Imaging Science bachelor of science degree

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A highly interdisciplinary field that combines aspects of physics, math, computer science, and engineering to understand and develop cutting-edge imaging systems from satellite systems to portable eye trackers to medical imagers to multispectral detectors—anything that involves recording, processing, displaying, or analyzing image data.

You’ll study the science and engineering theories behind image creating technologies, the integration of those technologies into imaging systems, and the application of those systems to solve scientific problems. Your knowledge can be applied to understanding and developing cutting-edge imaging systems, such as portable eye trackers, virtual reality devices, satellite systems, digital cameras, or anything that involves recording, processing, displaying, or analyzing image data. As the only school in the country with an undergraduate imaging science degree program, RIT prepares you for a professional career by immersing you in hands-on experience on day one and building on that experience throughout your academic career

Imaging science is a multidisciplinary field based on physics, mathematics, computer science, and systems engineering. You'll study the theory behind the technologies used to create images, the integration of those technologies into imaging systems, and the application of those systems to solve scientific problems.

The imaging science curriculum includes the study of:

  • the physical observables associated with the subject of an image, such as reflected or emitted electromagnetic radiation;
  • how those observables are captured by devices using optics and detectors such as satellites, digital cameras, medical imaging devices, and astronomical observatories;
  • how the captured observables are processed using computers and specialized software;
  • how processed signals are converted into images displayed on paper or electronic devices and perceived by humans; and
  • how image quality is assessed and scientific information is extracted.

The Innovative Freshman Experience (IMGS-181, 182) is a project-based course where you'll learn about imaging science while designing and implementing a novel imaging system. In subsequent years concepts presented in the classroom are reinforced through laboratory experiments and a capstone research experience, which can examine a problem in any of several imaging applications such as remote sensing, astronomy, biomedical imaging, manuscript imaging and enhancement, optics, color science, image quality, or visual perception. Both theoretical studies and practical application of technologies are integral parts of the curriculum.

Graduates are in demand by both industry and governmental agencies to work on the design, development, testing, or production of specialized imaging systems or technologies, or to use imaging systems to perform scientific research. Faculty members are deeply committed professionals who divide their time between teaching and the pursuit of scientific advances.

Faculty, staff, and students conduct research sponsored by both industry and the government. The research support ensures that students are exposed to the latest developments in a rapidly expanding field.

Cooperative education

Cooperative education experience is not required but is recommended for the summers following the second and third years of the program. Opportunities to participate in research work with faculty are also available during academic and summer semesters.


  • Research

  • Medical Devices

  • Environmental Services

  • Scientific and Technical Consulting

  • Other Industries


outcome rate of graduates


median first-year salary of graduates

Featured Work

Latest News

  • April 17, 2019

    Students work on dome-shaped imaging system.

    Imagine RIT Preview: Virtual Bugs

    When the Seneca Park Zoo Society needed a way to create detailed 3D computer models of rare insects from Madagascar, they turned to RIT’s imaging science program for help. A multidisciplinary team of first-year students designed and built a new system to tackle the problem and will showcase the final product at the Imagine RIT festival.

  • April 1, 2019

    Woman wearing glasses and floral print dress sits at table.

    Cracking down on poachers with imaging

    Elephant and rhino poachers in South Africa can run, but they can’t hide from drones. An imaging system created by a team led by Elizabeth Bondi ’16 automatically detects illegal hunters infiltrating national parks at night. Bondi’s deep learning system alerts the monitoring team who notifies park rangers or law enforcement of a potential threat to the animals under their protection.


Imaging science, BS degree, typical course sequence

Course Sem. Cr. Hrs.
First Year
Vision and Psychophysics
This course presents an overview of the organization and function of the human visual system and some of the psychophysical techniques used to study visual perception.
Innovative Freshman Experience I
Innovative Freshman Experience I is the first of a two-course sequence. Through the exploration of concepts in physics, math, and computer science, students will experience the creation of a system to address a contemporary technological need through the application of the principles of the scientific method. With the help of faculty and staff from different departments across campus, as well as external experts, students will plan and organize the effort, review current literature applicable to the posed technical challenge, apply hypotheses to address presented scientific questions, conduct experiments to assess technology options, integrate components to create a prototype, and confirm that the prototype and methods meet desired levels of performance. The students will develop a working knowledge of the scientific method and an appreciation for the value of teamwork in technical disciplines, develop the skills required to execute a large project, and increase proficiency in oral and written technical communication.
Innovative Freshman Experience II
This is the second of a two-course sequence aimed at designing, developing, and building a functional imaging system that will be useful to a real world external constituency to achieve its technical goals. With help from faculty and staff from imaging science and other departments across campus, the unified team of students will plan and organize the effort, assess technology options, integrate components, and confirm that the system meets desired levels of performance. Students will develop a general understanding of the foundational concepts of imaging science, a working knowledge of the principles of systems engineering, an appreciation for the value of teamwork in technical disciplines and practice oral and written technical communication. In this second course of the sequence, students proceed with construction and testing of their system that was designed in IMGS-181.
Introduction to Imaging and Video Systems
This course provides an introductory overview of the basic engineering and scientific principles associated with imaging systems. Topics covered include imaging physics, photographic science, human vision and perception, image capture and display technologies (both analog and digital), and digital image processing. This course is taught using both mathematical and phenomenological presentation and prepares students to proceed with more in-depth investigation of these fields in subsequent imaging science and motion picture science courses. Accompanying laboratory exercises provide hands-on experience with the presented concepts.
LAS Perspective 7A (mathematical): Project-based Calculus I
This is the first in a two-course sequence intended for students majoring in mathematics, science, or engineering. It emphasizes the understanding of concepts, and using them to solve physical problems. The course covers functions, limits, continuity, the derivative, rules of differentiation, applications of the derivative, Riemann sums, definite integrals, and indefinite integrals.
LAS Perspective 7B (mathematical): Project-based Calculus II
This is the second in a two-course sequence intended for students majoring in mathematics, science, or engineering. It emphasizes the understanding of concepts, and using them to solve physical problems. The course covers techniques of integration including integration by parts, partial fractions, improper integrals, applications of integration, representing functions by infinite series, convergence and divergence of series, parametric curves, and polar coordinates.
LAS Perspective 5 (natural science inquiry): University Physics I
This is a course in calculus-based physics for science and engineering majors. Topics include kinematics, planar motion, Newton's Laws, gravitation, work and energy, momentum and impulse, conservation laws, systems of particles, rotational motion, static equilibrium, mechanical oscillations and waves, and data presentation/analysis. The course is taught in a workshop format that integrates the material traditionally found in separate lecture and laboratory courses.
First Year Writing (WI)
Writing Seminar is a three-credit course limited to 19 students per section. The course is designed to develop first-year students’ proficiency in analytical and rhetorical reading and writing, and critical thinking. Students will read, understand, and interpret a variety of non-fiction texts representing different cultural perspectives and/or academic disciplines. These texts are designed to challenge students intellectually and to stimulate their writing for a variety of contexts and purposes. Through inquiry-based assignment sequences, students will develop academic research and literacy practices that will be further strengthened throughout their academic careers. Particular attention will be given to the writing process, including an emphasis on teacher-student conferencing, critical self-assessment, class discussion, peer review, formal and informal writing, research, and revision. Small class size promotes frequent student-instructor and student-student interaction. The course also emphasizes the principles of intellectual property and academic integrity for both current academic and future professional writing.
Year One
The Year One class serves as an interdisciplinary catalyst for first-year students to access campus resources, services and opportunities that promote self-knowledge, personal success, leadership development, social responsibility and life academic skills awareness and application. Year One is also designed to challenge and encourage first-year students to get to know one another, build relationships and help them become an integral part of the campus community.
LAS Perspective 1 (ethical)
First Year LAS Elective
Wellness Education*
Second Year
Multivariable and Vector Calculus
This course is principally a study of the calculus of functions of two or more variables, but also includes a study of vectors, vector-valued functions and their derivatives. The course covers limits, partial derivatives, multiple integrals, Stokes' Theorem, Green's Theorem, the Divergence Theorem, and applications in physics. Credit cannot be granted for both this course and MATH-219.
LAS Perspective 6 (scientific principles): University Physics II
This course is a continuation of PHYS-211, University Physics I. Topics include electrostatics, Gauss' law, electric field and potential, capacitance, resistance, DC circuits, magnetic field, Ampere's law, inductance, and geometrical and physical optics. The course is taught in a lecture/workshop format that integrates the material traditionally found in separate lecture and laboratory courses.
Fundamentals of Color Science
This course will introduce students to the field of Color Science. Students will learn about the physical sources of color, the visual mechanisms that provide our experience of color, and the descriptive systems that have been developed for relating the physical and visual properties. Through hands-on projects, students will learn practical methods for measuring, modeling, and controlling color in digital imaging systems.
Linear and Fourier Methods for Imaging
This course develops the concepts of complex numbers and linear algebra for describing imaging systems in the frequency domain via the discrete and continuous Fourier transforms.
Probability and Statistics for Imaging
This course introduces the principles of probability and statistics that are used in imaging science. The first half of the course covers probability distributions for discrete and continuous random variables, expectation, variance, and joint distributions. The second half of the course will consider point estimation, statistical intervals, hypothesis testing, inference, and linear regression.
Modern Physics I
This course provides an introductory survey of elementary quantum physics, as well as basic relativistic dynamics. Topics include the photon, wave-particle duality, deBroglie waves, the Bohr model of the atom, the Schrodinger equation and wave mechanics, quantum description of the hydrogen atom, electron spin, and multi-electron atoms.
Introduction to Computing and Control
This hands-on course is an introduction to computer programming, simple electronics, and the control of electronic devices using commercially available, single-board computers (e.g. Raspberry Pi). Emphasis will be placed on utilizing the analog and digital input/output ports available on these single-board computers to control and acquire data from electronic devices like optical detectors, LED sources, and servo-motors. The use of open-source software libraries to assist in the control and real-time acquisition of image data from peripheral imaging devices and cameras will be covered in detail. The student will be introduced to object-oriented programming using Python. Fundamentals of flow control, object types and creation, input/output, and problem-solving approaches such as the use of randomness, divide-and-conquer, Monte Carlo, and search will be examined in detail and applied to scientific, mathematical, and imaging-specific related problems.
LAS Perspective 2 (artistic)
LAS Perspective 3 (global)
Third Year
This course introduces the concepts of quantitative measurement of electromagnetic energy. The basic radiometric and photometric terms are introduced using calculus-based definitions. Governing equations for source propagation and sensor output are derived. Simple source concepts are reviewed and detector figures of merit are introduced and used in problem solving. The radiometric concepts are then applied to simple imaging systems so that a student could make quantitative measurements with imaging instruments.
Geometric Optics
This course introduces the analysis and design of optical imaging systems based on the ray model of light. Topics include reflection, refraction, imaging with lenses, stops and pupils, prisms, magnification and optical system design using computer software.
Physical Optics
Light waves having both amplitude and phase will be described to provide a foundation for understanding key optical phenomena such as interference, diffraction, and propagation. Starting from Maxwell's equations the course advances to the topic of Fourier optics.
Interactions Between Light and Matter
This course introduces the principles of how light interacts with matter. The principles of atomic physics as applied to simple atoms are reviewed and extended to multi-electron atoms to interpret their spectra. Molecular structure and spectra are covered in depth, including the principles of lasers. The concepts of statistical physics concepts are introduced and applied to the structure of crystalline solids, their band structure and optical properties. These concepts are then used to understand electronic imaging devices, such as detectors.
Image Processing and Computer Vision I
This course is an introduction to the basic concepts of digital image processing. The student will be exposed to image capture and image formation methodologies, sampling and quantization concepts, statistical descriptors and enhancement techniques based upon the image histogram, point processing, neighborhood processing, and global processing techniques based upon kernel operations and discrete convolution as well as the frequency domain equivalents, treatment of noise, geometrical operations for scale and rotation, and grey-level resampling techniques. Emphasis is placed on applications and efficient algorithmic implementation using the student's programming language of choice.
Image Processing and Computer Vision II
This course is considers the more advanced concepts of digital image processing. The topics include image reconstruction, noise sources and techniques for noise removal, information theory, image compression, video compression, wavelet transformations, frequency-domain based applications, morphological operations, and modern digital image watermarking and steganography algorithms. Emphasis is placed on applications and efficient algorithmic implementation using the student’s computer programming language of choice, technical presentation, and technical writing.
LAS Perspective 4 (social)
LAS Immersion 1
Open Electives
Fourth Year
Imaging Systems Analysis
This course will introduce students to the theory and practice of imaging systems analysis. Students will learn about the physical factors that affect the spatial and temporal response properties of optical, electronic, and biological imaging systems, and the mathematical methods that have been developed for describing these properties. Through hands-on projects, students will learn practical methods for measuring, modeling, and controlling the spatial and temporal point spread functions (PSFs) and modulation transfer functions (MTFs) of imaging systems. (COS-IMGS-180 and COS-IMGS-261, or equivalent)
Noise and System Modeling
This course develops the concepts of noise modeling and random processes within the context of imaging systems. After a brief review of probability theory, the concept of image noise is introduced. Random processes are considered in both the spatial and spatial frequency domains, with emphasis on the autocorrelation function and power density spectrum. Finally, the principles of random processes are applied to signal and noise transfer in multistage imaging systems. At the completion of the course the student will be able to model signal and noise transfer within a multistage imaging system.
Imaging Detectors
This course provides an overview of the underlying physical concepts, designs, and characteristics of detectors used to sense electromagnetic radiation having wavelengths ranging from as short as X-rays to as long as millimeter radiation. The basic physical concepts common to many standard detector arrays will be reviewed. Some specific examples of detectors to be discussed include photomultipliers, micro channel plates, hybridized infrared arrays, positive-intrinsic-negative (PIN) detectors, and superconductor-insulator-superconductor (SIS) mixers. The use of detectors in fields such as astronomy, high energy physics, medical imaging and digital imaging will be discussed.
Imaging Science Senior Project I (WI)
Part of this course is designed to develop skills in technical communication and scientific research practices. Each student is required to research, write, and present a proposal for an independent research project. Students initiate the research project defined in the proposal developed in the course. The project is supervised by a faculty member in imaging science and is expected to require 9-12 hours per week.
Imaging Science Senior Project II
Students perform the independent research project under the advising of a faculty member in imaging science. The research effort is expected to require 9-12 hours per week. The research outcomes are presented in written and oral form.
Imaging Science Elective Track Courses
LAS Immersion 2, 3
Total Semester Credit Hours

(WI) Refers to a writing intensive course within the major.

* Please see Wellness Education Requirement for more information. Students completing bachelor's degrees are required to complete two different Wellness courses.

Admission Requirements

Freshman Admission

For all bachelor’s degree programs, a strong performance in a college preparatory program is expected. Generally, this includes 4 years of English, 3-4 years of mathematics, 2-3 years of science, and 3 years of social studies and/or history.

Specific math and science requirements and other recommendations

  • 3 years of math required; pre-calculus recommended

Transfer Admission

Transfer course recommendations without associate degree

Courses in math, computer science, liberal arts, and physics

Appropriate associate degree programs for transfer

AS degree in liberal arts with math/science option, computer science, engineering science, science

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