What is Computer Science?

When people think about computer science, some of the first things that come to mind are building computers, programming, and making computers run. While these perceptions certainly represent important aspects of computer science, the broader discipline encompasses much, much more.

Computers and computation are integral to many fields. Yet, the formal study of computing is really more closely aligned with mathematics, engineering, and the sciences. And so, in comparison to information systems and information technology, computer science is generally understood to be the most mathematically-oriented of the three. As a scientific discipline, computer science involves a deeper, more systematic, and perhaps more theoretical investigation of computing systems and methods.

Some of the things that undergraduate computer science students study are computational algorithms, data and file structures, machine organization and architecture, and numerical analysis, along with a variety of programming languages and operating systems. All of this may seem a bit daunting, but there are some cool things too, like artificial intelligence and neural nets! And, like students who are information technology or information systems majors, computer science students also get to study networks, information security, and data communications.

All in all, a traditional major in computer science may be the best of all the technology-oriented programs to pursue because it offers (1) stronger foundations on which to build additional knowledge, (2) more balance between theory and applications, and (3) broader career potential.

Some of the hottest topics in computer science these days are computational biology and bioinformatics (particularly in the realm of genetics and DNA mapping), computational chemistry (e.g., polymer research), knowledge discovery and data mining, human-computer interaction and its relationship to user interfaces, visualization and graphics, computer forensics, and robotics. It’s truly a fascinating field in which to study!


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