Visualize your Science

Fascinating as ever, the latest art+science project Data to Discovery at Caltech has once again exceeded our expectations.
The Caltech/JPL/Art Center Data Visualization Program brings together students with computer science and design backgrounds. For 10-weeks, students collaborate with each other and researchers at Caltech and JPL on interactive data visualization projects.
The program co-organizers, Hillary Mushkin (Caltech), Scott Davidoff (JPL), Santiago Lombeyda (Caltech) and Maggie Hendrie (Art Center) provide mentorship alongside scientific researchers at Caltech and JPL.

‘Which questions are we going to ask?
We are looking at the challenges for our students, and the opportunities for our industries and society. When we are going into the adventure of the unknown, we look for answers to our impossible questions, in this beautiful garden, called the garden of science.
Bernard Feringa, Nobel laureate in chemistry

These  questions challenged the Data to Discovery students at Caltech:
1. How can interactive data visualization help scientists and engineers explore their data more effectively?
2. How can computing, design, and design thinking help maximize research results?
3. What methodologies are most effective for leveraging knowledge from these fields?

Through an intensive 10-week summer R+D internship program they are developing new ways of addressing these issues. The program brings researchers from Caltech, JPL and Art Center together to develop custom-built interactive data visualization tools for current science and engineering research at Caltech and JPL. They encode relational information with appropriate visual and interactive characteristics to help interrogate, and ultimately gain new insight into data. Through the program they are developing new interdisciplinary approaches to wicked science problems, leveraging design thinking and the latest methods from computing, user-centered design, interaction design and 3D graphics.

Caltech-JPL-Art Center Visualization Program / Andrade Laboratory

How does the program exactly work?
A team of five students (2 designers, 3 creative computer scientists) work on 3 Caltech/JPL data visualization projects for ten weeks. The designers work on all three projects; each computer scientist is devoted to a single project. They receive mentorship in visualization, computing and design from the program advisors. Students work closely with scientific or engineering researchers to understand their research and data, identify their visualization needs and determine the relevance of design iterations to their research and data.

In the first few weeks, the visualization team gains an appropriate understanding of the science and engineering data through intensive discussions with researchers and exploration of the data. Thereafter, researchers meet with students weekly to explain their data, discuss their needs and provide feedback on relevance of design iterations to their research and data. Students also meet weekly with the visualization advisors to present work in progress, ask questions, and get feedback. At the end of the summer, researchers have operating bespoke visualization software which they can use to further their research. PLASMA had the pleasure to attend the final presentation, a great afternoon lecture with fantastic interactive visualisations. You can catch a glimpse what we have to offer throughout our article.

Caltech-JPL-Art Center Visualization Program / Andrade Laboratory

The program co-organizers

Hillary Mushkin is Research Professor of Art and Design at California Institute of Technology (Caltech), leading a new art, design, science and engineering initiative. As a visual artist, Mushkin explores intersections of media, technology and authority in visual culture. She works in diverse forms including drawing, digital media, and public engagement. She collaborates with others from fields including art history, poetry, architecture, and geography. Mushkin’s projects have been exhibited at the Freud Museum (London), the Getty Museum (Los Angeles), and White Columns (New York). She has also produced works in alternative contexts including sidewalks, a state park, and the 29 Palms Marine Corps base.

Dr. Scott Davidoff manages Human Interfaces for Mission Operations at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. As principal investigator for NASA’s Space Networking and Mission Automation program, he leads design and development of JPL’s next-gen robot and spacecraft controls. As principal investigator of JPL’s Data-to-Discovery program, he leads efforts to create new ways to interrogate and interact with planetary scale datasets. Dr. Davidoff serves on steering committees for the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, and the Association for Computing Machinery. Across his over 18 years of experience, he has introduced numerous lightweight prototyping methods that have become industry standard software practice.

As the department chair of Art Center College of Design’s Interaction Design program, Maggie Hendrie has more than 20 years of experience in new interactive product/service strategy, digital product design, project management, user-centered design, usability and user experience testing, strategy and organizational Planning. She previously held director positions within companies such as: Sony Pictures Entertainment, US; Whittman-Hart/MarchFIRST, Inc.; Caresoft Inc.; and Manifest Digital. In addition, Hendrie consults for numerous clients including Toyota, Kaiser and Accenture.

Santiago Lombeyda
From gene expression visualizations, covers for Nature magazine to his own exhibited designs, Santiago Lombeyda is a leading maker, technologist and designer in the emerging field of data visualization. He has been a scientist in the Center for Advanced Computing at Caltech for almost 20 years, specializing in scientific visualization. He is also a lecturer at Caltech and the Art Center College of Design.

The interns on the grains project team
Jeff Brewer, Computer Science Lead Intern
Adrian Galvin, Design Lead Intern
Pooja Nair, Design Lead Intern
Jarod Boone, Computer Science Collaborating Intern
David Schurman, Computer Science Collaborating Intern

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