profile panorama photo
Game Design and Development
Port Washington NY

Riding on Light Waves: Inside Imaging Science

Kevin Granger on Friday, 05 November 2010. Posted in Alumni, Research

Imagine this: you, as a part of the only university with a one-of-a-kind undergraduate program, with a greater than 99% immediate graduate school or job placement rate, with a starting salary of up to $70,000.

Imagine this: you, with the opportunity to be hired by NASA, the CIA, Microsoft, HP, Boeing, or many others.

Imagine this: you, an Imaging Science major.

What is Imaging Science? It’s hard to describe. Imaging Science incorporates many factors that influence and make the capture and the analysis of imagery possible. It’s a mixture of physics, math, computer science, and engineering. It attracts those who are unsure of their career and educational path, as well as those who are dead-serious about their choice. 

Imaging Science Platypus Poster
“We have this little unofficial mascot of a platypus - much the same way that a platypus is a combination of other animals, Imaging Science is a combination of disciplines. You can think of the platypus's duck bill as physics, the beaver tail as computer science, the webbed feet as engineering, the fact that it lays eggs as calculus, etc. We're a multidisciplinary hybrid.”
---Bethany Choate, Imaging Science Outreach Specialist.

[More info on the Platypus]

It’s an appealing major to anyone in those field(s), really. Entering from high school, you’re not required to have any advanced classes under your belt (you don’t even need to take pre-calculus, although it’s recommended).

If you do come in from high school with a lot of AP Credit, you may even be able to get second-year status, and get a Bachelors Degree in only 3 years. You can even choose to take a 4+1 BS/MS option.

The time spent here by Imaging Science students is certainly enjoyable. I was able to sit in on an IS & T session (the Society for Imaging Science and Technology). I was amazed by the small, connected group of people sitting in the same room, all of them the same major. Imagine a Society of Physics Students meeting, but with the entire major there! There, I asked some current students about their experiences with Imaging Science.

“My favourite thing about imaging science is that it allows me to mix my artistic inclinations with my technical abilities,” said Joel Witwer, a fourth year Imaging Science student. “I almost came to school to be a film major, but, as much as I love making videos, I don't think I had the creative drive to make a significant mark on the field. Imaging Science allowed me to stay in touch with the film world by working on the technologies that those creative kids us to make their art. I work to improve the tools that allow the artists to take their work to the next level.”

David Kelbe, another fourth year Imaging Science student, also told me about other experiences he’s had thanks to Imaging Science. “Imaging Science at RIT has afforded me the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand, where I used high-tech satellite imaging to characterize glacier movement in the southern mountains - the very same mountains and glaciers I'd find myself climbing around on during the weekends.” This is the kind of hands-one experience we’re known for at RIT. “Imaging Science has [also] afforded me the opportunity to collect field data in the rugged and wild savanna surrounding Kruger National Park, South Africa, for my senior research thesis using airborne laser scanning for land health assessment.”

Where do you go from there? Possible careers include jobs in environmental applications, national security and defense, astronomical imaging and astrophysics, color science, biomedical imaging, aerial imaging and remote sensing, cultural heritage applications in art and history, and more. Since you’ve just completed the only Undergraduate program for Imaging Science in the whole country, you’re pretty irresistible to potential employers (not to mention the optional Co-ops and internships you can do).

[More Info About Careers]

Or, head on to graduate school, in a variety of programs such as Optics, Astrophysics, Environmental Science, Computer Science, Systems Engineering, and more. For example, Joel Witwer, a fourth-year Imaging Science major said that “I want to go on to be a colour scientist which requires that I go to grad school. Luckily we have the best graduate colour science program in the world here at RIT!”

No matter what you do with your imaging science education, it will definitely help you stand out in a crowd.  Just ask Bethany: “Thanks to Imaging Science, I received a prestigious scholarship from the Department of Homeland Security. At the time, the scholarship program was in its second year. Only about 100 students from across the United States were selected, and up until this past year I had been the only one from RIT ever to be bestowed the honor. The scholarship paid for my last 2 years of tuition in full, provided a monthly stipend (I wasn't allowed to hold another job; I was supposed to focus on school work), and had a summer internship between my 3rd and 4th years which I spent at Pacific Northwest National Lab in Washington state. It was an amazing opportunity, and I completely attribute the fact that I was selected to Imaging Science. Although I was a successful student, I would not have considered myself competitive against 4.0 GPA ivy leaguers and the like. But thanks to my unique background in Imaging Science, I stood out from the crowd. I was not your run of the mill engineer, physicist, biologist, or computer scientist.... I was a bit of everything: an imaging scientist. And that clearly gave me a competitive edge.”

 [More info about how Imaging Science is not photography]

At this point, it may sound too good to be true. Surely, this can’t be right! It’s a pretty apt fear, as scientists doubted the authenticity of the platypus when it was first discovered too. But take my word for it, it’s legitimate, and it’s all right here at RIT.

For more information about Imaging Science, check out the Center for Imaging Science Website.
You can also contact Bethany Choate, the Outreach Specialist for the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.
You can even follow @RITimagingSci on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Kevin Granger is a first-year physics major, and has to admit that he almost considered changing his major after reading about Imaging Science so much. You should follow him on twitter here.