Carpendale, Dr. Sheelagh

2013 Winner: Innovation In Information And Communications Technology Sponsored By TELUS

Endless Applications For Information Visualization Research

For Dr. Sheelagh Carpendale, working in the rapidly evolving field of information visualization and multi-touch interaction keeps getting more exciting as she seizes opportunities to explore it through an expanding array of possibilities.

“Visualization combines computing science with any discipline that involves data such as medicine, physics, biology and library science,” explains Dr. Carpendale, professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Calgary. “I see visualization as a way of working with information that makes it more accessible to all people — from scientists and information analysts, to decision makers and the general public.”

Multidisciplinary Background

Dr. Carpendale is an internationally renowned researcher, whose work draws upon her combined backgrounds in fine arts, design and computer science, benefiting from the rich cross-fertilization of ideas amongst these fields. Her research seeks to design, develop, and evaluate interactive technologies that support the everyday practices of people who are viewing, representing, managing, and interacting with information.

Dr. Carpendale’s research combines fundamental advances in information visualization, visual analytics, and human-computer interaction with innovative new interaction techniques. These approaches embed people’s work and social practices in technology to aid information work and promote collaboration.

About five years ago, Dr. Carpendale brought her pioneering work on interaction models for tabletop displays to Calgary’s SMART Technologies’ attention and triggered SMART’s early start in this direction.

Plethora of Applications

Dr. Carpendale is sought after by doctors and medical researchers to use her data visualization skills to aid in diagnoses. Libraries seek her out to help them to humanize digital access to their books without losing the serendipitous appeal of the books-on-shelves library. Also her research group invented ‘FatFonts’, in which the amount of ink (dark pixels) used for each digit is proportional to its quantitative value. This enables accurate reading of the numerical data while preserving an overall visual context – and it’s getting a lot of interest worldwide.

Dr. Carpendale is putting Alberta on the map as an interactive information visualization research destination.

Incredible Influence

She attracts international graduate students who have been recruited by such places as MIT, Stanford and Harvard University for fellowships and post-doctoral studies. Because of her devotion to her students and her approach to research, Dr. Carpendale has influenced the shape of the university. She proposed and created a new inter-disciplinary Computational Media Design program whose primary purpose is to streamline interdisciplinary graduate studies that involve Computer Science, Fine Arts and Design.

“Working with these bright young people — to see the computer science field through their eyes and to help them become known for their unique focus on interactive technology and visualization — is a privilege,” Dr. Carpendale says. She was nominated by her students for the top supervisory award at the U of C — and won it. She was also one of six scientists awarded NSERC’s 2012 E.W.R Steacie Memorial Fellowship.