Computer Science Tree Project

Q: What is special about discarded old Computer Science periodicals?
A: They were printed on what was once a tree... but you will also very likely find a tree inside them!

When we think of computers and their role in waste, recycling, and our planet, our mind generally goes to the toxic waste and other ills represented by our growing dependence on electronics— and when we focus more closely on trees and the promise of a paperless future, our patience is further challenged.
Ironically, trees are arguably one of the most central conceptual tools in Computer Science, in fact, one of the few ideas that continue to figure prominently from the early days of a nascent field to present cutting-edge research. Trees are used to conceptualize everything from mundane algorithms that organize data for financial transactions to planning actions for an artificial intelligence agent or a chess-playing grandmaster.

This is a community project with a tree theme in the broadest possible sense.

What we do

The Villanova community celebrates the central role of the concept of a "tree" in our subject and the contributions of Computer Science to a more sustainable future.
The computer science tree project pays homage to all trees, real or conceptual:

A large forest inspires awe and we can say the same about the past seventy years of computer science publications. What is the role of the individual tree in that forest? Join us in this journey.

Adopt a Tree

By adopting a tree, you pay homage to the "trees" printed on old periodicals.

Would you like to “adopt” a Computer Science tree?
Choose a print copy of an old computer science periodical (journal, conference proceedings, or magazine). Answer the questions below. Email your entry to with subject “CS Tree Project”. Adopted trees will eventually be featured in the project website.
You can download template (Microsoft Word format) and fill in the information or create your own document in whatever format you prefer. See some examples here and here.
•    Article Reference
–    Title:
–    Author:
–    Year:
–    Publication (name of journal/magazine/conference):
–    Publisher:
–    Journal link (if available):
–    Article link (if available):
•    General problem addressed by article:
•    ACM Computing Classification (see
•    Specific problem addressed using the tree:
 (determine as many of the following as possible)
–    Type of Tree:
–    Root:
–    Height:
–    Edges:
•    Image(s) of tree and periodical:
•    Why is this tree interesting?
•    How is this tree relevant to what I am studying?
•    Periodical/tree adoption data:
–    Date adopted:
–    Adopter (state if you wish to remain anonymous, if we post this on a website):
–    History of printed copy of this publication:
•    Published: publication date
•    Villanova, Mendel 159: publication date-2014
•    Villanova, Mendel 162C: 2014- April 2019
•    Current location: April 2019 - ??? (city or GPS coordinates)
–    Future plans (disposed? recycled? how/where?)
•    Comments:

History of the project:

By 2014 (last major Department of Computing Sciences offices renovation), the Computer Science Reading Room (Mendel 159) was like a time-capsule: There were many years of each of the journals, magazines, conference proceedings on our shelves, but pretty much all of them stopped at around 2001 or 2004, or thereabouts. With very few exceptions (e.g., Communications of the ACM) there were no recent issues. It is not that these periodicals or conferences stopped publishing; thanks to advances in Web technology, they started publishing online. The faculty and students using these publications also preferred the ease of searching and using them online, so the printed copies that lined the walls functioned more as decoration (or insulation?), so for its last years it functioned as a beloved spot to eat lunch or play bridge or hold refreshments after a colloquium in a "back to Y2K" decor. So it was only logical that, like libraries and reading rooms around the world, the old, redundant print copies of periodicals should be discarded. Some faculty, however, felt that, unlike old printed periodicals in other disciplines, our periodicals were special, rather more special, because of their intimate connection with the concept of a tree. In particular, one faculty member has been keeping them in her office for the past five years, while trying to formulate a way to create a community project that honors both the past and future of the trees that they represent.
old periodicals stacked in Dr P's office Mendel 162Cold periodicals stacked in Dr P's office Mendel 162C

The Computer Science Tree Project was launched in April 2019 as part of the study of trees in the Discrete Structures (CSC 1300) course. Although it was started by Mary-Angela Papalaskari, it represents the ideas and creativity of many people at Villanova and beyond.

More information and a website to come, but if you would like to be involved, you can "adopt" a computer science tree.

trees sculpted out of periodicals The trees created by students in CSC 1300 are currently on display in Mendel 292.

On April 25, 2019 they will be moved to Connelly Center where they will be featured in the Sustainability Fair, part of Villanova Earth Week 2019 Celebration
assembling the tree our of old periodicals

Q: Is this project primarily about CS trees or about real trees?
A: What is a tree?

Q: So, is this, like, an art project?
A: What is art?

More questions? Contact