A new graduate program encouraging interdisciplinary research on the technical aspects of e-commerce and its constantly expanding social role is being creating at the University through a five-year, $2.7 million grant recently awarded by the National Science Foundation.

The program, called the Socio-Technical Infrastructure for Electronic Transactions, or STIET, will finance two-year doctoral fellowships for about 65 graduate students using the NSF grant, said Frank DeSanto, the media production coordinator for the University”s School of Information.

STIET”s purpose will be very broad research on e-commerce and its social implications, said Business Prof. Michael Gordon, co-investigator for the project. The program will begin awarding fellowships to students with creative research ideas next fall, he said.

Gordon said e-commerce has become an important issue to study because people are more familiar with the Internet and expect to be able to complete an increasing amount of their daily tasks online.

Computer science Prof. Michael Wellman, another co-investigator, said the graduate students working with the STIET program will be prepared for careers in firms researching online business issues.

STIET will train University students using an unique approach to e-commerce research by combining four University schools Information, Business Administration, Engineering and Literature, Science and the Arts into one interdisciplinary program, Wellman said.

DeSanto said the interdisciplinary approach is important because a comprehensive study must examine various issues of online commerce, and each school represents a different aspect of e-commerce.

“STIET combines the technical aspects of e-commerce, such as computing and telecommunications, with the social aspects how people get work done, how lives are affected by the practice of e-commerce,” Gordon said.

School of Information graduate student Nat Bulkley said the interdisciplinary nature of the program also brings together researchers from across the University.

“It”s a huge advantage because no one discipline has all the answers,” he said.

Gordon added that because students will work with professors from different schools, they will gain experience from experts on the individual issues of online business.

In addition to financing fellowships, the NSF grant will fund the creation of several classes and a weekly seminar to teach research skills under the STIET program, Wellman said. The classes are currently being developed but will be available next fall.

Gordon said students will take such classes to fulfill the requirements of the STIET doctoral program while completing a doctoral degree from one of the four interdisciplinary schools.

Wellman said Microsoft and IBM will assist University faculty in the development of STIET by reviewing the program and providing advice. He said the companies may also offer internships to the researchers.

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