Gift from Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg helps establish new building for computer science at USC

Support from ophthalmologist Allen Ginsburg and his wife, Charlotte, will help the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s computer and data science programs continue their dramatic growth.

January 29, 2020 Eric Lindberg

The thriving field of computer science will soon have a new state-of-the-art home at USC thanks to a lead gift from dedicated USC supporters Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg.

The 98,000-square-foot structure will house the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science. Research and teaching in the building will focus on advancing computer science’s critical role in improving and benefiting society through areas including artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics.

In recognition of their lead donation, the structure will be named the Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Human-Centered Computation Building.

Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg gift
USC supporters Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg view computer science as a powerful tool to make breakthroughs in many different fields. (USC Photo/Steve Cohn)

“Computing power is transforming many fields by helping scientists analyze big data sets and find innovative new solutions to the most complex challenges facing society today,” said USC President Carol L. Folt. “This new building will provide a cutting-edge home for our computer science students, researchers and other experts from numerous disciplines across the university as they collaborate on pressing issues like Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, human trafficking and homelessness. We are deeply grateful to Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg for this wonderful gift.”

The new building’s planned location on the University Park Campus next to Michelson Hall — which houses the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience and Irani Hall, home to the university’s life sciences programs — reflects the increasing connections among computing and medicine, health technology and biology. USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos said computer science transcends all disciplines.

“Computer science, information technology and engineering at large empower pretty much every other discipline in the world today,” Yortsos said. “This building will be the center of advances in human-centered computing that will enable us to create a better world for all humanity.”

He said USC’s endeavors in computer science, including the Department of Computer Science, Information Sciences Institute and Institute of Creative Technologies, make USC one of the leading academic enterprises in computer science in U.S. higher education and research. USC’s multidisciplinary landscape, with dozens of academic and professional schools, holds the promise of exciting partnerships built around computing, Yortsos said.

That includes successful initiatives like the Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society, the Machine Learning Center, the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center and the Center for Quantum Information Science and Technology.

The new facility will provide much-needed room for the computer science department to continue its rapid growth, with modern laboratories, discussion areas and many new spaces for collaboration.

“One of the most exciting aspects of computer science is its power to accelerate breakthroughs in nearly every field,” Allen Ginsburg said. “Charlotte and I believe our support of computer science at USC will lead to bold new ideas and advances that will benefit humankind and our planet.”

Computer science’s multidisciplinary applications help it grow at USC

Since its creation in 1968, USC’s Department of Computer Science has made invaluable contributions to fundamental areas of computing, including artificial intelligence, cryptography, internet technology, health computing, robotics, software development and computer graphics.

Thanks to the growing reliance on computing power to seek solutions to important societal issues, the department has experienced unprecedented growth in recent years. Since 2011, its student population has tripled, and the department now boasts more than 90 faculty members, 360 doctoral students, 2,000 master’s students and 1,200 undergraduates.

Its investment in research and education has paid off with recognition as one of the leading computer science programs in the nation. The program earned the top spot in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report rankings for best online master’s programs in information technology (reflecting USC Viterbi’s degrees in computer science and data sciences). It was the eighth consecutive year the program ranked No. 1.

That growth has also translated to increasing demand for space to conduct research and collaborate with scientists from other disciplines. The new computer science building’s innovative design will emphasize open areas that will encourage discussions and interactions among researchers, students and scientists from across USC and other institutions.

“This unique facility will become the beating heart of computing,” Yortsos said. “Even though we live in a world where physical space is supposed to be less important, it is, in fact, becoming more critical than ever to create ‘human collisions,’ which will help generate new ideas and incubate new breakthroughs. In fact, the physical proximity with the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience is expected to further accelerate computational advances for the solution of challenging biomedical problems.”

New computer science building will help USC attract skilled researchers and students

Yortsos expects the building to boost USC Viterbi’s ability to draw and retain top faculty members, researchers and students across the engineering discipline. In addition to supporting the construction of the new facility, the Ginsburgs’ gift will also establish the Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Early Career Chair in Computer Science. This endowed chair will be held by a junior faculty member with the promise of an outstanding career trajectory.

“Attracting and retaining talent in computer science, particularly at the junior level, is one of the most important challenges we face,” Yortsos said. “Recruiting new talent in computer science is very competitive in today’s world. The recognition and added resources of an early career chair can make an important difference.”

He credited the Ginsburgs and many other supporters of the school for recognizing the value of investing in computer science as a way to improve society and spur innovation in fields like neuroscience, social work, medicine and the arts.

“We are very grateful to the Ginsburgs,” he said. “They could have invested generously elsewhere, but they chose to invest in us. Their generosity is a great vote of confidence in what we do. It supports our vision of computer science as a force for good and our goal of engineering a better world for all humanity.”

A previous gift from the couple in 2018 named the USC Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, where scientists collaborate on new approaches to diagnosing and treating diseases that cause blindness, as well as other neurosensory disorders. Researchers from the institute, including ophthalmology and biomedical engineering expert Mark Humayun, will also have space in the new computer science building and the adjacent Michelson Hall.

“What inspired Charlotte and me to provide the lead gift for this new computer science building was USC’s reputation for embracing convergent research,” Allen Ginsburg said. “We envision that this building will bring together researchers from many different areas to develop innovative approaches to complex problems focusing on the most vital societal needs.”

Allen Ginsburg is a retired ophthalmologist with a focus on entrepreneurship, real estate and philanthropy. He is a self-described futurist who is deeply concerned with issues concerning the planet and universe. Charlotte Ginsburg’s interests including performing arts, dance, theater, and costume and fashion design. The couple also supports programs that promote environmental sustainability. The longtime Southern California residents live in Palos Verdes.