By Andrea Lynn Today the worm, tomorrow the world. That's Bruce Schatz's formidable game plan. He's undaunted, however, for he has spent a decade "pushing the envelope of technology," as he says, designing fundamentally new information systems. Using his previous systems as stepping stones to future ones, Schatz is leaping across the uncharted waters of digital libraries, electronic communities and global networks. "I design things that aren't real for everyone yet, but that are going to be someday soon," said Schatz, an information scientist at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the UI and the UI Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Schatz most recently designed a nationwide electronic library for molecular biologists doing research on a worm whose scientific name is C. elegans. He began developing the Worm Community System (WCS) - the prototypical interactive community archive - in 1989 at the University of Arizona. Seeking an area to test the usability of his technology, Schatz "looked carefully at many subjects, and molecular biology was the best one," he said. "There was so much data already collected and a small, friendly community of scientists needing ready access." Also during that time, more and more scientists studying the human genome - the complete genetic makeup of human beings - began using C. elegans in their studies, which helped "to make WCS a national model," Schatz said. The system now is used in 25 biology labs, primarily for information retrieval, although it offers "much more," Schatz said. "It's really a pattern-analysis environment for navigating interconnected knowledge and a community-sharing medium for publishing that knowledge." Before WCS, Schatz created a general retrieval system for multimedia information distributed across a network. The Telesophy Project for Bellcore "showed that it was technically feasible to do fast searches in multiple data bases across big networks," he said, "and led to the popular information services on the Internet." Schatz, who joined the UI last fall, is completing a new version of WCS. He also plans to continue developing applications in different areas - for example, an information system for neuroscientists that will offer "interactive displays of interlinked knowledge on the human brain." He also plans to begin his next project: to design the WorldNet, the "all-encompassing information system that would put all the world's knowledge at your fingertips," Schatz said. "This has been my undying dream," he said, adding that the WorldNet prototype will be a generalized version for the Internet of the WCS technology. "I've gone from a very general system to a very specific one, and now I'm going back to a very general one. I sometimes say I'm designing what should be the architecture of the National Information Infrastructure."