BYU President Rex E. Lee said the university's computer science program has been compared to a cancer because it spread and grew so fast that the school had a difficult time accommodating it.
"But I think we have found a cure," Lee said.A major step toward that cure was the completion of the James E. Talmage Building for Mathematical and Computer Sciences.
The building boasts a $5.5 million, 54,000-square-foot expansion, which includes a 220-seat auditorium, facilities for 250 computer workstations, and four stories of office and graduate-student study space.
Jodi Jones, a BYU senior majoring in computer sciences, was an usher for tours of the new facility.
"This is the first time the computer science facilities have been all together in one building," she said. The department, which has about 600 undergraduate, 100 master's and about 15 doctoral students, still has to hold some of its beginning-level classes in other places on campus.
Jones said only about 10 percent of those students are female, but the number is growing.
According to Lee, when he graduated from BYU in 1960, a computer science major wasn't offered, and only "infant" computers were available.
This building, which grew as the field grew, is a good representative of its namesake, Lee said. "Talmage was the perfect role model in academic, professional and spiritual excellence."
Henry B. Eyring, member of the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and BYU's board of trustees, said, "James E. Talmage would have loved computers."
The building that now bears his name is the epitome of fact-finding efficiency, Eyring said. "Talmage loved data and he found time precious."
The administration and BYU's trustees aren't the only ones pleased with the expansion of the building. The students are impressed, too.
David Strobelt, a senior, and Rob Clawson, a graduate student, both in computer science, said they have noticed an incredible difference in the new facilities.
"Today, I called Sweden and Berkeley University (California) to get information from the schools' data systems," said Strobelt.
Before the building was completed and furnished, the department had only small personal computers, but now the possibilities are endless, he said.
Strobelt described an "artificial intelligence" class in which the students learn how to program computers to think for themselves - in a sense.
"Computers really can't think," he said. But the student can put in half of a dog's face and then teach the computer how to "think" and draw the other half of the face.
Clawson, who wants to work with international computer networking, said the new equipment allows students to monitor many other computers as new students learn.
"There is a noticeable difference in the technology that the university has," Clawson said.