History of the school

In 1973, the Computing Science program was established at SFU as an interdisciplinary area of study under the leadership of the late Ted Sterling, who co-authored one of the first computing science textbooks. The first program offered undergraduate courses leading to a major or honours degree in Computing Science.  

Fifty years later, the School of Computing Science at SFU has grown into an internationally renowned and high-ranked program comprised of world-class researchers, talented instructors and an enthusiastic group of staff, all dedicated to the success of students and advancing knowledge dissemination and cutting-edge research in computer science.

Co-op begins

In 1975, 14 students were placed with eight employers in a five-credit practicum course as part of the computing science co-operative education program. SFU's official co-op Program was established in 1978.

New department, faculty and school

In 1978, the Computing Science Program became the Department of Computing Science, having grown to 8.5 full-time tenure track faculty. The following year, the department's graduate program started with the approval of MSc and PhD thesis programs.

In 1985 the Faculty of Applied Sciences was formed and was comprised of Computing Science, Engineering Science, Kinesiology, Communications, and Natural Resource Management (now called the Faculty of Environment). 

A New Home

In 1989, after being in multiple locations around the campus, the School of Computing Science moved into its current space in the Applied Sciences Building. In 2005, the school expanded into the adjacent Technology and Science Complex (TASC 1).

New Programs

In 2008, the School launched the Software Systems Program, focusing on teaching students the skills to develop high quality software.  

In 2014, the School launched the Professional Masters in Big Data Program, the first program of its kind in Canada. By 2020, the program expanded to the Professional Master’s Program in Computer Science and included three concentrations: big data, visual computing and cybersecurity.

Notable landmarks in computing science at SFU

1969 A brand new IBM card punch machine is set up in the library basement.
1970 Computer Science faculty Ted Sterling and Sy Pollack publish one of the first Computing Science textbooks.
1973 Computing Science program launches at SFU.
1975 Co-operative education is introduced.
1981 Computing Science graduates convince faculty to buy some of the first Unix servers, prompting a switch from a mainframe computer system to a network of Sun workstations running Unix.
1983 The first students were admitted to our Graduate Program.  
1985 Lou Hafer and Nick Cercone set up the CSIL lab, one of the first distributed computing networks in Canada.
1985 The Department of Computing Science became the School of Computing Science.
1986 The undergraduate curriculum is reorganized to include Computing Design and Organization, Computing Systems, Programming Languages and Software, Information Systems, Artificial Intelligence and Theoretical Computing Science.
1989 Rick Hobson develops SAM-I, a fast, high-level language interpreter using Canada’s first 16-bit micro-processing chip, which he designed at SFU in 1983.
1989 Slawomir Pilarski’s Circular Self Test for VLSI chips is recognized as a milestone in test technology.
1990 Tom Calvert creates Life Forms, the first shrink-wrapped software spin-off.
2002 The name “WICS – Women in Computing Science” is announced to the community.
2003 The School of Computing Science and the Department of Molecular Biology announce a new joint major—the first of its kind in Canada.
2003 The School of Computing Science hosts the first Employer Open House to encourage industry and co-op partnerships.
2003 Computing science professor Cenk Sahinalp is appointed as a Tier 2 CRC, the first of multiple such appointments in the history of the school covering areas such as Computational Genomics, Information Visualization and Computer Graphics.
2004 Computing Science opens its doors at the Surrey campus and offers a standalone program.  
2005 SFU Computing Science becomes the first University in Canada to offer a Dual-Degree Cohort Program with Zhejiang University in China.
2006 The Technology and Science Complex 1 (TASC 1) opens at the Burnaby campus and expands the School's research space by more than 100 percent.
2006 Computing science professor Gabor Tardos is appointed as a Tier 1 CRC, the first of multiple such appointments in the history of the school covering areas such as Computational Complexity, Information Visualization and Big Data Science.
2007 The School moves into a new state-of-the-art facility on the east side of Galleria 4 at the Surrey campus.
2008 Greg Mori and Jian Pei are the first SFU computing science professors to be awarded with an NSERC DAS, with 13 more to follow, one of the highest amounts in Canada.
2008 New Software Systems Program is launched at the Surrey campus.
2012 The SFU-Zhejiang University Dual Degree Program in Computing Science wins Outstanding Program in International Education from the BC Council for International Education.
2012 Alumni start-up company, HiretheWorld, is named to the prominent BC Innovation List.
2013 Computing Science Graduate Student, Maryam Sadeghi, heads up the new Digital Health Hub to help facilitate SFU's partnership with Fraser Health and the City of Surrey.
2014 The SFU School of Computing Science is ranked among the top 50 computing science programs in the world in the Shanghai Ranking Academic Ranking of World Universities.
2014 The School launches the Professional Masters in Big Data Program - the first program of its kind in Canada.
2018 Alumni start up company, Buddybuild, is acquired by Apple.
2018 The school launches a new Professional Master’s Program in Computer Science specializing in visual computing – the first program of  its kind in Canada.
2018 CS Research Day, a new annual event featuring graduate student, faculty and alumni research, is hosted for the first time.  
2018 SFU computing science professor Angel Chang is named a CIFAR Artificial Intelligence Chair, followed by Mo Chen in 2020.    
2019 Two computing science faculty members, Jian Pei and Martin Ester, elected to the Royal Society of Canada.
2020  SFU visual computing researchers win multiple awards at the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR), including the Best Student Paper Award and the PAMI Longuet-Higgins Prize. 
2020 The School launches a new cybersecurity specialization in the Professional Master’s Program in Computer Science.
2020 Alumni start-up company, Mobify, is acquired by Salesforce.
2023 The School launches two new master's program in Cybersecurity and Visual Computing

For a comprehensive list of awards won by researchers in the School of Computing Science at SFU, visit our awards page.