A program that focuses on the application of statistics and other computational methods to the study of problems in the biological sciences and related fields in agriculture and natural resources. Includes instruction in computational biology, mathematical statistics, matrix algebra, applied calculus, experimental design, linear modeling, sampling theory, stochastic processes, spatial and temporal analysis, longitudinal analysis, sparse/unbalanced data and complex error, and applications to such topics as population genetics, animal breeding, forest genetics, population dynamics, wildlife biometry, ecology, and agricultural and natural resource management.

Careers in biometrics focus on the use of biological and behavioral data based on individual characteristics.

What do facial recognition software, criminal fingerprinting, and voice patterns have in common? They are all examples of biometric data. Humans have so many unique markers that are difficult to duplicate or mimic, and these markers are valuable identifiers that can be used in many contexts. Eye scanners have been a sci-fi staple for a long time, but these days they're very real - iris patterns are distinctive and can be used to identify people. Certain behavioral patterns can be tracked in similar ways; even the shape of someone's ear is viable biometric data, since no two are quite alike. Those who work in biometrics spend their days creating and tweaking ways to collect and process this type of information, organizing it into databases, or using it to find and track people.

The use of biometrics is controversial, especially as data privacy becomes a more pressing issue for anyone living in the digital world. Their detractors aren't just privacy enthusiasts with ethical concerns, but data experts who insist that there is no completely accurate way to collect and store such complex information and security professionals who warn that biometric databases are too easy for hackers to access.

Biometrics work may include...

  • Designing, creating, or maintaining identification systems
  • Developing authentication factors based on biological markers
  • Improving current identification and security systems
  • Collecting and organizing biological data
  • Teaching computers to recognize biological markers

The biggest employers in biometrics tend to be some level of law enforcement, from local police to the department of Homeland Security. The Department of Justice and its subsidiaries make frequent use of biometrics, as do military organizations and intelligence groups. Workers with specialized knowledge of biometrics often act as consultants within these contexts or serve as expert witnesses in court. Tech companies increasingly make use of fingerprints and facial recognition, and they hire workers accordingly to research, design, and engineer the necessary software and equipment. Hospitals, security companies, and financial organizations also occasionally venture into the world of biometrics and seek qualified employees to guide them there.

While the educational requirements for working with biometrics vary, a four-year Bachelor's degree is standard. Many schools don't offer coursework in biometrics, but that's not necessarily a barrier; by completing coursework in physiology, computer science, software engineering, and math, a student can build a solid foundation that will make it easier to jump into the field. Those more interested in applying biometrics systems than creating them may take courses in criminal justice, business ethics, or foreign policy, depending on the career they intend to pursue. Graduate studies can be a compelling option for students interested in biometrics; it's most common to seek out Master's or Doctoral degree programs in engineering. Certificate programs in biometrics are a less time-consuming option for the student who wants to learn in a specific context without writing an entire thesis.

However you choose to look at their effects, biometrics represent monumental advances in technology and are a huge element of present and future interactions between human society and machines. Are you prepared to have a hand in that future, or a voice, or an eye? If so, a career in biometrics could prove very interesting.

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