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Designing scientific information and communicating to non-expert audiences

March 9, 2007

  • Date: Friday, March 9th, 2007 
  • Time: 3 pm — 4 pm 
  • Place: ECE 118

Donna J. Cox 
University of Wisconsin

Abstract: Professor Donna J. Cox will present a visual feast of digital data-driven scientific visualizations from her collaborative work at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She coined the term “Renaissance Teams” in 1985 to describe interdisciplinary research teams focused on challenges in scientific visualization. In the early years, teams were small local groups, but now through grid technologies, many teams are distributed remotely and work collaboratively through global technologies. She collaborates, designs and aesthetically directs data-driven visualizations of supercomputer simulations from a variety of disciplines ranging from oceanography to astrophysics. She demonstrates both rigorous design methodologies and works with educators and focus groups to provide solutions to the challenging work of data-driven visualizations for non-expert audiences. She and her team have developed new visualization methods and virtual reality tools that provide novel ways for researchers to collaborate over remote distances and high-speed networks. Cox will describe these technologies and the resulting high-resolution, high-fidelity digital scientific animations for museums and high-definition television.

Technology is exponentially transforming the way that people collaborate, scientists ‘see’, and designers invent. Cox will present a voyage of how art and science have converged through computer graphics technology. Her greatest passion is to employ new technologies to inspire general audiences with the awe and mystery of science. This presentation will demonstrate advanced graphical techniques in the making of ‘high art’ science for insight and public presentation.

Bio: Donna J. Cox is Director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). She is Professor in the School of Art and Design and a recognized pioneer in computer art and scientific visualization. Cox’s collaborations in data-driven visualizations are featured in a variety of large-format venues around the world including digital planetaria. Her greatest passion is to bring science to a wide range of audiences through innovative and aesthetic presentations. She was Art Director and Producer of Scientific Visualization for the science educational IMAX film “Cosmic Voyage,” nominated for 1997 Academy Award and funded by National Science Foundation, Smithsonian Institute, and the Motorola Foundation. She and her team have thrilled millions of people with visualizations for such programs as the PBS NOVA “Hunt for the Supertwister” and “Runaway Universe.” Cox and NCSA worked with the American Museum of Natural History to produce high-resolution visualizations for the Hayden Planetarium’s 2000 Millenium show, “Passport to the Universe” and “The Search for Life: Are We Alone?” She received the International Coler-Maxwell Award in for her seminal paper, “Using Supercomputer to Visualize Higher Dimensions: An Artist’s Contribution to Science” where she coined the term ‘Renaissance Teams.’ She was elected SIGGRAPH Director at large for four years and SIGGRAPH 2005 Emerging Technologies Chair and is currently on the Editorial Board of Leonardo: International Journal of Art, Science and Technology. Cox has authored book chapters and articles including the recent “Visualization and Visual Metaphors,” in Aesthetic Computing, ed. Paul Fishwick, MIT Press, 2006. She was recently honored at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry as one of 40 selected modern-day Leonardo DaVinci’s. She and her team have recently finished a high-definition PBS NOVA show, “Monster of the Milky Way,” that premiered Halloween 2006.

Note: This colloquium/seminar is sponsored by Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and cross-listed here for interested CS people.