Gates' Gift to Accelerate Carnegie Mellon University's Frontline Computing

By Cronin, Mike | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 23, 2009 | Go to article overview

Gates' Gift to Accelerate Carnegie Mellon University's Frontline Computing


Cronin, Mike, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates opened a pioneering computer science complex Tuesday at Carnegie Mellon University that is intended to spur the use of computers to solve real-world problems.

"Computer science will be used to address the very top problems over the next 10 to 20 years," said Gates, speaking at the dedication of the Gates Center for Computer Science and the Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies.

The centers -- which are interconnected by walkways and footbridges, so they appear as one building -- house computer science, machine learning and the Language Technologies Institute and the Lane Center for Computational Biology, among other departments.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be involved in the dedication of these buildings," said Gates, who with his wife, Melinda, donated $20 million to the Gates center through their Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Henry L. Hillman Foundation contributed $10 million to construction of the $98.6 million building.

Gates said Carnegie Mellon has been "pioneering computer science work for more than a half century and that will only accelerate in the years to come."

He spoke to an audience of about 1,200 in CMU's Wiegand Gymnasium. About 850 others watched Gates speak on a screen in another CMU room, said Chriss Swaney, spokeswoman for CMU's College of Engineering.

During his talk, Gates said that computer science can decipher diseases such as malaria. Computer models can analyze proteins that may help scientists develop vaccines.

"The average person doesn't see the applications of computer science in other realms," said Wangeci Ngari, 20, a CMU senior majoring in business. "It's a good point to continue to highlight. We have to come together and use our intelligence to tackle real- world problems like health and poverty."

Gates remains chairman of Microsoft but retired from day-to-day responsibilities in 2008. In response to a question from a student, he said he chose to focus his philanthropy on health.

"Good health reduces population growth and increases literacy very quickly," Gates said.

Those factors enable poor countries to become wealthier countries, Gates said.

Tony Guan, 22, a CMU senior majoring in computer science from Melbourne, Australia, particularly liked Gates' vision of connecting rich and poor through computer and online education.

"The idea inspires computer science students and shows us how we can give back to our communities," Guan said. "It's a really passionate message."

Tech savvy

The Gates Center for Computer Science and Hillman Center for Future-Generation Technologies are connected by walkways and pedestrian bridges. …

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