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Vol. 2, No. 3, May 2005

Welcome to Engineering Our World, the MIT School of Engineering's free bulletin for alumni and friends. Updated six times yearly, Engineering Our World describes some of the work we're doing at the leading edge of technological change, providing news and articles of the School's major initiatives.Past Issues

Information Engineering: Navigating the Sea of Data in Today's World

by Dean Thomas L. Magnanti

"One of the exciting aspects of this field, but clearly one of the more challenging aspects, too, is that it touches everything."

One of the School of Engineering's key strategic areas, Information Engineering, encompasses a very wide range of technologies and applications for acquiring, storing, transforming, and using information. Our initiative builds on a foundation of pioneering achievements that spans several decades and includes significant contributions to analog computers, the prototype of the Internet, magnetic core memory, the first workable public-key cryptographic system, computer time-sharing, and internet protocols (TCP/IP), to list only a few. That's quite a list!

In today's information-laden society, think of the magnitude of information that we currently encounter in our daily lives and think of the challenge in handling the massive amounts of data required to solve the world's complex problems. That's information engineering. One of the exciting aspects of this field, but clearly one of the more challenging aspects, too, is that it touches everything. Like calculus or differential equations, information engineering underlies nearly all disciplines of engineering as a fundamental enabling tool. For that reason, it has a remarkably broad "footprint."

As an example, embedded software and communication systems now abound in aeronautical engineering, a field that one might not immediately consider as synonymous with information engineering. Information engineering also touches such wide-ranging problem domains as computational biology, instrumented cities, and pervasive sensors, and it is increasingly central to such topics as materials science research, supply chain management, the Internet, and the so-called ad hoc networks or peer-to-peer networks.

(At least) two ways of looking at it . . .