Zwicker Named Chair of UMD’s Department of Computer Science

Jun 21, 2021

Matthias Zwicker has been appointed chair of the University of Maryland’s Department of Computer Science for a three-year term, effective July 1, 2021. He has been serving as interim chair for the past year.

“Matthias stepped up to lead the department during a global pandemic, and he was still able to push the department forward over the past year, due to his administrative expertise and calm temperament,” said Amitabh Varshney, dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. “Faculty, staff and students strongly supported Matthias’ continued leadership of the department, and I have the utmost confidence that he will build on the momentum he created over the last year.”

As chair, Zwicker oversees a department that currently ranks 16th in the nation for both graduate and undergraduate education according to U.S. News & World Report and is one of the largest computer science programs in the country with nearly 4,000 students. The department, along with the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), brings in nearly $30 million in external funding each year.

“I am thrilled to be able to continue to lead this fantastic community and support everyone to thrive in our field,” said Zwicker, who will hold the Elizabeth Iribe Chair for Innovation in the Department of Computer Science and the Phillip H. and Catherine C. Horvitz Professorship in Computer Science while he is department chair. “I am also grateful to our students, faculty, and staff in computer science who worked together so tirelessly to get us through this challenging year. They have all been incredible.”

As interim chair, Zwicker led the hiring of five tenure-track faculty members and two professional-track instructors. In March, the department’s Iribe Initiative for Inclusion and Diversity in Computing was awarded a grant from Break Through Tech to create new programs to propel more students who identify as women and non-binary into computing careers.

Last fall, Zwicker oversaw a redesign of the department’s monthly newsletter to better showcase the achievements of its students, faculty, staff and alumni. He also coordinated the purchase and installation of a major new high-performance computing cluster in the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Engineering, in collaboration with Varshney and UMIACS Director Mihai Pop.

In 2017, Zwicker joined UMD as the Reginald Allan Hahne Endowed E-Nnovate Professor in Computer Science with a joint appointment in UMIACS. Before arriving in College Park, he was a professor of computer science at the University of Bern from 2008 to 2017, where he served as the head of the computer graphics group and the director of graduate and undergraduate studies at its Institute of Computer Science. Prior to that, he was an assistant professor at the University of California San Diego from 2006 to 2008.

Zwicker’s research focuses on the intersection of computer graphics and artificial intelligence, and his work is laying the foundation for next-generation platforms for virtual and augmented reality. His work is supported in-part by UMIACS, where he has an appointment.

He serves as a co-lead faculty member for UMD’s new immersive media design undergraduate major, which will welcome the program’s first freshmen in the fall. This new major advances education, creativity and innovation that flourish at the intersection of digital art and computer science. He previously served on the University Senate, and as a search committee chair he helped recruit several senior faculty members to join the department. He has also supported students in the Gemstone program in the Honors College as a faculty mentor.

He has served as a papers co-chair and conference chair of the IEEE/Eurographics Symposium on Point-Based Graphics, and as a papers co-chair for Eurographics. He regularly contributes to his research community as a member of program committees for various conferences including the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (ACM SIGGRAPH) and Eurographics. He has served as an associate editor for journals such as Computer Graphics Forum, The Visual Computer, and IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics.

Zwicker received an ETH Silver Medal for his Ph.D. in computer science from ETH in Zurich, Switzerland, in 2003, and completed postdoctoral research at MIT.

—Story by Abby Robinson