RIT Approves Ph.D. Program in Computing & Information Sciences

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One of the most powerful men in America, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, recently warned that a declining interest in science and technology among our nation’s children could weaken the American economy. The “brain drain” is a concern in communities across the nation, and Rochester is no exception.

In an effort to keep Rochester’s economic climate healthy and encourage students to pursue science and engineering with a foundation in computing, Rochester Institute of Technology has approved a Ph.D. program in computing and information sciences. This will be RIT’s third Ph.D. program.

The Ph.D. program, focusing on use-driven domain computing, will be offered through RIT’s B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, the largest comprehensive computing college in the nation. The doctoral degree aims to cultivate independent scholars, well-prepared teachers and educators, and researchers able to work in interdisciplinary environments.

“The Rochester area has long been a focal point for advances in science and engineering,” says Sandra Parker, chief executive officer of the Rochester Business Alliance and member of RIT’s Board of Trustees. “This new Ph.D. program will only enhance the needed collaboration between technical disciplines which will serve as a magnet for attracting talented individuals to our region. It can only add to the economic advancement of our community.”

George Heron, an electrical engineering student at RIT in the ‘70s, is eager to return to RIT as a doctoral student. Heron, chief technology officer for SafeNet Inc., located in Maryland, works closely with large financial institutions, the U.S. military and various federal government agencies to develop security solutions and products to protect corporate information, intellectual property and digital identities. Heron says he’s excited to work with researchers from other disciplines to identify and develop more encompassing security solutions.

“The Ph.D. program is groundbreaking and is a multi-dimensional win for industry as a whole and for my company, as well as being personally gratifying for me,” says Heron. “Through this graduate research, I can gain additional insight to information security methodologies that will create a stronger cyberinfrastructure for the industry and improved tools in the fight against cyberterrorism.”

Homeland security is just one area driven by computing environments. Another is healthcare informatics. The domain of expertise is concerned with strategies, solutions and safety-critical computing systems to support medical professions.

RIT’s Golisano College has established the Center for Advancing the Study of Cyberinfrastructure to serve as the research facility for the Ph.D. students and faculty. Faculty members from several colleges are conducting interdisciplinary research within 14 laboratories of the center. Doctoral students will be required to work at the research center as part of the program.

“The Ph.D. program is the crown jewel of the college,” says Jorge Diaz-Herrera, dean of the Golisano College. “This is a very comprehensive college with state-of-the-art facilities, and the Ph.D. program will allow us to put our advanced research into perspective. The program will involve a small percentage of our large faculty so we can maintain our focus on undergraduate education while conducting world-class use driven, computing-enabled research, which will also benefit our undergraduate programs.”

RIT has approved the program, and it’s now awaiting state approval. The program is expected to accept up to 10 students per year.

RIT also offers doctorates in imaging science and microsystems engineering.