Computer Science

A Guide to Computer Science at Tufts

A Guide to Computer Science at Tufts
Tufts is highly selective when it comes to enrolling new students in its computer science programs. School-wide, the undergraduate acceptance rate is about 15 percent. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry September 21, 2020

Tufts University's reputation as a computer science school has grown over the years. Today, many people put the CS programs at Tufts on equal footing with elite schools like MIT and Harvard.

Computer Science Programs You Should Consider

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Tufts University, located in Medford (just outside of Boston, Massachusetts), is a prestigious liberal arts school well-known in the computer engineering world for its high-quality graduates.

There are many compelling reasons to check out the Tufts’ CS undergraduate and computer science master’s programs. Let’s look at five of them.

  • The faculty is fantastic—not just their bona fides, but how they’re rated by the people who take their classes. It’s not unusual to see current students and alumni praising Tufts CS professors by name in threads on sites like Reddit and Niche. Expect to develop mentor relationships with field leaders during your tenure here.
  • The curriculum in the computer science bachelor’s degree and CS master’s degree programs is rigorous.
  • Tufts’ relatively small size enables students to connect one-on-one with professors, researchers, and mentors. There are even opportunities to participate in innovative interdisciplinary research as an undergraduate.
  • Most computer science programs at Tufts are overseen by the School of Engineering, and course content is frequently revised and updated. Computer science majors at Tufts get a cutting-edge education.
  • Tufts’ location at the center of Boston’s tech hub means tons of networking and job-search opportunities.

Ready to learn more about Tufts’ comp sci programs? In this article about computer science at Tufts, we cover:

  • What sets the computer science department at Tufts apart
  • How to get into Tufts for computer science
  • The degrees offered by the Department of Computer Science at Tufts
  • What the computer science facilities at Tufts are like
  • The research initiatives happening in Tufts’ computer science department
  • How Tufts supports its CS graduates

What sets the computer science department at Tufts apart

  • Tufts University is located next to the third fastest-growing tech hub in the United States.__ There are tons of technology companies nearby where students can land summer internships and post-graduation jobs.
  • The student body is diverse. More than 25 percent of Tufts CS students are women (which, sadly, is relatively high for tech programs). The program encourages first-generation college students and first-time computer science students.
  • Undergraduate students can choose computer science concentrations. Students interested in specific focus areas (more on this below) receive additional guidance when selecting courses to dive more deeply into subjects like robotics or AI.
  • __The computer science master’s program at Tufts can be completed entirely online__ in under two years. Distance learners receive the same support and mentoring as students on campus.
  • There is an undergraduate computer science TA program. After taking a training course, undergrad computer science students at Tufts help grade exams, lead labs, and hold office hours. They learn by helping others learn and mentoring less-experienced CS undergrads.
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How to get into Tufts for computer science

Tufts is highly selective when it comes to enrolling new students in its computer science programs. School-wide, the undergraduate acceptance rate is about 15 percent. Most incoming undergrads have great grades, SAT scores between 1380 and 1530 or ACT scores between 31 and 34, and some real-world computer science experience.

To get into the CS master’s program, applicants have to meet even more exacting benchmarks. The application guidelines for the on-campus and online Master of Science in Computer Science programs explicitly state that applicants must “demonstrate core competence as expected from a high-quality undergraduate program in computer science” in the areas of:

  • Computer architecture and assembly language
  • Data structures and analysis of algorithms
  • Programming languages (specifically, functional programming and object-oriented programming with inheritance)
  • Theory of computation

What this means is that you don’t technically need to have graduated from a bachelor’s-level computer science degree program to get a master’s in computer science at Tufts, but you’d better be able to demonstrate self-taught knowledge and have strong GRE scores. If you have software engineering experience, even better.

As to why Tufts doesn’t bother with an entry-level CS program, look no further than student outcomes. In a thread about computer science at Tufts, one Reddit commenter wrote that the school’s selectivity “allows the CS department to produce extremely qualified and desirable applicants for full-time positions in industry and graduate programs… individual students may have different challenges progressing through the major, but the way I saw it, even as someone who struggled with it occasionally, was that it was a rigorous major at a rigorous school. That’s what I signed up for. And when I saw how I was performing compared to other interns last summer, I knew that I was getting a good education.”

The degrees offered by the Department of Computer Science at Tufts

Undergraduate CS students at Tufts can choose between four main degree pathways:

  • A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in Computer Science granted by the Tufts University School of Arts & Sciences
  • A Bachelor of Science in Computer Science granted by the School of Engineering
  • A Bachelor of Science in Data Science
  • A Computer Science minor

Students are also able to choose from among what the school calls focus areas. These are unofficial concentrations that provide some additional structure for students who are interested in:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Bioinformatics
  • Cyber security
  • Human-robot interaction
  • Robotics

At the master’s level, most people associate the Department of Computer Science at Tufts with the school’s one-year and two-year on-campus and online Master of Science in Computer Science programs. The computer science department at Tufts also offers other degrees, including the:

  • Master of Science in Bioengineering with a Bioinformatics track
  • Master of Science in Computer Engineering
  • Master of Science in Computer Science and Innovation & Management
  • Master of Science in Cyber Security and Policy
  • Master of Science in Data Science
  • Master of Science in Human-Robot Interaction
  • Master of Science in Software Systems Development

The Tufts Department of Computer Science doesn’t publish a list of possible concentration options. However, the School of Engineering allows grad students to create custom concentrations with an advisor.

The comp sci department also offers doctoral (PhD) degrees in computer science, cognitive science, and human-robot interaction, as well as practice-oriented certificate and post-baccalaureate programs in computer science, computer engineering, data science, and human-computer interaction.

What the computer science facilities at Tufts are like

For now, the Department of Computer Science at Tufts University is located in Halligan Hall on the Medford Campus. Most (though not all) bachelor’s-level and master’s-level CS courses at Tufts are held here, with several computing labs outfitted with student versions of popular and specialty software suites. This is also where most (again, not all) computer science faculty and graduate student offices are housed. There are also interdisciplinary research spaces nearby open to Tufts comp sci students.

In 2021, the new Cummings building will become the home of the Computer Science Department at Tufts. This change will mean that the entire CS department will be in the same building, with office, lab, and classroom space enough to accommodate all faculty and students.

The research initiatives happening in Tufts’ computer science department

Tufts’ robust support for research constitutes one of the signal strengths of its computer science program. Faculty in the CS department conduct original research—often as part of interdisciplinary collaborations with other departments and with companies and research labs around Boston. CS majors and students pursuing graduate degrees in Tufts University’s computer science department can take advantage of opportunities to work closely with students and professors from the Tufts School of Medicine, Tufts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and the departments of biology, chemistry, astrophysics, electrical engineering, civil engineering, and psychology.

Right now, there are people in the computer science department at Tufts working on research into:

  • AI and machine learning
  • Algorithmic theory
  • Cognitive brain science
  • Computational biology
  • Cyber security
  • Data science
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Programming language theory
  • Robotics and human-robot interactions
  • The social impact of networked systems
  • Visualization and graphics

How Tufts supports its CS graduates

Given Tufts’ location near Boston, it should come as no surprise that computer science students make valuable connections, land top-notch internships, and are often recruited by local and non-local companies. Tufts computer science students work at firms like:

  • Ab Initio
  • Amazon and Amazon Robotics
  • Apple
  • athenahealth
  • Charles River Analytics
  • GE Digital
  • Google
  • Jet Propulsion Lab
  • MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory
  • MITRE
  • Salesforce
  • Wayfair

“We send people to Google, Microsoft, and Facebook every year,” wrote one commenter in the Reddit thread about computer science at Tufts linked above. “I think that we are getting noticed more and more, especially by medium-sized companies that don’t have the resources to go to every school, so in that way, it’s getting to be a better program. I probably wouldn’t be at SpaceX right now if they hadn’t come to visit Tufts and given me the chance to speak to the recruiters in person rather than being a random resume in a pile.”

Tufts may only be #75 on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the best schools for computer science. However, it’s important to remember that this ranking is based on answers to surveys submitted by professors at similar institutions—not the experiences of students, the quality of the instruction, the overall robustness of pre- and post-graduation support, or student outcomes. Computer science students at Tufts graduate are ready to take on any computational challenge.

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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