Using skills she refined in CSU Channel Islands’ (CSUCI) Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS) program, graduate student Sarah Schmidt—who was awarded her master’s degree during the 2022 Commencement ceremonies—used her thesis to tackle one of the most stubborn problems on the internet: COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

“I got the inspiration to work with COVID misinformation because I have people in my life who received misinformation online during the pandemic,” Schmidt said. “You see the impact it has on people and it’s shocking and scary.”

To detect misinformation about COVID vaccines, Schmidt used “machine learning,” a subfield of artificial intelligence that aims to extract patterns in data that may be difficult, if not impossible, to discover without the help of sophisticated computer modeling and classification.

Using video transcriptions from social media sources such as YouTube, Schmidt used something called “natural language processing” and “classical machine learning” to classify videos as accurate or inaccurate based on expert information available.

Natural language processing refers to a computer’s ability to understand and respond to text or voice data. Classical machine learning is the process of building algorithms that can learn from existing data and use that data to make new predictions—such as predicting what could be misinformation.

“Conspiracy theories and misinformation can be confusing,” she said. “It can be phrased in such a way so that it sounds credible to the average person. This a way to automate whether the information was valid or not.”

Offered through CSUCI’s Extended University, the MSCS enables students like Schmidt to craft their degrees toward some of the hottest areas in the field such as cybersecurity, robotics, bioinformatics, cloud computing and video gaming.

“Our faculty are active researchers across many core areas of computer science,” said Director of the MSCS program, Brian Thoms, Ph.D. “Everything we teach is relevant and cutting-edge. I don’t believe in technology for technology’s sake and I’m happy to say that our curriculum at CI reflects this. Even more so, what we teach helps prepare our students to move the industry forward.”   

Schmidt’s vaccine misinformation detection thesis was among many theses with real world applications, Thoms said. Another excellent example was recently completed by Nooshan Sedaghati in which a computer program compared Computed Tomography or CT scans of healthy lungs versus lungs infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Through mentorship with her faculty advisor, Bahareh Abbasi, Ph.D., Nooshan’s research could detect COVID-infected lungs from healthy lungs with a 99% degree of accuracy, a tremendous accomplishment, according to Thoms.

“A picture may be worth a thousand words, but for a machine, that same picture may be worth so much more and when broken into a million bits of data,” he said.

The two-year MSCS program at CSUCI is comprised of many electives that allow students to explore areas of CS that interest students most and areas of CS that are most in need of CS students.

One such course is cloud computing, which explores the design and programming of internet systems. Another such course is computer security, which explores issues and techniques for securing networked computer systems and databases.

Job prospects in any of these specialized areas are extremely promising, and growing rapidly, Thoms said. According to recent data by, there are at least 500,000 open jobs in cybersecurity in the U.S. alone, a number that continues to climb.

All classes are offered at the Camarillo main campus and evening classes are available for the convenience of working professionals.

To learn more about the MS Computer Science program, visit:!

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