Jim Whitehead

Professor of Computational Media | Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs


237 Baskin Engineering

1156 High Street, SOE3

Santa Cruz, CA 95064

Jim Whitehead is a Professor of Computational Media in the Baskin School of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His research combines insights from artificial intelligence, software engineering and computer games to explore topics such as automatic generation of test scenarios for autonomous vehicles and procedural level design for games. Broad interests have led to research contributions in software bug prediction, software evolution, remote collaborative authoring on the web, serious games, open hypertext, and software architectural styles.

In Baskin Engineering, Jim is working to improve student success and launch experiential learning programs as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs. Student success efforts have focused on reducing equity gaps in engineering courses, improving student retention rates, and fostering a stronger sense of student belonging. Experiential learning programs include a first year engineering design program, and strengthening an existing capstone senior design sequence. Cross-cutting these initiatives are efforts to build a stronger culture of teaching among faculty.

An experienced administrator, Jim served as Department Chair for Computer Science (2000-2014) and then again for Computational Media (2017-2019). In the Academic Senate, he has served on the Committee for Admissions and Financial Aid (CAFA) and Privilege and Tenure (P&T). After serving on over 10 faculty search committees and managing scores of personnel cases as department chair, Jim has considerable expertise in academic personnel within the UC system.

Jim loves to create academic programs. In 2005-06 he led the development of the first computer games major in the University of California, and an early program worldwide. Now 15 years old, it is regularly ranked among the best games programs in the US. In Fall 2021 over 230 frosh entered UCSC as computer game design majors. In 2013-14, Jim helped launch the masters program in games and playable media, the first successful professional masters degree program at UCSC. Jim later led a redesign of this program to improve affordability and professional outcomes.

Gathering like-minded academics together to form communities is another interest. Jim created the Society for the Advancement of the Science of Digital Games (SASDG) to operate the yearly Foundations of Digital Games (FDG) conference series. He also helped form academic communities focused on procedural content generation, and games and software engineering. As a graduate student, Jim created the Internet Engineering Task Force Working Group on Web Distributed Authoring and Versioning (WEBDAV), which led to the creation of several widely used internet protocol standards.

selected publications

  1. TCIAG
    Tanagra: Reactive Planning and Constraint Solving for Mixed-Initiative Level Design
    Smith, Gillian, Whitehead, Jim, and Mateas, Michael
    IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and Artificial Intelligence in Games (TCIAIG) Sep 2011
  2. TSE
    Classifying Software Changes: Clean or Buggy?
    Kim, Sunghun, Whitehead Jr., E. James, and Zhang, Yi
    IEEE Transactions on Software Engineering 2008
  3. PCG
    Spatial Layout of Procedural Dungeons Using Linear Constraints and SMT Solvers
    Whitehead, Jim
    In Proc. 2020 Workshop on Procedural Content Generation (PCG2020) 2020
  4. ISMIR
    Learning to Generate Music with Sentiment
    Ferreira, Lucas, and Whitehead, Jim
    In Proc. 20th International Society for Music Information Retrieval Conference (ISMIR 2019) Nov 2019
  5. MSR
    Why Power Laws? An Explanation from Fine-Grained Code Changes
    Lin, Zhongpeng, and Whitehead, Jim
    In Proceedings of the 12th Working Conference on Mining Software Repositories (MSR 2015) May 2015