How Computer Science Advances Other Disciplines

Why study computer science? In fact, computer technology is often central to much scientific research. This research requires not just domain experts, such as medical and environmental researchers, but also people with deep knowledge of computer technology who are able to develop algorithms and complex applications to facilitate scientific research.

This page highlights the many roles computers play in these scientific advancements and the many opportunities that are available for those interesting in applying their computer science expertise in ways that are deeply meaningful to humanity.

General Science

All Science is Computer Science - George Johnson, New York Times, March 25, 2001
Physics, biology, chemistry, neuroscience, genetics, even sociology and anthropology depend heavily on computers. Increasingly, experiments are done "in silica", that is, by developing and experimenting with models of real systems rather than the systems themselves.


Robot's space debut 'giant leap for tinmankind' - R&D Daily, November 2, 2010
NASA is sending a humanoid robot to the space station to assist human robots.
The Year in Robotics - Technology Review, December 29, 2009
Highlights of robotic research in 2009, including robots that learn improved facial expressions, robots that aid in rehabilitation, improved prosthetics, and more.


Mother Earth gets undressed - Nature, July 31, 2008
Earth scientists and computer scientists have collaborated to produce the first global digital geological map, allowing you to see rocks underground everywhere.

Health and Medicine

A Search Engine for the Human Body - Technology Review, March 11, 2011
Microsoft researchers have developed a tool that can analyze CT scans and locate organs and provide both 2D and 3D views of the organ. These images can be matched to previous scans to help detect changes in the organ.
Fuzzy Thinking Could Spot Heart Disease Risk - Science Daily, Sept. 16, 1960
Researchers at Anna University in India are using fuzzy logic and neural networks to help identify people at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
Inside the Swine Flu Virus - Texas Advanced Computer Center, May 27, 2009
A team of researchers led by Klaus Schulten (from the Department of Physics, U. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Thanh Truong (Department of Chemistry, U. of Utah) have been using high performance computers to look inside the flu virus and study how antiviral medications interact with its proteins.
Studying Epidemics in Virtual Worlds - Business Week, May 7, 2009
Computer models are used to study the spread of disease and to help officials decide when to close schools to prevent further spread.
Duke Software Dramatically Speeds Enzyme Design - Duke University News and Communications, February 16, 2009
Researchers at Duke University have developed software to help redesign drugs to combat drug-resistant germs much more quickly than is possible using laboratory experimentation.
Software Improves and Predicts Outcome of Lifesaving Children's Heart Surgery in 3D - Georgia Institute of Technology, January 23, 2009
Researchers at Georgia Tech's School of Interactive Computing have developed Surmgen, software that allows cardiac surgeons to manipulate a 3D model of a pediatric patient's heart when planning surgery.
UW Med Students Prepare With Cutting Edge Technology - Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 4, 2009
Medical, nursing and pharmacology students at the University of Washington train on simulated environments before working with humans.
Computers Help Docs Spot Breast Cancer on X-rays - Associated Press, October 1, 2008
British researchers have performed a rigorous experiment comparing the ability of a single radiologist using computer-aided detection software to the ability of two radiologists without support software in their ability to identify breast cancern from mammogram images. The results are that these two techniques are equally effective and superior to an individual radiologist.
Software Maps Rwandan Health - BBC News, July 16, 2008
Max Baber from the University of Redlands in California is using geographic information to track and predict disease outbreaks, particularly malaria, in Rwanda.
Mapping Infectious Diseases - Emily Singer, Technology REview, July 10, 2008
HealthMap is a public-health system that uses a variety of Internet sources to create a world map showing the locations of outbreaks of diseases. The biggest beneificiaries are expected to be poorer nations which have less good public health monitoring.
Virtual Surgery Becoming a Reality - CNN, October 17, 2007
Two doctors in Argentina used high-quality, real-time audio and video communication to successfully complete their first laparoscopic gastric sleeve surgery while being monitored by Dr. Alex Gandsas in Baltimore, Md.
MIT Model Could Improve Some Drugs' Effectiveness - MIT News, September 23, 2007
MIT professors Dane Wittrup and Bruce Tidor have developed a computer system that predicts which structural changes of antibodies in drugs will improve their effectiveness.
Computers help chemists in superbug battle -, August 21, 2007
Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver in Canada are using chemo-informatics, a combination of computer science and chemistry, to analyze drugs to quickly find medications when anitbiotic-resistant bacteria emerge.


Researchers Use Wi-Fi Mesh Network to Monitor Melting Glaciers - Cellular News, February 23, 2011
Researchers from Newcastle University and Swansea University develop a sensor network to measure changes in the Helheim Glacier southeast of Greenland. The network will be self-organizing so that it can remain robust as sensors may be lost as ice melts or new ice develops.
Robot Fish to Catch Pollution - Financial Times, March 20, 2009
Researchers at the University of Essex in Britain and the BMT group have equipped robotic fish with sensors to monitor water quality
Titanic Twisters = University of Texas at Austin, February 23, 2009
University of Oklahoma researchersa are using a supercomputer to simulate tornados with remarkable accuracy, helping learn how tornadoes perform and the microphysical processes within the tornado.
Smart camera keeps an eye on endangered penguins - Colin Barras, New Scientist, June 28, 2008
University of Bristol researchers Tilo Burghardt and Peter Barham are using a remote-control camera and automatic image analysis to study penguins on Robben Island, South Africa.
Robots Go Where Scientists Fear to Tread, Georgia Institute of Technology, May 27, 2008
Scientists at Georgia Institute of Technology and Penn State have developed SnoMotes, robots designed to travel on volatile ice sheets to collect data that will help understand why the world's ice shelves are melting.


Bet on It! - IEEE Spectrum, September 2007
Software and services that help companies tap the "wisdom of crowds" to project public response to new products, sales revenue, or the price of new commodities are being developed and marketed.


Self-Directed Robot Scientist Makes Discovery - Discovery News, April 2, 2009
A robot developed at the University of Wales is able to perform biology experiments involving the growth of yeast and has thus far discovered 12 new functions for genes.
Improved method for comparing genomes as well as written text - University of California, Berkeley, January 28, 2009
University of California, Berkeley researchers have adapted software used to detect plagiarism to compare entire genome sequences, improving biologists ability to construct evolutionary trees, trace disease susceptibility and people's ancestry.
Researchers Develop Automated Cell-Screening System - Carnegie Mellon News, Sept. 8, 2008
A computational biologist and an expert in machine learning at Carnegie Mellon have collaborated to produce a system that can rapicly analyze images of cells and classify the cells into groups, an activity critical to biological research.
Computational Biochemist Uncovers a Molecular Clue to Evolution - Florida State University, Sept. 10, 2008
Professor Wei Yang at Florida State University has developed a computer modle of the inosine monophosphate dehrydrogenase (IMPDH) enzyme that has led to a better understanding of evolution at the molecular level.
Carnegie Mellon Engineering Researchers Automate Analysis of Protein Patterns in Tissues = Carnegie Mellon News, May 12, 2008
Carnegie Mellon University biomedical engineering PhD student Justin Newberg and professor Robert Murphy have developed software that will help bioscience researchers characterize protein patterns in human tissues that could help with cancer diagnosis and therapy.
Pursuing the Next Level of Artificial Intelligence - New York Times, May 3, 2008
Stanford University researcher Daphne Koller has developed tools that helped facilitate a new type of cancer gene map based on analyzing the behavior of a large number of genes that are active in an assortment of tumors, which yielded a new explanation of how breast tumors spread into bone.
Computers Show How Bats Classify Plants According to Their Echoes - ScienceDaily, March 24 2008
A team of machine learning scientists and experts on bats have developed software that demonstrates how bats use echoes to classify food sources.
A Computer Simulation Shows How Evolution May Have Speeded Up - Weizmann Institute of Science, August 28, 2007
Nadav Kashtan, Elad Noor, and Uri Alon at the Weizmann Institute of Science's Molecular Cell Biology and Physics of Complex Systems Departments have developed computer simulations that mimic natural evolution, and found that changing environmental conditions sped the evolution of the genome.
3D models provide virtual approach to plant optimisation - EUREKA, August 7, 2007
A new computer model involving computer science, biochemistry, and horticulture allows farmers to study the effects of irrigation, spraying, temperature and nutrients without experimenting on real crops.


3-D computer simulations help envision supernovae explosions - Princeton University, Sept. 16, 2010
Researchers at Princeton University have used astrophysics, applied math and computer science to simulate supernova explosions, which is expected to lead to better understanding of these events.
Two New Ways to Explore the Universe, in Vivid 3-D - New York Times, May 13, 2008
Microsoft has developed WorldWide Telescope to allow users to explore detailed and animated 3D astronomical images via a Web site. The Google Sky project applies Google's searchable map service to space image.
Software Coordinates 19 Mirrors, Focuses James Webb Space Telescope - NASA News, August 24, 2007
NASA researchers have created "Wavefront Sensing and Controls," that will control 19 mirrors in the James Webb Space Telescope to allow the telescope to capture light from objects at the edges of space.

Human Assistance

U of T researchers create mobile app that gives voice to people with communications challenges - University of Toronto, April 6, 2011
Researchers at the University of Toronto have developed MyVoice, an app that runs on iPhones and Androids that allows a user to tap on words and pictures to produce speech.
Wheelchair Makes the Most of Brain Control - Technology Review, Sept. 13, 2010
Researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have used AI to develop software that allows a paralyzed person to control a wheelchair by thinking a simple command.
Shelved Machine Translator Gets New Life in Haiti Relief Effort - Voice of America News, Feb. 8, 2010
CMU made available parallel terms between English and Haitian Creole. Within 5 days, Microsofot made available a translator and Translators without Borders distributed a dictionary to emergency workers in Haiti.
Computer system for dementia patients - Alpha Galileo, June 11, 2009
Mpower is an EU project to develop a simple communication system that helps families and care givers communicate with dementia patients, to ensure they are taking their medications and going to appointments as well as to remind them about upcoming events.
Software 'gives children a voice' - BBC News, June 4, 2009
'How was school today?' is software developed at the Universities of Aberdeen and Dundee and Capability Scotland to help children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy communicate faster.
Bathrooms Become Smarter With Touch Screens - PC World, March 5, 2009
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems have a developed a touchscreen mirror that can remind people with dementia when to take medicine, to brush their teeth and other actions
New 'Smart' Homes for Dementia Sufferers - University of Bath, March 4, 2009
Researchers at the University of Bath have developed smart home technology that uses monitors and speakers to observe an occupant's actions and remind them to turn off water, lights or appliances. The goal is to increase the independence of people suffering from dementia.
Robots That Monitor Emotions of ASD Children - Exploration, February 17, 2009
Researchers at Vanderbilt University are using robots to help autistic children learn social skills by having the robots observe and react to the emotions of the children.
Helping the deaf to 'see sound' - BBC News, August 13, 2008
Researchers from the University of London have created a user interface that displays sound in a way that makes it easier for deaf children to be aware of interact with the sound.
Tongue Drive System Allows Individuals with Disabilities to Operate Powered Wheelchairs and Computers - Abby Vogel, Georgia Institute of Technology, June 30, 2008
Georgia Institute of Technology professor Maysam Ghovanloo and graduate student Xueliang Huo have developed the Tongue Drive system to allow people with disabilities to operate devices by moving their tongues.
Paralyzed Man Takes a Walk in Virtual World, Agence France Presse, June 2, 2008
Researchers at Keio University in Japan have enabled a paralyzed man to use his mind to control Second Life in order to meet another person and hold a conversation.
Monkeys Think, Moving Artificial Arm as Own, New York Times, May 29, 2008
University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University brain-machine researchers have implanted tiny sensors in two monkeys that enable them to control a mechanical arm using only their thoughts.
Google, UN Team Up for Refugee Mapping Project - Computerworld, April 9, 2008
The Google Earth Outreach program combines Google Earth, Google Maps, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office to provide help to humanitarian agencies by showing where refugees are, the conditions of those locations, and infracsturcture problems.
Software Strikes a Chord for Disabled Students - eSchool News, November 29, 2007
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's "Adaptive Use Musical Instruments for the Physically Challenged" program enables students with severe physical disabilities to make music by just moving their heads.
New Technology Can be Operated by Thought, Science Daily, November 9, 2007
Reserachers at the Wadsworth Center in Albany and Washington University School of Medicine have developed brain computer intefaces to control PCs, wheelchairs and a robotic arm by thought.
Technique Links Words to Signing - BBC News, Sept. 15, 2007
IBM researchers have developed SiSi, a system that translates spoken words into British Sign Language (BSL).


Multimedia system provides new view of musical performance - University of Leeds, February 3, 2009
University of Leeds researchers are using 3D computer analysis to allow musicians to imporove their performance, by comparing their posture and movements with the ideal posture and movements.
Microsoft Creates 'Instant Backing Band' for Singers - New Scientist, April 7, 2008
Microsoft Research's Dan Morris and Sumit Basu and the University of Washington's Ian Simon developed MySong, software that takes a sung vocal and generates a file containing the sequence of sung notes and uses that sequence to create backup music.


Digital Images Reveal the Secrets of Roman Painting - University of Southampton, April 3, 2009
Researchers in the Archeological Computing Research Group are digitally restoring a 2000 year old Roman statue discoverd in 2006 to discover the texture and color of the painted surfaces.
Scientists bring 2000 year old painted warrior to virtual life - University of Warwick, January 2009
Computer scientists at University of Warwick, University of Southampton and the Herculaneum Conservation project are digitally recreating a 2000 year old Roman statue discovered near Pompeii.
Predicting Stress - Sydney Morning Herald, April 17, 2008
University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Vadim Shapiro and his colleagues have developed Scan and Solve, software that can determine the stress on an object based only on its shape, which could help experts preserve pieces of artwork or help treat people's physical problems.


Researchers Mine Millions of Metaphors Through Computer-Based Techniques - San Jose Mercury News, February 28, 2009
An English literature professor and a computer scientist are collaborating on a project to extract metaphors from literature. The result will be a searchable database that will allow people to study how metaphors have been used throughout history.

Helping developing countries

ACM Honors Randy Wang and Digital Study Hall Team for Using Community-Generated Video to Improve Education in India, AScribe Newswire, June 10, 2008
Randy Wang and the Digital Study Hall (DSH) team developed a video-sharing system that allows videos of the best teachers to be shared with local teachers in South Asia use to improve learning.


Tapping Computer Science for a More ACCURATE Vote, National Science Foundation, June 9, 2008
Stanford University professor David Dill developed AttackDog, software that examines thousands of ways in which a voting system can be attacked and analyzes countermeasures against those attacks. This is an example of a computer science tool being used to help local officials improve the security of their elections.


NASA: 'Extreme programming' controls Mars Lander robot, Computerworld, June 5, 2008
Approximately 30 NASA engineers and programmers work to write and test 1,000 to 1,500 lines of software code every day that is sent to the Mars Lander, which is searching for elements that could support life on Mars.


How Computers Took Over Cars, BBC News Magazine, Feb. 11, 2010
Computers have been increasingly taking over control of our cars, with more to come, like assistance for staying in lane or for night vision support.
Nissan Goes High-tech to Stop Accidents, Inefficient Driving, PC World, August 4, 2008
Nissan has developed two high-tech systems to help drivers. One helps with avoiding vehicles in the driver's blind spot. The other helps drivers maintain the most fuel-efficient speed and acceleration.


Artificial Intelligence Cracks 4,000-Year-Old Mystery - Wired Science, April 23, 2009
Rajesh Rao, a University of Washington computer scientist, is using artificial intelliegence to study 4000 year old symbols from the Indus Valley to learn about the lost language that they used.


From 'Avatar' Playbook, Athletes Use 3-D Imaging - New York Times, October 2, 2010
Professional sports teams are adopting advanced imagery technology to improve the performance of athletes and their recovery from injuries

Credits: Abstracts of articles listed above are edited versions of abstracts distributed on the ACM TechNews mailing list.