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SISTA's Curriculum

As a SISTA student in either the BS or BA program you will learn to recognize and solve classes of problems that arise in many disciplines. You will be part of a new generation of students who can work across disciplines. Programs like SISTA typically are assembled from courses in different departments, but the SISTA curriculum is entirely new, to ensure that every course is taught in an interdisciplinary way, for students from all disciplines.

This is possible because, increasingly, we can find common abstractions of the problems solved in different disciplines. For example, linguists and students of finance, geneticists and roboticists all deal with sequences of data. The elements of the sequences denote different phenomena, but the kinds of things we do with sequences are common across disciplines. Similarly, networks or graphs are important in biology, sociology, and computer systems.

In SISTA you will learn a toolbox of methods for solving problems across disciplines. The toolbox includes programming languages, statistics and probability theory, logic and discrete mathematics, and methods for solving general classes of problems.

For example, you will learn to solve problems that involve classifying entities, and predicting the next event given previous events, and finding what multiple data objects have in common, and generating an object that satisfies constraints, and reducing a complicated object to a simpler one that does (almost) the same work, and cramming more information into less space, and searching for one thing in a sea of billions of things, and mapping one structure to another through rules of transformation.

If these problems sound abstract, that's the point. By viewing problems abstractly, you will be able to recognize them and solve them in many areas, including game design, machine learning, automatic translation, computational biology, computing in the arts, social networks, eCommerce, and so on.

These problems are not computer science problems, they are general problems that just happen to be the bread and butter of computer science, information systems, electrical and computer engineering, operations research, statistics and mathematics.

The SISTA curriculum has three tiers. The first tier consists of core courses covering material relevant to a large number of disciplines. These are typically survey or foundational courses. The middle tier is made up of more advanced thematic courses, each serving students from several disciplines. The final tier consists of major courses, which cover more advanced and specialized topics specific to a small number of disciplines.