Brooks Building dedication on Friday (Oct. 24) to honor computer science pioneer

October 23, 2008
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will celebrate the contributions of a longtime and revered computer science professor and technology scholar in the College of Arts and Sciences with a building named in his honor.

On Friday (Oct. 24), the University will dedicate the Frederick P. Brooks Jr. Computer Science Building, adjoining Sitterson Hall on Columbia Street. The University community and the public are invited to the 3:30 p.m. dedication. Chancellor Holden Thorp will speak in the lobby of Sitterson Hall, followed by a ribbon cutting in the Brooks Building lobby. Other scheduled speakers include Roger Perry, chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees; Jan Prins, chairman of the department of computer science; and Brooks. 

Attendees also are invited to an open house from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., featuring tours of the building – including the department’s state-of-the-art graphics lab – and demonstrations of recent research projects. 

The name Fred Brooks has been synonymous with cutting-edge developments in computer science for a half-century.

“Fred has educated and inspired hundreds of our students and faculty members and has done so with his trademark understated style,” Thorp said. “When we celebrate the computer science department and this new building, we are really celebrating Fred Brooks’ foresight, persistence and collegiality, all of which are hallmarks of the department, the College and the University.” 

The Kenan Professor of Computer Science was an architect of IBM’s supercomputers during the 1950s and coined the term “computer architecture.” He founded Carolina’s computer science department in 1964 and served as its chair for 20 years.

Brooks’ current research focuses on real-time 3D computer graphics, or virtual environments. His work has helped biochemists solve the structure of complex molecules and enabled architects to “walk through” buildings still under design.

He is the author of “The Mythical Man-Month,” an influential book that many in the industry still reference more than 30 years after its publication. Amazon describes it this way: “No book on software project management has been so influential and so timeless as The Mythical Man-Month.” A new book to be published next year, “The Design of Design,” is a collection of essays, written in a style similar to the earlier book. 

Brooks received the National Medal of Technology; the Association for Computing Machinery’s A.M. Turing Award – considered the “Nobel Prize of computing”; the Bower Award; and Prize of the Franklin Institute. He has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the (British) Royal Academy of Engineering.

Prins, the department’s current chairman, said Brooks guided the department’s growth to national prominence. 

“He articulated the principle that computer science research should be measured by its impact in other fields,” Prins said. “Students and faculty of the department built careers on this principle, and it has served them well. It is very fitting that we now honor Fred’s vision, leadership and achievements with a computer science building in his name.”

The Brooks Building is the newest and first facility in Phase II of the $205 million Carolina Physical Science Complex in the College of Arts and Sciences. The largest construction project in the University’s history, the science complex project is supported by a combination of funding from the state higher education bond referendum, research grants and private funds. 

The Brooks Building, a 30,000-square-foot, four-story structure, is connected by hallways to Sitterson Hall, home to computer science since 1987. Laboratories on the second floor will allow faculty and students to pursue research in a new graphics lab. A laboratory focused on the increasingly important area of computer security will be established on the third floor. The new building also features several classrooms, a seminar room and faculty offices.

Media note: Limited parking will be available in the News Services lot at 210 Pittsboro St., which is on the opposite side of the Carolina Inn from the Brooks Building. Media representatives needing parking are asked to contact News Services in advance or (919) 962-2091.

Computer science department contact: Kelli Gaskill, office: (919) 962-1790 or cell: (919) 619-0920,
College of Arts and Sciences contact: Dee Reid, (919) 843-6339,
News Services contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 962-2093,

Groups question UNC’s defense department ties

March 25, 2008

Groups question UNC’s defense department ties

Updated: 08/06/09 3:51pm
The newly formed UNC Coalition Against the War and Students for a Democratic Society have launched an investigation into UNC’s ties with the Department of Defense. Clint Johnson, a junior political science major and a member of both groups, said the funding makes the UNC community complicit with the bloodshed in Iraq. “It should make us angry, and it should move us to do something,” he said, adding that the coalition plans to research such links and to mobilize in the fall. In 2007 UNC received $995,857 in sponsored research funding from the Department of Defense and less than $10 million from other defense-related government organizations – total sponsored research funds came to more than $610 million. UNC is also participating in a Homeland Security-sponsored center on crisis recovery that will receive $2.5 million annually for six years. While those projects do bear the funding stamp of defense organizations, they are not war-making, and instead have broader applications, said Jan Prins, chairman of UNC’s Department of Computer Science. “It’s just one of several venues for federal research, and I don’t think anyone would equate it with supporting the war effort.” The Department of Computer Science currently has funding for projects including 3-D imaging for excavations and the development of chip multiprocessors. The organization receiving the most ire of the antiwar coalition is the Institute for Defense & Business. The 10-year-old nonprofit institute is a joint venture between the state and the University and is affiliated with the Kenan-Flagler Business School. “What we do is independent of the war effort,” said Mark Cramer, president of the IDB. “We’re assisting the U.S. government to be more efficient and assisting them in being better stewards of the public dollar.” Their work includes partnering with Army depot managers to help administer centers that maintain trucks, tanks and other machinery. In addition, IDB is involved in economic reconstruction. A significant portion of its work is in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it also works on disaster relief in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. Kenan-Flagler professors often teach IDB’s executive courses, funded by the Department of Defense. IDB offers an MBA through UNC and Indiana University. The coalition wants UNC to cut ties with the Pentagon and private companies involved in rebuilding, such as Boeing, which sponsored $85,000 in UNC research in 2007. “UNC should say that they will not do business with the Pentagon and with war profiteers,” Johnson said. Contact the State & National Editor at