Computer Science (2012-2013)

What is computer science? Ask 100 computer scientists, and you will likely receive 100 different answers. One possible, fairly succinct, answer is that computer science is the study of algorithms: step-by-step procedures for accomplishing tasks formalized into very precise, atomic (indivisible) instructions. An algorithm should allow for a task to be accomplished by someone who or something that does not even understand the task. In other words, it is a recipe for an automated solution to a problem. Computers are tools for executing algorithms. (Not that long ago, “computer” referred to a person who computed!)

What are the basic building blocks of algorithms? How do we go about finding algorithmic solutions to problems? What makes an efficient algorithm in terms of the resources (time, memory, energy) that it requires? What does the efficiency of algorithms say about major applications of computer science such as cryptology, databases, and artificial intelligence? Computer science courses at Sarah Lawrence College are aimed at answering questions such as those. Sarah Lawrence computer science students also investigate how the discipline intersects other fields of study, including mathematics, philosophy, biology, and physics.