School of Information Sciences

Research: Overview

The School of Information Sciences has a long tradition of excellent research programs and laboratories. As part of a major research university, the school is dedicated to expanding the body of knowledge and creating the next generation of information technologies through its research.

   |    Adaptive Web Systems   |    Big Data   |    Data Visualization   |    Human Robot Interaction   |   
Intelligent Web Information Access   |    Learning Technology   |    Machine Learning   |    Network Science   |   
Spatial Informatics   |    Security   |    Social Computing   |    Wireless Information Systems   |   

Adaptive Web Systems

Adaptive Web Systems has grown from a narrow research field to a important part of our lives. We watch movies follow suggestions from Netflix, enjoy personalized music streams from Pandora and Last.FM, receive personalized search results from Google, and get link recommendations in LinkedIn. Faculty and students at our school investigate a broad range of user-adaptive systems: adaptive hypermedia, adaptive search, recommender systems and adaptive educational systems presenting their work at UMAP, AI-Ed, ITS, EDM, RecSys, WWW, IUI, SIGIR, Hypertext, and other top conferences.

Our papers brought home an extensive best paper award collection including four most prestigious awards in the area of personalization -- James Chen best student paper awards. The majority of research projects on this topic is now focused on personalization based on social data, i.e., information directly or indirectly left by the large community of users. Among the topics investigated at our School are social navigation in hyperspace, recommendations based on social tags and social links, and open social student modeling e-learning systems. The list of faculty and groups involved in this research includes Dr. Peter Brusilovsky and his Personalized Adaptive Web Systems (PAWS) Lab, Dr. Daqing He and his IRIS group, and Dr. Rosta Farzan.

Big Data

The new effort on Big Data Analytics couples several faculty including:

Data Visualization

Data visualization has been increasingly important in this "big data" world. With the explosion of different types of data generated from multiple sources, ranging from research groups, government agencies to participatory sensing data collected through social media and mobile devices, it is important to provide intelligent interface for all stakeholders in order to support actionable information seeking, particularly for supporting collective sense-making, situational awareness, and dissemination of credible crisis-relevant information. In our school, we have worked on new visualization techniques that enable people to synthesize information and derive insight from massive, dynamic, multi-sourced, multi-faced, interrelated and sometimes conflicting data, and provide timely assessment for making decisions. Our work has been featured in the most prestigious visualization venues including TVCG, InfoVis and VAST. Faculty/Lab: Drs. Yu-Ru Lin, Peter Brusilovsky.

Human Robot Interaction

Human Robot Interaction (HRI) is becoming increasingly important as Moore's Law has spread from memory and processors to sensors and the internet of things. With accurate and inexpensive depth sensing provided by laser range finders and more recently rgb-d cameras such as the Kinect it is now possible to integrate robots into human environments without the danger and expense of only a few years ago. Whether in commercial applications where the Baxter "pick and place" robot can automate light assembly tasks for less than the cost of a family sedan to the ubiquity of drones in military and now civilian applications, robots are extending the computing revolution into the physical world. Our school has been at the forefront of this emerging field for the past 15 years with major grants from NSF, AFOSR, AFRL, ONR, and NIST. Faculty/Lab: Drs. Michael Lewis, Hassan Karimi.

Intelligent Web Information Access

Intelligent Web Information Access examines various sub-topics areas of information access and retrieval to web information, which include adaptive and interactive information retrieval, information access using mobile devices, and collaborative and social information access. Several faculty members at our school have led research in this area, which include Dr. Daqing He and his IRIS group, and Dr. Peter Brusilovsky and his PAWS lab.

Learning Technology

Learning Technology has been an important research area for many years. The growth of Web-based education and more recently the popularity of MOOC has rapidly increase the demand for faculty and industry experts in this field. Learning technology research at Teaching and Learnng Research Lab (TALER) at our School is mostly focused on advanced Web-based technologies for teaching information science subjects. With the support of several NSF grants to we developed and explored several innovative interactive systems to teach Databases, C programming, and Java programming. These systems are used at Pitt and many other universities every semester. The current priority topic of our learning technology research is learning analytics, educational data mining, and data driven e-learning personalization: i.e., personalization based on mining large volume of data left by past students of e-learning systems. The leading faculty in this area are Dr. Peter Brusilovsky, who is also Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies and Dr. Vladimir Zadorozhny.

Machine Learning

Machine learning techniques are a leading component of the data mining toolbox. New approaches to both unsupervised and supervised learning have been introduced, and are already being incorporated into applications in information retrieval, natural language processing, and object recognition. Some of the recent topics explored at our school include ontology mapping and multi-modal learning. Faculty/Lab: Drs. Paul Munro, Michael Lewis.

Network Science

A large number of information-related phenomena can be studied through the metaphor of networks. The advancement of interconnected information and communication technologies has made networks one of the dominant ways of analyzing the use and flow of information among individuals, institutions, and societies. Several faculty members at our school have led research in this area, including Drs. Yu-Ru Lin and Konstantinos Pelechrinis. They explore novel network metrics, models and mining techniques and apply network science on a variety of applications such as social network analysis, urban informatics as well as communication networks. Faculty Contact: Dr. Konstantinos Pelechrinis.

Spatial Informatics

The Spatial Information Research Group at the University of Pittsburgh is dedicated to the understanding and use of spatial information across a wide variety of contexts. Spatial information theory forms the underpinnings to developments in geographic information systems, navigation and aspects of scientific visualization. Specific research interests of the group include formal approaches to spatial reasoning, empirical studies on human spatial cognition, and the use of spatial metaphors in virtual environments. Faculty Contact: Dr. Stephen Hirtle.


Cutting-edge research in the area of information security and privacy research is being conducted at School's Laboratory of Education on Security Assured Information System (LERSAIS), which has been designated as a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and Research (CAE & CAE-R) jointly by the US NSA and DHS. The recent survey ranks our Information Security and Privacy program 7th in the nation. The research carried out at LERSAIS focus on security and privacy solutions for emerging large scale distributed environments such as Cloud Computing, Social Networks, Smart Grids, Mobile/Wireless infrastructures, and Healthcare systems. Theoretical and practical solutions to trust, security and privacy challenges have been the focus of LERSAIS faculty members, who have been supported by funding from federal and industry sources. As part of SIS, LERSAIS is in the midst of a highly interdisciplinary environment, positioning itself as an ideal place to tackle multi-faced problems in the area of security, privacy and trust. Key faculty members with research focus in these area include James Joshi, Balaji Palanisamy, Prashant Krishnamurthy, David Tipper and Michael Spring. For more information, visit LERSAIS.

A recent research paper from LERSAIS has attracted media attention: Pitt News,, Science Daily,,,,,

Social Computing

The research in the area of Social Computing explores the role of information technologies in understanding of social online systems such as Wikipedia, Question/Answer sites, and Social Networking. Several faculty at the School of Information Sciences lead research in this area, including Drs. Rosta Farzan, Yu-Ru Lin, Daqing He, and Peter Brusilovsky. They explore qualitative, quantitative, and computational methods in understanding how social information systems are used and impact the society and how these systems can be designed more effectively to address information needs of individuals, communities, and the society. Faculty Contact: Dr. Rosta Farzan.

Wireless Information Systems

Wireless systems have become a vital infrastructure in today's society. The Wireless Information Systems group comprising of several faculty members - Drs. Ackers, Krishnamurthy, Pelechrinis, Tipper, and Weiss have exciting areas of research that include innovative ways of spectrum utilization and management, resilience of wireless networks, human use of mobile information and security of wireless information systems. The faculty have a long track record of federal research funding from the National Science Foundation, Army Research Labs, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology supporting the research. Faculty Contact: Dr. Prashant Krishnamurthy.


More Than ...

Our programs look at more than the system, the archive, or the network. Students are taught to consider the needs of the end user.

The Leading Edge

Because Pitt is one of the top public research institutions in the world, iSchool students can do research projects with faculty members who are at the leading edges of their disciplines.