UW News

October 2, 2014

UW’s Jeffrey Heer wins award to support data visualization research

UW News

Jeffrey Heer photo

Jeffrey Heer

Researchers in the natural and social sciences will benefit from an award that will bring new talent, courses and tools in big-data discovery and analysis to labs and departments across campus.

Jeffrey Heer, a University of Washington associate professor of computer science and engineering, was selected for the Moore Investigator in Data-Driven Discovery award from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to develop new theories, tools and techniques for data visualization that help scientists see and understand big data.

The grant, $1.5 million over five years, will allow Heer’s group – the UW Interactive Data Lab – to expand its work and enable campus researchers to more effectively explore and analyze data. These efforts will include courses and activities that bring together computer scientists and physical scientists to develop new visualizations and interactive analysis tools for their research.

The award builds upon recent efforts at the UW to offer more resources for researchers to process vast amounts of information generated through projects ranging from mapping the ocean to understanding galaxy formation.

“At the UW, we already have significant momentum in data science. This award will expand and accelerate our related data visualization efforts,” Heer said. “This work is about simultaneously pushing forward state-of-the-art visualization and interactive data analysis tools while partnering with physical scientists to advance research and knowledge in their fields.”

A data visualization example

A data visualization example: Parallel coordinates is a popular method of visualizing high-dimensional data using dynamic queries. In this example, hundreds of cars can be quickly compared by filtering along any dimension.Jeffrey Heer

The Moore Investigator in Data-Driven Discovery awards will support 14 scientists, including Heer, with grants totaling $21 million over five years to pursue new approaches to data-driven discovery. These unrestricted awards will allow recipients to advance new data science methods across a wide spectrum of disciplines.

“What’s unique about the Moore Foundation’s approach is that it is trying to influence the way discovery takes place. In the new world of data-intensive discovery, you can use entirely new approaches to ask and answer entirely new questions,” said Ed Lazowska, a UW professor of computer science and engineering and director of the UW’s eScience Institute. “They’re trying to ‘bridge the gap’ between new methodologies and new discoveries, and are funding the very best people and groups who bridge this gap.”

Data visualization example

This example recreates the CalTrain timetable. Stations are separated vertically in proportion to geography. The slope of the line reflects the actual speed of the train, so the steeper the line, the faster the train.Jeffrey Heer

The Data-Driven Discovery Initiative at the Moore Foundation, in partnership with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, in 2013 awarded the UW, the University of California, Berkeley, and New York University $37.8 million to help create collaborative campus space and partnerships among researchers across each university who use big data in their work.

Heer also is a co-founder and chief experience officer at Trifacta, a San Francisco-based company that provides interactive tools for scalable data transformation.

Christopher Re of Stanford University, another of the 14 award winners, completed his doctorate degree in computer science and engineering at the UW in 2009.


For more information, contact Heer at jheer@uw.edu.

Moore Foundation news release: http://bit.ly/DDDInv14PR