A white dot barely flickers in the upper left half of the black screen. To the untrained eye, it looks like an anomaly. However, there is a wealth of information there. A new planet has been discovered, and the scientists work to gather all of the information that is available to help us understand the size, rotational pattern, and atmospheric composition of this white speck. Imaging science is an emerging field that integrates engineering, math and physics, computer science and even psychology. It explores the creation and interpretation of images that are used in a broad range of applications from environmental forecasting to the ability to use the camera on your phone to create a panoramic image.

In the 20th century, the focus was on developing the technology that could create images. In the 21st century, imaging will be about the information that can be extracted from an image. Although this is the purview of all imaging science, Johns Hopkins is particularly focused on bringing imaging into the new millennium and improving the level of data that we can learn from each image. Like other schools, the University of Southern California (USC) has a Signal and Image Processing Institute. What sets USC apart is the strong level of collaboration among its Department of Computer Science, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Vision Lab. Both schools offer both undergraduate and graduate programs related to Imaging Science.

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) is a stand-out in the field of imaging science and one of only two schools to have a dedicated Center for Imaging Science (Johns Hopkins has the other one). It is also unique in that it offers a graduate degree specifically in Imaging Science. RIT has brought together faculty from diverse disciplines to form its Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. Named after the inventor of xerography, a process that is still widely used today in the form of photocopiers and most commercial printers. The Center’s Innovative Freshman Experience offers students of all backgrounds the opportunity to create and interact in an environment free from tests, texts or lectures.

Imaging Science is bound to be an important field in the coming decades and beyond. As it moves from primarily being viewed as a cross-discipline specialty to being viewed as its own field, students will have opportunities to help shape the direction of the field. If you love the sciences and engineering as well as a passion for how humans use data, then Imaging Science might be the right field for you.