Founding Director of The Noyce School of Applied Computing Shares First-Year Goals, Five-Year Dreams 

Professor Chris Lupo was named founding director of The Noyce School of Applied Computing in March. He calls the chance to launch the new school a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Photos by Dennis Steers

Professor Chris Lupo knew establishing a school of applied computing at Cal Poly would be a game changer for the College of Engineering as it supports students and faculty in a field seeing explosive growth. 

He also knew he wanted to lead The Noyce School of Applied Computing – the first interdisciplinary school of its kind at Cal Poly, made possible by a transformational gift from the Robert N. Noyce Trust.  

A hiring committee agreed Lupo was the best choice, naming him founding director in March after a nationwide candidate search. He will officially begin his assignment this summer.  

“I was excited from the beginning,” said Lupo, who took part in early discussions about the endowment as chair of the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that perfectly aligned with my own experience and education.”  

The Noyce School combines three departments – Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Software Engineering, and Computer Engineering – to create opportunities for students and faculty using computer principles, concepts and technologies to address real-world problems.  

Lupo has experience in all three areas – with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from California State University, Fresno, along with a master’s and doctorate in computer engineering from the University of California, Davis. He has chaired the CSSE Department for the last six years.  

The launch of the Noyce School could not have come at a better time.  

The demand for graduates with applied computing is far outpacing supply, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting jobs in computing and information technology will climb 15% from 2021 to 2031 – much faster than the average for all occupations.  

“Our ability to lift up computing is a win for everyone,” Lupo said. “Faculty members across campus recognize the tremendous potential of The Noyce School to Cal Poly as a whole; there is a tangible sense of excitement and enthusiasm around the launch.” 

Chris Lupo pictured next to computer equipment

The founding director expanded on the benefits The Noyce School will bring, along with his own goals and dreams, during a recent interview:  

Q: What is the driving principle behind The Noyce School?  

A: We want to invest in undergraduate experience and elevate Cal Poly’s applied computing curricula to a national level. This endowment will allow us to expand our research and open up opportunities for students to work with faculty in new and exciting ways. The possibilities are endless in terms of collaborations, strategic corporate partnerships and capstone projects.  

Right now, there are more faculty projects than there is funding. Through The Noyce School, we can fund more research, which is at the core of what we do.  

Q: What role will The Noyce School play in sending graduates into a workforce that is growing and changing so rapidly? 

A: Fifteen percent of all applications to Cal Poly are for four majors in three departments: software engineering, computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering. We had 7,600 computer science applications for 200 seats, and the number of applications just keeps growing. We end up turning away very qualified students because we are trying to keep classes small, but The Noyce School could eventually allow us to scale up.  

With the endowment, we can also invest in state-of-the-art equipment for labs so our students can learn with the best tools, and we can stay current with the newest technologies.  

Q: How will you work with departments across campus?  

A: I have good relationships across campus that I believe I can leverage to build collaborations. There are so many interdisciplinary projects with computing components that The Noyce School could fund and support.  

I have worked closely with the chairs for the Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering departments to launch The Noyce School, and those three founding departments now have the opportunity to redesign their curriculum. In fact, those discussions already are underway in preparation for the change to semesters.  

Q: What do you hope to carry out in your first year as director? 

A: I want to stand up an industry advisory board and set up transparent procedures to invest the endowment funds that could be used for faculty research, clubs, undergraduate projects, laptops for students in need and the summer undergraduate research program.  

We will offer our first class to students in the fall as a welcome to The Noyce School, a class many departments will require after the conversion to semesters. I would also like to host a speaker series and seminars.  

Q: What are other benefits to students and faculty The Noyce School will bring? 

A: The Noyce School will support the existing student tutoring center, offered free to students. The Computer Science and Software Engineering Department has sponsored six tutors, but we’d like to hire more tutors to keep the center open every weekday.  

We will work to attract and retain talented faculty members, offering attractive startup packages and exciting research opportunities.  

Q: Where do you see The Noyce School in three to five years?  

A: Breaking ground on a new building! It’s a big dream, but I believe we can accomplish it. I would also like to see sustained growth in the program and a thriving community built up around the school.  

Q: What do you enjoy about Cal Poly and the surrounding community? 

A: Cal Poly was my first choice of place to work. There was a level of excellence in colleagues and friends who had attended or taught at Cal Poly. Learn by Doing is really valuable, and I was drawn by that hands-on approach to education.  

I love the buzz and energy around Dexter Lawn, and I enjoy visiting Poly Canyon and the Architecture Graveyard. Off campus, my wife, Jennifer, and I take full advantage of what the San Luis Obispo area has to offer – biking, hiking, walking, exploring beaches. SLO is a lifestyle, not just a city.  

By Emily Slater