Space for visualization center set at Ungar building

The Ungar building is the future home for a data visualization center that will allow students to create 3-D digital images. From using data to visualize changing sea level trends to modeling the construction project at the Frost School of Music, the lab will offer a new approach to understanding the information.

The Center for Computational Science plans to begin building its new visualization lab in May after the end of the semester. The state-of-the-art facility, intended to provide the tools needed to present data in a relevant and comprehensible manner, will be equipped with large-screen, 2-D and 3-D displays, a series of computers installed with advanced discipline-specific software and a direct connection to the school’s supercomputer.

“We want to create a cutting-edge environment so that we can provide our students with the best education,” said Nick Tsinoremas, the center’s director.

The new IBM Pegasus supercomputer, introduced last spring, lets users perform complex calculations five times faster than the previous supercomputer. The latest technology combined with the visualization lab will help bring together faculty and students in a broad range of disciplines.

“Visualization is not a cohesive discipline, but instead a mixture of different disciplines,” said Alberto Cairo, a School of Communication professor and director of the visualization program.

The Center for Computational Sciences, divided into different focus areas, collaborates with many other schools and departments, ranging from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science to the Frost School of Music.

Cairo, named director in January, will be working closely with the new lab. His role signifies the center’s increased emphasis on data visualization, as previously there wasn’t anyone to manage this division.

Although Cairo received his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a research-oriented master’s degree in Information Society Studies, he became passionate about information graphics following an internship centered in this subject. His chief focus today lies in the convergence of visual communication, journalism, cognitive science, cartography and statistics.

“Visualization involves bringing people together,” he said. “It is about making people think and see things differently.”

Cairo is currently working on establishing a database of all of the people on campus who have done work with visualization or information graphics. He has identified more than 40 faculty members and students who meet these criteria and plans to unite them.

“Right now, many of them are working in isolation,” he said. “I want to strengthen their ties.”

The new lab will be available for all students to use, but Cairo anticipates that advanced undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students will primarily utilize the facility.

Tsinoremas, the driving force behind the initiative, envisions the lab as a workspace that students can visit to complete assignments, present visual projects and innovate using the latest technology.

The Center for Computational Science plans to offer training sessions and workshops to teach students and faculty how to use the new software. The center expects to complete the project by early 2015, but its total cost has not yet determined yet.

Word of the project has some students excited already.

“I think that this new lab will be a heaven for people who want to design,” said sophomore accounting major Ian Perchik.