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Fred Harris | Giving – Nevada Today

University Advancement
2022 Foundation Professor Fred Harris talks about how the Department of Computer Science & Engineering has grown over the years and how computer models are helping fight wildfires.
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Fred Harris, Jr. came to the University in 1994 after completing his Ph.D. in computer science at Clemson University. At the time, he was an assistant professor in a department with only five faculty members. Over the past 28 years, Harris has witnessed impressive growth with the department now boasting more than 20 full-time faculty and the addition of a Ph.D. program.
“It’s been quite a rapid growth,” said Harris. “I’ve had 14 Ph.D. students finish and over 80 master’s thesis students finish.” Whether in the classroom, the research labs or going on stage to hood a doctorate student, Harris’ passion for his career has always centered on one thing: interacting and shaping his students.
Harris also serves as director of Nevada’s Established Programs to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and is the principal investigator for the Harnessing the Data Revolution for Fire Science project which recently received $20 million in funding from the National Science Foundation. A Nevada System of Higher Education collaboration involving the University, Desert Research Institute and UNLV, this project will generate data to accurately model landscapes and wildland fires.
“We do simulations and visualization of wildfires with satellite imagery and virtual reality so researchers can accurately map landscapes and fires,” Harris said. “The nice part is that we can actually pause the simulation, let the people discuss what they should do in case there’s an incident — possibly to build a fire break, have a water drop come in, change the wind — things that you can’t do in real life.”


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