Alumni Gifts Underwrite New Computing Research Center

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Artist's rendering of the new Paul and Susan Williams Center for Computer Systems Research
Artist's rendering of the new Paul and Susan Williams Center for Computer Systems Research

The new Paul and Susan Williams Center for Computer Systems Research will soon provide a space where Michigan Tech’s computer scientists and engineers can put their heads together.

Equipment and furnishings for the 10,000-square-foot center are made possible by a gift from Paul Williams, a 1961 electrical engineering graduate. Williams, of Torrance, Calif., is a retired engineer who spent nearly all of his career with Hughes Aircraft.

Donations from other alumni are underwriting the costs of remodeling the fifth floor of the Electrical Energy Resources Center, which will house the new facility. The space was formerly occupied by the Seaman Mineral Museum. The construction project is funded by gifts from the James Fugere Foundation and the Dave House Family Foundation, along with numerous other donations alumni have made over the last several years.

The Williams Center will support research on real-time, high-performance computing and information processing; computer-aided design of digital systems; and embedded and distributed computer systems.

“Our aim is to bring together people from all parts of campus with a common interest in computing systems research,” said Dan Fuhrmann, chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “The Williams Center will be for faculty and students alike, for graduate students and undergraduates. It represents a huge leap forward in realizing Paul Williams’ vision of state-of-the-art facilities in electrical engineering, computer engineering and computer science, that were simply not available at Michigan Tech in 1961.”

Williams is also supporting Tech’s Paul and Susan Williams Endowed Scholarship, to be awarded annually to a graduate of his other alma mater, Negaunee High School. Preference will be given to electrical engineering majors.

The center has been a cooperative effort. “We’re excited about working with the Department of Computer Science on this,” said Fuhrmann. “We’ll be looking at experimental architectures, new applications and new ways of doing computing.”

Steven Carr, interim chair of computer science, is equally enthusiastic. “It’s a really neat opportunity for our departments to collaborate in a much more defined way,” he said. “We have always worked well together, and there are faculty in both departments who have the potential to cooperate closely on large projects. The center will play a big role in making that happen.”

The Williams Center concept grew from the Strategic Faculty Hiring Initiative in computational discovery and innovation. “It’s helping realize the goals of the SFHI, to raise the level of computing studies campus wide,” Fuhrmann said. “As we develop the resources made possible with this gift, we’ll be reaching out to others on campus for interesting computational problems.”

A grand opening for the center is expected in August. The facility will house 10 faculty offices, a conference room, a seminar room, two small meeting rooms, common areas for graduate student desks and lab space, and a social area overlooking the Keweenaw Waterway. “It was designed to draw people together,” Fuhrmann said. “And the fact that it was made possible entirely through alumni donations is just phenomenal.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.

Last Modified 2:12 p.m. March, 29 2019