Monday, May 11, 2015

Student projects and the future of visualization at UM

I should pay more attention to competitions and awards. Our University of Miami student Luís Melgar has just won first place in the infographics category of the SND Student Contest with a data project he made for my class in the Fall 2014 semester. See it below. He submitted this without my knowing, so it was a complete surprise. The other awards were won by students from UNC-Chapel Hill. Congratulations to them, too!

This semester I've seen other interesting explanation graphics and data visualizations done by our students. For instance, Yiran Zhu's capstone project, on rising sea levels in Miami. Yiran, who has just been hired as a graphics designer by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, combined charts, maps, and 3D animation in a very interesting manner.

Also, students in my Introduction to Infographics and Data Visualization class (our 101 course, so to speak) did some very nice stuff. This course is becoming increasingly popular. In the semester that has just ended we offered two sections, one for grads and another for undergrads. We've been forced to expand to four sections this coming Fall. Two of them will be taught by Hiram Henríquez, who this Spring was in charge of a special topics class in which he collaborated with faculty from UM's School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Some of the visual explanations Hiram's class produced are already being used in press releases.

Besides all of the above, I believe that Lynn Cherny's new advanced class on Javascript-based visualization in the Fall is going to be groundbreaking. I'm really excited about it (I'm auditing it; d3.js. here I come!)

As I said when presenting our plan for a new track in visualization, infographics, and mapping, offered in our Interactive Media Master (MFA) program, I'd like the University of Miami to become a if not the place to be if you wish to learn how to use visuals to communicate with the public. Note to myself: Perhaps one of the first steps would be to start encouraging students to submit their work to contests...