Computer and information research scientists invent and design new technology and find new uses for existing technology. They study and solve complex problems in computing for business, science, medicine, and other uses.
Computer and information research scientists typically do the following:
Computer and information research scientists create and improve computer algorithms, which are sets of instructions that tell a computer what to do. Some computer tasks are very difficult and require complex algorithms. Computer and information research scientists try to simplify these instructions to make the computer system as efficient as possible. These algorithms become the foundation for advancements in many types of technology, such as machine learning systems and cloud computing.
Computer and information research scientists’ work often leads to advancement and increased efficiency in many areas, such as better networking technology, faster computing speeds, and improved information security. In general, computer and information research scientists work on a more theoretical level than other computer professionals.
Many people with a computer and information research science background become professors and teachers. For more information on computer science professors, see the profile on postsecondary teachers. In general, researchers in an academic setting focus on computer theory, although those working for businesses or scientific organizations usually focus on projects that have the possibility of producing profits.
Some computer scientists collaborate with electrical engineers, computer hardware engineers, and other specialists to work on multidisciplinary projects. The following are examples of some specialties for computer and information research scientists:
Hardware. Computer and information research scientists who study hardware architecture discover new ways to process and send information. They design computer chips and processors using new materials and technology to make chips and processors work faster and to give them more computing power.
Robotics. Some computer and information research scientists study how to improve robots. Robotics explores how a machine can interact with the physical world as effectively as humans and other living creatures. Computer and information research scientists create the programs that control the robots. They work closely with engineers who focus on the hardware design of robots. Together, these workers test how well the robots do the tasks they were created to do – such as assemble cars and collect data on other planets.
Software. Computer and information research scientists write the software that controls the electronic components in cars and other advanced machines. The embedded software written by computer scientists is complex and requires a high degree of accuracy because of the consequences of failure of the electronic components within such products, such as a car’s braking system or an ultrasound machine.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition