The Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at RIT is a highly interdisciplinary University Research and Education Center, dedicated to pushing the frontiers of imaging in all its forms and uses.  Through education leading to BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Imaging Science, we produce the next generation of educators and researchers who develop and deploy imaging systems to answer fundamental scientific questions, monitor and protect our environment, help keep our nation secure, and aid medical researchers in their quest to conquer disease. From how light is generated to how the world is perceived, imaging science addresses questions about every aspect of systems that are used to create, perceive, analyze, and optimize images. Imaging Science is both truly interdisciplinary in its content and multi-disciplinary in its applications.

What is Imaging Science?

People ask us all the time, "What is Imaging Science?", and that's a really good question. The formal answer is that the Center for Imaging Science is an interdisciplinary academic unit in the College of Science at RIT that offers BS, MS, & Ph.D. degrees in Imaging Science, and that RIT is the only place in the world where you can get those degrees.

The better answer is really a bunch of questions: "Do you know how your cell phone takes a color picture? Do you know how that image is altered by your phone so you can upload it to Facebook quickly? Do you know what Facebook does to that picture to identify actual faces of people to ask you to tag them?" That's all Imaging Science. "Have you ever looked at your house on Google Maps? Do you know how the satellite that took that picture, which is moving at thousands of miles an hour, took the picture without it being blurry?" That's Imaging Science. "Have you ever had an ultrasound, or an MRI, or a CT scan? Do you know how those systems work, or how the images are processed to help doctors make diagnoses?" That's Imaging Science.

Students in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science learn about all of these types of imaging systems and more. They spend their entire first year researching, designing, and building a complete imaging system from scratch. They learn about how to program a computer to process images, compress them, and sharpen them. They work in research labs trying to understand how the human eye-brain system uses vision to help us sense the world around us. They go on internships and co-ops in industry and government, to places like Lockheed Martin, Google, Apple, Los Alamos National Lab, and many more. And then they move on to graduate school or employment, at an approximately 99% placement rate over the past 10 years.

Digital imaging systems are everywhere now, and there are only going to be more of them in the future. Digital imaging has opened up doors to understanding our world that were never even considered 15 years ago. The RIT Center for Imaging Science is where you can learn about those systems, and how we can use them to help make the world a better place.

Imaging in the 21st Century

As humans, we are highly geared to gather information, understand, process and document the world around us through imaging. Today’s technology allows us to produce images of our world with unprecedented clarity. Through this technology, many things our eyes could never see--from images of earth from space to atoms and molecules at the smallest scale—are revealed with amazing resolution and detail.  The images we form today use not only the visible light our eyes can see, but the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum; while modern ultrasound and electron microscopic imaging techniques transcend the realm of electromagnetic waves. To increase the physical information and diagnostic power of images, we employ a range of imaging techniques, such as spectroscopy, radar and polarimetry. We utilize in situ sensors to provide calibration for remotely sensed images. We manipulate particle beams, as well as electromagnetic radiation, to probe on nano scales at the highest energies. We create databases of the images so obtained, computer algorithms that fuse information from multiple imaging modalities, and visualization products that allow humans, aided by computers, to obtain the answers to fundamental questions critical to human knowledge, health, and security.

Imaging Science Research and Applications

In the Center for Imaging Science and with our multidisciplinary colleagues both at RIT and in the greater community, we conduct research in and prepare students for challenging and rewarding careers in a range of imaging application areas.

  • We develop imaging systems for and answer fundamental questions in astrophysics – probing the origin and evolution of planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe as a whole.
  • We develop imaging systems for application in biomedicine – where imaging is used to non-invasively diagnose disease, to develop therapies and to track the success of treatment.
  • We apply imaging to the reading and reconstruction of ancient documents, such as the Archimedes Palimpsest.
  • We study the closely related field of color science and its application to display systems (CRTs, LCDs, printers).
  • We study visual perception – the way in which we as humans use our own imaging system - our eyes and the computer that is our brain - to perceive the world around us.
  • We study imaging algorithms, data fusion and visualization, and imaging database design and development that allow full exploitation of imaging data.
  • We study remote sensing - the use of satellite, airborne, or distributed sensor systems for purposes ranging from environmental science to national security and disaster response.  
  • We study imaging on the smallest scales – nano-imaging, in concert with our multi-disciplinary colleagues in fields as diverse as nano-power, biophysics, and materials science, where their need to image is driving their research.
  • We develop next generation detector and sensor systems.


We invite you to explore the world of imaging science with us, and join us in our obsession:

“To see with a keener eye has been a human obsession since the times of Leeuwenhoek and Galileo, considered fathers of the microscope and telescope, respectively. For centuries keener vision meant to see more clearly what was far away or what was very small—to magnify and sharpen. But in the 20th century it also came to signify all sorts of vision that once would have been deemed  ’magic’—the penetration of veils both around us and within us as well as the registering of forms of "light" to which human sight is utterly blind.” (