Tuesday, September 09, 2008

University of Michigan: Undergrad Degree in Informatics

I routinely check the Library Cloud email, it notifies us of new comments, legitimate inquiries and information, and a plethora of intriguing spam. Who knew there were so many different ways to make money and order pharmaceuticals? This morning we had a message from Frank DeSanto, Communications, School of Information at the University of Michigan. Here, in part, is his email announcement:

Sept. 8, 2008
Contact: Frank DeSanto, (734) 647-7313,

Ann Arbor, Mich.: The University of Michigan, the first to offer a master's specialization in social computing, is now opening up the opportunity to undergrads with the launch of a new undergraduate major in informatics that features a social computing track.

Students in the social computing informatics track will build and evaluate social software applications and study the influences of these systems on society.

Informatics is the study of information and the ways information is used by and affects people and social systems.

Experts in this field design information technology tools for scientific, business, and cultural needs, and study how such tools are used. Informatics specialists, for example, might help develop the systems that let your doctor quickly share your medical records with a specialist while still ensuring your privacy.

"The program offers students an opportunity to develop the skills to be leaders in an information-centric world," says Martha E. Pollack, Dean of the School of Information at Michigan. "Think of the analogyto biology: biology majors are experts in living organisms; informatics majors will be experts in information, in all its forms."

"Tremendous progress in computer science and communications is radically changing the way we do medical science, share and retrieve information,access services, and form communities," adds Professor Farnam Jahanian,chair of Computer Science andEngineering. "Informatics students will apply principles from computer science, statistics, and user-centered design to provide the expertise needed to shape these changes."

Key to the new concentration is its bringing together of both technological and social perspectives to study information. U-M's cross-disciplinary approach gives students a solid grounding in computerscience, mathematics, and statistics, combined with study of the ethical and social science dimensions of complex information systems.

"To understand how information technology interacts with social systems,you need to know something about both," says Associate Professor of Information Paul Conway, chair of the new program's steering committee."Our students explore the ways information and information technology are embedded in society, influencing our economic, political, and cultural systems."

After completing a common set of core courses, informatics students choose one of four concentration tracks:

  • computational informatics, in which they design and evaluate usable computing solutions;
  • information analysis, in which they analyze and visualize massive datasets;
  • life science informatics, in which they apply computation and statistics to problems in life science and biomedical research; or
  • social computing, in which they build and evaluate social software applications and study the influences of these systems on society.

I first posted about the University of Michigans Social Computing Specialization in March of last year. To learn more about informatics, and this new program, visit their website @ http://informatics.umich.edu .

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