Citing serious health problems, Computer Science Director of Graduate Studies Drew McDermott has decided to take a leave of absence for the remainder of the semester, Computer Science chairman Paul Hudak said.

Hudak added that he could not discuss the details of McDermott’s illness for privacy reasons. Currently, both McDermott and the department are awaiting an official diagnosis, which may come by the end of this week, said Dejing Dou GRD ’05, McDermott’s student and teaching assistant.

Although the department has appointed computer science professor David Gelernter as the acting DGS, it has yet to find a person to teach the remainder of McDermott’s “Introduction to Programming” course.

Hudak, who has taught the course before, will take over the administrative aspects of the course, but it is unclear who will give the remaining lectures.

“The problem is finding someone who knows the material and can jump in the middle of the semester to teach the course,” Hudak said. “I’ve been working frantically over the past several days to figure it out.”

The department tried to hire a professor from abroad to replace McDermott, but the plans fell through because of visa problems, Hudak said.

McDermott informed Hudak that he would have to take a leave last Wednesday, and as a result, Monday’s programming class was canceled. Although the class will not meet today either, McDermott had already scheduled that cancellation in observance of Passover. Hudak says he hopes to resume classes by Friday.

Ameer Kim El-Mallawany ’05, who is in McDermott’s course, said although McDermott’s sudden departure poses some inconveniences, the situation is understandable.

“It kind of disrupts the class, but I understand,” El-Mallawany said. “It’s really unfortunate because he was a great teacher.”

Because of this week’s cancellations, the students will be required to make up the missed classes during reading week.

“It’s a very unfortunate situation and we’re doing all we can to accommodate his condition,” Hudak said. “The students won’t miss any material, but they’ll have to be flexible.”

Jessica Luk ’05, a student in McDermott’s course, said she thought the students should be informed of McDermott’s condition.

“It’s got to be pretty serious for a professor to leave right in the middle of the semester,” Luk said. “But I think we have a right to know why he’s leaving. It’s very disruptive to the class since we’re all used to the way he teaches and now it’ll take time for us to adjust again.”

Because McDermott’s condition has yet to be officially diagnosed, Hudak said it is unclear whether McDermott will return next fall or not.

“We’re going to have to wait and see how things work out,” Hudak said. “We all pray and hope that he recovers and that he’ll be back with us this summer or fall.”