Decision Support Technologies for Environmental Forecasting and Emergency Response

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RIT with support from the National Science Foundation has established a new  Science Master's Program (SMP) titled "Decision Support Technologies for Environmental Forecasting and Disaster Response". The SMP is not a Masters program in itself but rather it is an available enhancement to existing MS programs in Imaging Science, Computer Science, and Environmental Science. Through this SMP, we seek to create a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) workforce for corporate America, not-for-profit organizations (NGOs), and local, state, and Federal government in support of the national need area of environmental forecasting, infrastructure assessment, and disaster response. Our SMP incorporates multidisciplinary education and research projects, close collaboration with industry and government employers, and a rigorous quality monitoring process.

Total Credits
Each of our students will complete the full degree requirements in one of three masters programs (Imaging Science, Computer Science, or Environmental Science) including 36 credits of class work and the completion of a master’s level research thesis. For the SMP, students will be offered three additional 4 credit courses in professional skills related to environmental forecasting, infrastructure assessment and disaster response, an interdisciplinary research project, and be encouraged to seek a paid internship at an industry or government partner.

Natural Science and Mathematics Core
Three principal STEM fields are critical to this domain: Imaging Science (specifically remote sensing and geospatial systems), Environmental Science, and Computer Science. In our SMP we bring students from these three masters programs into a single coherent program. Thus they will be true technical science experts in their disciplines.

The students will participate in a multidisciplinary community research project in the spring of their first year and are encouraged to seek a summer internship at industry, an NGO, or government agency between their first and second years. The project and internship are designed to give students real-world experiences working in multidisciplinary, multifunctional teams to solve real-world problems, first in projects working actively with faculty and still within a largely academic setting, and then within an external setting, without faculty involvement. This creates a stepping-stone process to familiarize students with career opportunities and challenges.

Professional Skills Component
The three core SMP courses will provide students from our three science disciplines a common base of understanding and the business, policy, and government knowledge they need to succeed in the environmental forecasting and disaster management and response arena as researchers, operations leaders or policy makers. In preparation for the design of this SMP, we gathered input from a handful of our industry, NGO, and government partners, including polling of the members of the External Advisory Board of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science. They noted three areas where additional capabilities were desired:
1) Better understanding of the business world, including project and program management, conceptual understanding of finance and budgets, familiarity with intellectual property management, and the ability to recognize and communicate well to a wide range of audiences, including customers, contractors, competitors, senior management and government.
2) Better awareness of the interfaces between industry, NGOs, and government including knowledge of the interplay between policy development, regulations, technology development and deployment and operations readiness and support.
3) Improved capability to use and develop geographic information systems (GIS) to model predictions and convey information for operational action and decision-making. Each program student will participate in a suite of program elements designed to provide them with a unique learning environment that will prepare them for leadership roles outside of academia in the fields of environmental forecasting, disaster preparedness and emergency response.  In response to this input, we are developing three new course offerings for the SMP:

  • From Concept to Product, a Business Perspective
  • Disaster Planning, Management and Policy
  • Spatial Modeling and Visualization

Application and Enrollment
This program is available to RIT masters degree students from Imaging Science, Computer Science, or Environmental Science.

If you are interested in the SMP masters program, and not yet enrolled in a masters program at RIT, apply to the most appropriate masters degree for you (i.e., either imaging science, environmental science, or computer science), and be sure to include reference in your application statement that you are interested in the SMP program in "Decision Support Technologies for Environmental Forecasting and Emergency Response"

If you are already in a masters program at RIT, and you are interested in enrolling in the SMP, please apply by speaking with your adviser or by contacting Stefi Baum at

Last Modified: 10:24am 29 Feb 12