IT doctoral program garners national attention
Halbana Tarmizi says he didn't want either/or. He wanted both.
And so it was that the Indonesian native with degrees from Germany's Aachen University of Technology and Michigan State enrolled in UNO's College of Information Science & Technology. Here he is pursuing a Ph.D in information technology, a program that uniquely combines study in information systems and computer science.
"Normally, what you see is either a Ph.D. program in IS or one in CS," Tarmizi says. "This Ph.D. in IT offers the ability to get both perspectives, and I like this.
"With the CS and IS departments under one roof at UNO, it makes it possible for us to take courses and to get involved with research in both fields. Furthermore, since this program was new, it gave us more freedom in choosing our research and courses based on our real interest."
The doctoral program is new to UNO and to the world, says Mansour Zand, professor of computer science and director of the Ph.D. program.
"When we started with this idea seven years ago, there probably wasn't any Ph.D. in information technology being offered anywhere," he says. "Last year, I was at a conference when the associate dean of another college of IT came up and told me they got the model for their program from UNO."
After a nearly five-year approval process, UNO's Ph.D. in IT program began in the fall of 2003 with 10 students. It since has grown to 22 students, with the first graduate expected in 2007 or 2008. Interest in the program is highï¿½and competitive; the candidate acceptance rate is between 30 percent and 35 percent.
The program is motivated by the non-traditional model behind the formation of the College of IS&T, which combines computer science with information systems. The Ph.D. in IT integrates the theory and practice of applied computing, information systems, Internet technologies and the advances in telecommunications and management of information technology.
The vision of the doctoral program is to combine the disciplines of computer science, information systems, software engineering and telecommunications to develop technology specialists who are uniquely positioned to advance research and practice in contemporary technologies.
"We are looking for candidates whose eventual goals are leadership in IT organizations or research in academic life," says Ilze Zigurs, professor of management information systems and former director of the Ph.D. program. "This program prepares people for being scholars who understand the leading edge in IT and to develop into leaders either as educators or corporate managers."
The program is drawing applicants with heady credentials, Zand says.
"One measure is the quality of the students we attract, the quality of their work and the fact that many are already publishing," he says. "It's quite impressive."
Being new and interdisciplinary, the program requires collaboration among many different faculty to develop and teach seminars in an integrated way.
"I'd say 90 to 95 percent of some of the courses we offer are 'homemade' courses," Zand says. "The IT field is not defined, and this presents a great challenge."
Zigurs says the interactive process of designing every aspect of the degree program poses challenges for the faculty and the students but promises great rewards.
"Working together to develop these courses creates a synergy," she says. "We really are defining the forefront of this interdisciplinary field. That's exciting."
The rewards extend beyond campus, too. Zigurs says the program provides many opportunities for area corporations to sponsor Ph.D. students or utilize their unique experience in a full- or part-time capacity. "For instance," she says, "if they have an issue concerning methodologies for systems development, wouldn't it be useful to have someone there to offer an objective view and make recommendations for a strategy taking into account leading-edge alternatives and knowledge?"
Active research clusters in data mining, bioinformatics, software engineering, collaboration technology, information security, wireless and sensor communication and project management provide for interesting study, says doctoral student Tarmizi. "If you prefer to do something that you like and to have flexibility in shaping your research and study, then this program is highly recommended," he says. "And it seems to me that Omaha businesses really support this UNO program."
Tarmizi, it appears, is having it all -- and then some.