13 February 1998

The University of Queensland's new Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Department will be officially launched next Tuesday evening.

The celebratory function at the Customs House marks the coming together of two former Departments - Computer Science, and Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Almost 1000 invitations have been sent out, about a quarter of them to key figures in the information technology and electrical engineering industries.

All high school science teachers and careers officers in Queensland have been invited along with about 200 University staff.

New department head Professor Paul Bailes said the merger was a sign of the maturation process in the relationship between electrical engineering and computer science.

'Increasingly the two disciplines are coming closer together, around three decades after university computer science departments began to proliferate,' he said.

However, he said very few other institutions had so far taken the 'bold step' now being made at the University of Queensland.

Among the benefits expected from bringing the two departments together are greater collaboration in advanced research and teaching, plus a convergence of information and communication technologies, hardware and software.

Professor Bailes said his department would continue offering high-quality degrees specialising in electrical engineering and computer systems engineering as well as a new division in software engineering.

Likewise, the current bachelor of information technology would continue and a new degree in information environments will be offered next year.

The merger would also enable the University to develop a new program in automation and mechatronics (mechanical engineering and electronics) with particular application to the mining industry.

The department is also expected to be more cost-effective than its two predecessors and to remove some of the duplication of resources in areas such as teaching, research and administration.

The new Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Department contains 140 kilometres of data cabling and provides a massive 6500 square metres of useable floor space.

Among those attending Tuesday's launch are two foundation professors from the former departments - Professor Syd Prentice from Electrical Engineering, and Professor Gordon Rose of Computer Science.

During the evening they will be presented with limited edition prints of a specially commissioned watercolour of the $17 million building which will house the new department from July.

A third copy of the painting will be awarded to the highest achiever from among the students enrolling in the new software engineering course.

The original will hang in the seven-storey building and a further 47 signed and numbered prints will be presented as gifts to industry and overseas visitors to the new department.

The painting was completed last month and since the building was then far from finished the commission presented quite a challenge for artist Ray Jones, one of the University's architecture graduates.

Guests on Tuesday evening will be entertained by one of Australia's leading violists, Patricia Pollett, who is a senior lecturer at the University's School of Music.

She will be playing excerpts from her recently released CD Viola Power, the first solo CD of all-Australian works for the viola including specially commissioned pieces by Ross Edwards and Andrew Schultz.

For further information, contact Professor Paul Bailes (telephone 3365 3869).