Friday, September 19, 2008

What is IST?

IST, opened in 1999, is an I-School housed in the Penn State. When I started looking for an appropriate Ph.D. program to apply for in early 2006, it was still a school; but when I actually applied for the Ph.D. program at IST in the end of 2006, it had been upgraded into a college. To outsiders, the most impressive thing about IST is probably its state-of-the-art building, rather than its academic aspect. The building was inspired by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and has become a Penn State landmark.

Different from many other I-Schools which are transformed from other traditional programs such as computer science, business, or library science, IST is a totally brand-new institution. And because of this, it seems IST does not have a dominant research area much outweighing other areas. Instead, it gets more balanced in developing various areas. This is one of the reasons why I chose IST for a Ph.D. study – I prefer to locate myself in the pretty much middle point of the line with the social research as one end and the technical research as the other end, and I would have more flexibility to move toward either end of the line.

One of the characteristics of IST is that it has no departments! It is structured into five research centers and ten research labs. This structure helps people get connected with colleagues more easily, which is important to sustain interdisciplinary research. In fact, people in different research centers or research labs have a lot of collaborations, from applying for project grants to coauthoring papers. This can be seen from these two diagrams. Here is the overall collaboration network diagram with regard to funding, each node representing a specific faculty member in IST. And this is the collaboration network diagram with regard to coauthoring, each node also representing a faculty member. These two diagrams were made in the 2007 fall semester.

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