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David Bricker
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Friday, September 3, 2004

As Informatics grows, Indiana University helps set "Research Agenda"

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As an academic field, it's still very young. But informatics -- the study of information technology and its use -- has already had a palpable effect on people's lives.

"In recent decades, technology has so enhanced our ability to gather data that the sheer volume of data now outstrips our capacity to deal with it," said Indiana University School of Informatics Dean J. Michael Dunn. "Informatics is taking this seemingly unmanageable flood of data and transforming it into information that helps solve key problems in fields like medicine, genetics, chemistry, Internet security and engineering."

Informatics faculty and students study information technology and devise new ways to use it

Already, Dunn said, informaticians have sped up the analysis of terabytes of Human Genome Project data and have written software that correctly predicts the chemical structures of effective pharmaceutical drugs.

Leading informaticians from the United States, Sweden and the United Kingdom will come to the IU Bloomington campus next week to decide where their field should be going as part of a conference, "Informatics: Defining the Research Agenda," Sept. 10-12.

Daniel Reed, director of the Institute for Renaissance Computing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a member of President Bush's Information Technology Advisory Committee, will deliver the meeting's keynote address, "Computing: An Intellectual Lever for Multidisciplinary Discovery."

Other experts will give talks on the latest developments in cybersecurity, medical informatics, bioinformatics, chemical informatics, human-computer interaction, information technology in developing countries, international communication networks, and the use of computers in analyzing the aesthetic qualities of music.

A complete schedule of speakers and presentation titles can be found on the Web at

The visitors will encounter a recently expanded school. Created in 2000, the IU School of Informatics was the nation's first. With this year's addition of 21 new faculty members to its IU Bloomington and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis rosters, Dunn said his school is also making a bid to be the world's foremost.

"We are fortunate that some of the best informaticians in the world want to be at IU," Dunn said. "I believe our attractiveness can be credited to the excellence of our core faculty as well as the enthusiasm university and state leaders have for informatics in Indiana."

Among the notable new faculty are:

  • Larry Yaeger, an Apple Computer distinguished scientist and software engineer who helped perfect handwriting recognition software used by the Apple Newton -- the world's first PDA
  • Jean Camp and Markus Jakobsson, leading experts on cybersecurity and Internet privacy
  • Christopher Raphael, a professional oboist (and soloist with the San Francisco Symphony) who is developing software that recognizes and analyzes music
  • Alessandro Vespignani, a Wired magazine Rave Award nominee who studies the Internet and computer networks as living entities whose behavior can be parsed and predicted
  • Luis Mateus Rocha, a member of Los Alamos National Laboratory's Modeling, Algorithms and Informatics Group

Funds derived from IU's "Commitment to Excellence" program will eventually support four of the 21 new informaticians, including Yaeger.

The IU School of Informatics maintains a presence on the IUB, IUPUI and IU South Bend campuses. More than 1,400 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in informatics programs in medical informatics, new media, human-computer interaction, data mining, data visualization and other areas.

While informatics degrees are offered by a number of U.S. universities and colleges, the vast majority of the world's dedicated schools of informatics are located in Great Britain, Europe, Japan and Australia.

To speak with Dunn, for short bios of new School of Informatics faculty members, and for more information about the conference "Informatics: Defining the Research Agenda," contact David Bricker at 812-856-9035 or