies that students have sufficient technical knowledge and skill to work effectively as Web content producers in a development team where they must work with programmers and project managers to produce a professional Website. The Web programming certification track provides a deeper technical program for CS majors to master programming skills pertinent to content delivery in large, dynamic websites. Finally, the E commerce certification track, offered in conjunction with the finance, marketing and decision sciences department of the College of Business and Economics, provides students with in-depth knowledge of large Website management for e-commerce and other enterprise applications.

Those students interested in Web development but not seeking certification may take a set of courses that leads to a minor in Internet resource creation and management. This minor complements degrees in disciplines outside computing, providing students with the ability to publish and maintain material on the World Wide Web. This minor will enhance students’ standing in applications to entry-level positions and helps increase the marketability of their major degree. The curriculum for this minor and all of the center-sponsored courses adapt to changes in Internet technology as the Internet evolves.


The department has a number of general and special purpose laboratories that support the computer science program. The general purpose labs contain i386/Amd64 workstations running Windows XP and Linux. Most computer science classes use these laboratories for their programming and other homework needs. Additionally, there are special purpose labs to support computer architecture, networking, parallel and distributed computing, computer graphics, games, and robotics.

Transfer Students

Washington community college transfers comprise a large percentage of Western’s students, especially computer science majors. Transfer students are very welcome in the computer science program; however, optimum progress depends upon fulfilling the following requirements:

Students are further encouraged to take a linear algebra course (MATH 204 ).

Mid-Program Checkpoint

To complete the Bachelor of Science degree in computer science within four years, the student should complete the following courses by the start of the junior year. Major omissions from this list will make it difficult or impossible to complete this degree within two additional years.


Department of Computer Science, Communication Facility 495, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA 98225- 9165. Please direct questions to the departmental office: The phone is 360-650-3805, or correspond by e-mail to csdept@cc.wwu.edu.


Undergraduate Advisor: Julie Marx, CF 459, 360-650-2300, Julie.Marx@wwu.edu

For more detailed information on advising issues, go to www.cs.wwu.edu and click on the advising link.

Five-Year BS and MS Fast Track Program

The Five-Year BS + MS Fast Track program makes it possible for exceptional undergraduate computer science majors to complete both a BS and MS degree in computer science in five years. Computer science majors who qualify will take four core courses from the graduate program when they are seniors. The computer science master’s degree may then be completed in only one additional year of study at the master’s level after students have applied to, and been accepted as, master’s degree candidates by the WWU Graduate School.

Computer science majors who have achieved a GPA of 3.0 or above in their first three years as an undergraduate should contact the computer science graduate advisor. Applications are available at the graduate advisor’s office, the undergraduate advisor’s office, and may be downloaded from the computer science Website, www.cs.wwu.edu.

Students should apply for admission into the undergraduate honors program after the completion of their junior year of study. Once admitted to the honors program, students will take the four MS core curriculum courses. The course substitutions are: CSCI 509 for CSCI 460, CSCI 510 for CSCI 401, CSCI 511 for CSCI 405, CSCI 512 for CSCI 410.

After students graduate with the BS degree in the computer science honors program, they will then complete all remaining requirements for the MS degree, i.e., CSCI 601, 602, 603 plus six graduate electives. Registering for three courses per term, it is possible to complete all MS requirements in only one additional year. When students enter the MS program via this path, the qualifying examination will be given during their first term as a graduate student, which implies that they may register for CSCI 601 while pending the outcome of the qualifying exam.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are advanced to candidacy when they have demonstrated a reasonable likelihood of completing their program of study. The student must have completed the core curriculum courses with a B or better GPA and must have passed the qualifying examination. Students are recommended for candidacy by the Computer Science Graduate Committee.

Combined Majors

The computer science department cooperates with the mathematics department in offering a combined major for students wishing to acquire some familiarity and experience in both areas.

Mathematics/Computer Science: See the Mathematics  section of this catalog. 

Graduate Study

For information regarding the Master of Science degree in computer science, please see the Graduate School  section of the General Catalog.

Undergraduate Degrees and Programs

Computer Science, BS 

Mathematics/Computer Science, BS 

Computer Science Minor 

Computer Systems Minor 

Internet Resource Creation and Management Minor 

Internet Studies Center Certification 

Graduate Degrees and Programs 

Computer Science, Non-Thesis, MS 

Computer Science Courses


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