Logo: University of Southern California

A Message from the Program Director (video)

The 21st century is dominated by the quantity and influence of information and data.  The ways we interact, how we innovate, and our national security depend on how well we can collect, manage, share, analyze, understand, present, and secure data. The breadth and depth of information available presents opportunities for creativity, entrepreneurship, and outreach that are global. The sheer quantity and our growing dependence also create grand challenges.

Our goal is to create an educational program that focuses on how information can be applied to solve real-world problems in academia, industry and government; how engineering can integrate with a multitude of diverse disciplines to enable such solutions; and how we can secure the requisite data, software and infrastructure.

Our goals are simple: to offer superior education in relevant engineering topics, combine this with outstanding offerings from across our great campus, and produce students who have world-class technical capability and immersion into a domain – whether intellectual or more applied – where it is needed. We believe that the future relies on these hybrid students, and that academia, industry and government all crave this type of background. 

To launch the Program, we are offering degrees that answer two of the Grand Challenges of Engineering: Cyber Security and Big Data. Recognizing that today’s problems cannot be solved through a singular field of study, the Informatics Program is also planning in the near future degrees that combine elements of engineering with medicine, business, communication, the arts, and law. 
Information moves the world. Technology gives us power over information that is breaking barriers in every realm of life. Join VSoE’s Informatics and help us engage information to shape tomorrow.

Computer Science vs. Informatics

Computer science studies information and its transformation in the abstract, focusing more on algorithmic generality than on specific forms of content. In contrast, informatics focuses directly on the forms of information that are vital in so many intellectual and application domains, plus the forms of information processing that are central to its use in these domains – including sensing and gathering, transporting and securing, managing and analyzing, simulating and understanding, and visualizing and presenting. As such it is a broad academic field encompassing computing and information technologies and their diverse relation to the world, with applications in science, medicine, social sciences, humanities, the arts, business and government.

Informatics bears much the same relationship to computer science that applied math bears to mathematics.  Both informatics and applied math are general interface disciplines that relate an abstract but potentially useful body of knowledge to its uses in other fields.  Each also has specializations for particularly important fields, such as mathematical physics and bioinformatics.  Recently there has been an explosion of such specializations in informatics, including, for example, bioinformatics, business informatics, ecoinformatics, education informatics, geoinformatics, health informatics, neuroinformatics, and social informatics.