Information Sciences Institute

Coordinates: 33°58′49″N 118°26′24″W / 33.9802°N 118.440031°W / 33.9802; -118.440031
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ISI headquarters in Marina del Rey, CA

The USC Information Sciences Institute (ISI) is a component of the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering, and specializes in research and development in information processing, computing, and communications technologies. It is located in Marina del Rey, California.[1]

ISI actively participated in the information revolution, and it played a leading role in developing and managing the early Internet and its predecessor ARPAnet.[2][3][4] The Institute conducts basic and applied research supported by more than 20 U.S. government agencies involved in defense, science, health, homeland security, energy and other areas. Annual funding is about $100 million.[5]

ISI employs about 400 research scientists, research programmers, graduate students and administrative staff at its Marina del Rey, California headquarters, in Arlington, Virginia, and in Boston, Massachusetts. About half of the research staff hold PhD degrees, and about 40 are research faculty who teach at USC and advise graduate students.[5] Several senior researchers are tenured USC faculty in the Viterbi School.

Research and sponsors[edit]

ISI research spans artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity,[6] grid computing,[7] cloud computing, quantum computing, microelectronics,[8][9] supercomputing, nano-satellites and many other areas. AI expertise includes natural language processing, in which ISI has an international reputation,[10][11][12] reconfigurable robotics,[13] information integration, motion analysis[14][15] and social media analysis. Hardware/software expertise includes cyber-physical system security, data mining, reconfigurable computing and cloud computing. In networking, ISI explores Internet resilience, Internet traffic analysis and photonics, among other areas.[16][17] Researchers also work in scientific data management, wireless technologies, biomimetics and electrical smart grid, in which ISI is advising the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on a major demonstration project.[18] Another current initiative involves big data brain imaging jointly with the Keck School of Medicine of USC.[19]

Federal agency sponsors include the Air Force Research Laboratory, DARPA, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and other scientific, technical, and defense-related agencies.

Corporate partners include Chevron Corporation in the Center for Interactive Smart Oilfield Technologies (CiSoft), Lockheed Martin in the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center, and Sparta Inc., a subsidiary of Parsons Corporation in the DETER Project, a cybersecurity research initiative and international testbed. ISI also has partnered with businesses including IBM, Samsung Electronics, Raytheon, GlobalFoundries, Northrop Grumman and Carl Zeiss AG, and currently is working with Micron Technology, Inc., Altera Corporation and Fujitsu Ltd.

ISI also operates MOSIS, a multi-project electronic circuit wafer service that has prototyped more than 60,000 chips since 1981. MOSIS provides design tools and pools circuit designs to produce specialty and low-volume chips for corporations, universities and other research entities worldwide. The Institute also has given rise to several startup and spinoff companies in grid software, geospatial information fusion, machine translation, data integration and other technologies.


ISI was founded by Keith Uncapher, who headed the computer research group at RAND Corporation in the 1960s and early 1970s.[20][21] Uncapher decided to leave RAND after his group's funding was cut in 1971. He approached the University of California, Los Angeles about creating an off-campus technology institute, but was told that a decision would take 15 months. He then presented the concept to USC, which approved the proposal in five days.[2] ISI was launched with three employees in 1972. Its first proposal was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 30 days for $6 million.[22]

ISI became one of the earliest nodes on ARPANET,[23] the predecessor to the Internet, and in 1977 figured prominently in a demonstration of its international viability.[24] ISI also helped refine the TCP/IP communications protocols fundamental to Net operations,[3] and researcher Paul Mockapetris developed the now-familiar Domain Name System characterized by .com, .org, .net, .gov, and .edu[25] on which the Net still operates. (The names .com, .org et al. were invented at SRI International, an ongoing collaborator.) Steve Crocker originated the Request for Comments (RFC) series, the written record of the network's technical structure and operation that both documented and shaped the emerging Internet.[26] Another ISI researcher, Danny Cohen, became first to implement packet voice and packet video over ARPANET, demonstrating the viability of packet switching for real-time applications.[27]

Jonathan Postel collaborated in development of TCP/IP, DNS and the SMTP protocol that supports email.[28] He also edited the RFC for nearly three decades until his sudden death in 1998, when ISI colleagues assumed responsibility. The Institute retained that role until 2009. Postel simultaneously directed the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and its predecessor, which assign Internet addresses. IANA was administered from ISI until a nonprofit organization, ICANN, was created for that purpose in 1998.[29]

Other achievements[edit]

Some of the first Net security applications, and one of the world's first portable computers, also originated at ISI.[30]

ISI researchers also created or co-created the:

In 2011, several ISI natural language experts advised the IBM team that created Watson, the computer that became the first machine to win against human competitors on the Jeopardy! TV show.[35][36] In 2012, ISI's Kevin Knight spearheaded a successful drive to crack the Copiale cipher, a lengthy encrypted manuscript that had remained unreadable for 250 years.[37] Also in 2012, the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center (QCC) became the first organization to operate a quantum annealing system outside of its manufacturer, D-Wave Systems, Inc.[38] USC, ISI and Lockheed Martin now are performing basic and applied research into quantum computing.[39] A second quantum annealing system is located at NASA Ames Research Center, and is operated jointly by NASA and Google.[40]

The USC Andrew and Erna Viterbi School of Engineering was ranked among the nation's top 10 engineering graduate schools by US News & World Report in 2015.[1][41] Including ISI, USC is ranked first nationally in federal computer science research and development expenditures.[2]

Organizational structure[edit]

ISI is organized into seven divisions focused on differing areas of research expertise:[5]

  • Advanced Electronics: MOSIS shared-services integrated circuit research and fabrication, CMOS and post-CMOS concepts, and biomimetics
  • Computational Systems and Technology: quantum computing; supercomputing; cloud, wireless, reconfigurable and multicore computing; microarchitecture and electronics; science automation technologies; social networks and space systems
  • Informatics Systems Research: grid computing, information security, service-oriented architectures, imaging and medical informatics that aim to transform healthcare discovery processes, practice and delivery.
  • Artificial Intelligence: artificial intelligence in natural language, machine translation, information integration, education, robotics and other disciplines.
  • Networking and Cybersecurity: internet security research and international testbed, internet measurement and monitoring approaches, and sensor networks that emphasize both networking theory and practice.
  • Space Technology and Systems: space research and hands-on involvement for students through the Space Engineering Research Center, operated jointly by ISI and USC.
  • Vision, Image, Speech and Text Analytics: ISI's Center for Vision, Image, Speech and Text Analytics (VISTA) is an internationally recognized leader in areas such as multimedia signal processing, computer vision, and natural language analysis.

Smaller, specialized research groups operate within almost all divisions.

ISI is led by Executive Director Craig Knoblock, the previous director to the AI division.


  1. ^ a b "USC Viterbi School of Engineering". USC Viterbi - School of Engineering. Archived from the original on 2 January 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Bekey, George A. "A Remarkable Trajectory: From Humble Beginnings to Global Prominence, The history of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering." Charleston: CreateSpace, 2015. Print.
  3. ^ a b "TCP/IP 25th Anniversary | Internet Society". Archived from the original on 2012-04-03.
  4. ^ "Internet pioneers gather in Marina del Rey to honor USC's Information Sciences Institute". 26 March 2010. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  5. ^ a b c "About ISI". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  6. ^ Hamedy, Saba (2014-12-02). "Sony execs' salaries, employee SSNs allegedly leaked in breach". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  7. ^ Krill, Paul (2003-05-23). "2003 InfoWorld Innovators: Ian Foster, Carl Kesselman, and Steve Tuecke". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  8. ^ "Advancing DoD's Ability to Test Critical Microelectronics". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  9. ^ "Stopping Hardware Trojans in Their Tracks". 20 January 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  10. ^ "ACL Member Portal - The Association for Computational Linguistics Member Portal". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  11. ^ Markoff, John (2011-10-24). "How 18th-Century Copiale Cipher Was Cracked". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  12. ^ Hobbs, Jerryr (2013-09-30). "Influences and Inferences". Computational Linguistics. 39 (4): 781–798. doi:10.1162/coli_a_00171. S2CID 11237614.
  13. ^ "How Tiny 'SuperBots' Will Create Cheap, Modular Satellites". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  14. ^ Bolch, Ben (2013-10-27). "Stat-conscious NBA switches to the (advanced) metric system". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  15. ^ "New Players In The NBA: Big Data, User-Controlled Jumbotrons". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  16. ^ "Information Sciences Institute". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  17. ^ "Page Not Found - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 13 August 2018. {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  18. ^ Radio, Southern California Public (1 July 2014). "LADWP flips the switch on 52,000 'smart meters'". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  19. ^ Gordon, Larry; Brown, Eryn (18 May 2013). "USC made its offer to neuroscientists a no-brainer". Archived from the original on 17 May 2015. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  20. ^ Hafner, Katie (2002-10-16). "Keith W. Uncapher, Networking Pioneer, 80". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  21. ^ Menn, Joseph (12 October 2002). "Keith Uncapher, 80; Founder of USC Science Institute, Computer Pioneer". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  22. ^ W., Uncapher, Keith (10 July 1989). "Oral history interview with Keith W. Uncapher". hdl:11299/107692. Retrieved 13 August 2018.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ "Iterations: An interdisciplinary journal of software history". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  24. ^ "Internet History of 1970s - Internet History - Computer History Museum". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  25. ^ "Paul Mockapetris - Internet Hall of Fame". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Steve Crocker - Internet Hall of Fame". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  27. ^ "Danny Cohen - Internet Hall of Fame". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  28. ^ "Jon Postel - Internet Hall of Fame". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  29. ^ "SAC067 : Overview and History of the IANA Functions" (PDF). Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  30. ^ "Timeline". Archived from the original on 14 August 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  31. ^ Waldrop, M. Mitchell. "Grid Computing". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  32. ^ "Calit2 : Foster & Kesselman Awarded Lovelace Medal for Grid Leadership". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  33. ^ "Request Rejected" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2022. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  34. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-09. Retrieved 2015-06-02.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  35. ^ "USC - Viterbi School of Engineering - Viterbi School Computer Scientists Contributed to the Development of IBM Watson". Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  36. ^ "IBM's Watson on 'Jeopardy': Computer takes big lead over humans in Round 2 [Updated, with video]". 15 February 2011. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  37. ^ Shachtman, Noah (2012-11-16). "They Cracked This 250-Year-Old Code, and Found a Secret Society Inside". Wired. Vol. 20, no. 12. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-06-19. Retrieved 2017-03-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  39. ^ "Can quantum computing change the world? This start-up is betting on it". Washington Post. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  40. ^ Jones, Nicola (16 May 2013). "Google and NASA snap up quantum computer". Nature. doi:10.1038/nature.2013.12999. S2CID 57405432. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  41. ^ "Best Engineering School Rankings | Engineering Program Rankings | US News". Archived from the original on 2012-11-18. Retrieved 2012-10-24.

External links[edit]

33°58′49″N 118°26′24″W / 33.9802°N 118.440031°W / 33.9802; -118.440031