In 1980 Professor Newell founded the University of Dundee’s computing research group. His interdisciplinary training in engineering and psychology and his international reputation in developing computer systems to help people with disabilities formed a major strand of this group. Collaboration with the Department of Mathematics strengthened theoretical computer science within the group, and it was expanded by appointing other academic and research staff – many of whom had interdisciplinary research backgrounds. The group became a stand-alone Department in 1998.
These origins led to a department which was inherently interdisciplinary, where the importance of users and their experience is highlighted both in research and teaching, and which developed a reputation for computing applications that had high social impact. Examples of this work included predictive text, a range of systems for people who were unable to speak, smart house technology, and systems specifically designed for older people and for those with dementia. This research has been recognised internationally by a number of awards to staff, and several of our systems have become commercially available.
Our students are immersed in the ethos of this environment. They are given a firm grounding in Computer Science together with an understanding of the needs of users, particularly those with special needs. They thus graduate with knowledge not only of computing, but also of how it can be used to improve the quality of the lives of all citizens.
The history of the group has been published by Alan Newell in his book “Design and the Digital Divide: Insights from 40 years in Computer Support for Older and Disabled People”.