Computer Laboratory


The William Gates Building, completed Summer 2001 The Computer Laboratory is the University of Cambridge's Computer Science department. It consists of about 37 academic staff, 25 support staff, 40 affiliated research staff, and 154 research students. Professor Andy Hopper is the Head of Department.

The Laboratory undertakes research in a broad range of subjects within the disciplines of Computer Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics. Current research areas include bioinformatics, computer architecture, computer vision, distributed systems, graphics and human-computer interaction, logic and semantics, machine learning, natural language processing, networking and wireless communication, operating systems and virtualization, programming, security, and sustainable computing.

The Cambridge Diploma in Computer Science, which ran from 1953 to 2008, was the world's first taught course in computing. Undergraduate teaching was introduced in 1970. The MPhil in Advanced Computer Science, introduced in 2009, is a 1-year postgraduate course designed to prepare students for doctoral research. A specialist MPhil in speech and language processing ran from 1986 to 2010 and was taught jointly with the Department of Engineering; many of its course modules continue in the MPhil ACS programme. At present there are about 270 undergraduate and 50 MPhil students. A further 154 postgraduates are engaged in research for the PhD degree.

Building on its long and distinguished history, the Computer Laboratory continues with world class teaching and research. The grade point average for the Computer Laboratory's submission to the latest (2008) UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) was the highest of all submissions to Computer Science and Informatics. Moreover, along with the Department of Engineering and the Department of Material Science and Metallurgy, it attained the highest grade point average among departments in Cambridge. It also received the top rating (6*) in the previous RAE and was rated as excellent in the most recent (2003) UK teaching quality assessment.

The Computer Laboratory is housed in the William Gates Building on the West Cambridge Site. Contact details can be found on the contacts page, and instructions for how to get to the Computer Laboratory can be found on the directions page.

For more information see

A brief history of the Laboratory

Mathematical Laboratory entrance in the 1950s Cambridge has been an internationally respected centre of learning since the 13th century. Over the course of the last century the University of Cambridge has been the origin of fundamental advances in nuclear physics, molecular biology and computer science. Over three hundred companies and commercial laboratories specialising in computing and advanced technology are concentrated in the area.

The Computer Laboratory was founded in 1937 (as the Mathematical Laboratory) for work on mechanical calculators and analogue computers. It became involved in digital computing after 1945 under the direction of Professor Maurice Wilkes. Some of the Cambridge developments of that period belong in the basic stock of computing knowledge, for example the ideas of subroutines and of microprogramming.

In those early days the study of computing as an academic subject and the provision of computing facilities to the University as a whole were intimately bound together. The research undertaken involved either the production of workable computer systems (both hardware and software) or the development of new computer application techniques. Original pioneering work in building complete computers (the EDSAC was commissioned in 1949 and the EDSAC 2 in 1958) gave way to the early development of programming languages and operating systems. The latter included the first British time-sharing operating system on the Titan computer. In 1980 Professor Roger Needham succeeded Wilkes as head of the laboratory, a post which he held for 15 years. Subsequent heads have been Professor Robin Milner, Professor Ian Leslie (now pro-vice chancellor) and Professor Andy Hopper. The 50th anniversary of EDSAC was celebrated in a two-day event, EDSAC 99.

For a more detailed history of the Laboratory, see Karen Sparck-Jones' "informal history of the Computer Laboratory", originally compiled for EDSAC 99 and updated to include information about the Laboratory's most recent history.