Professor Sheelagh Carpendale recognized for her international leadership in data visualization research

May 15, 2023

In recognition of her outstanding and sustained contributions to computing science, professor Sheelagh Carpendale receives a Lifetime Achievement Award from CS-Can/INFO-CAN.

Professor Carpendale, is a SFU Computing Science Professor and Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Information visualization, and an international leader in data visualization and human-centered research. Her work centers on innovative technology design to better support people in their everyday lives. Drawing on her broad interdisciplinary background (fine arts, design, and computer science), she works with a range of people, from domain experts, individuals, and communities, to better under how people interact with data, information, and technologies that work towards creating more natural, accessible and understandable interactive technologies and data visualizations.

Prior to her CRC appointment at SFU, Carpendale held a CRC in Information Visualization at the University of Calgary. Her longstanding partnership with SMART Technologies led to her NSERC/AITF/SMART Industrial Research Chair (IRC) in Interactive Technologies, which prompted the company to include touch-interactive tabletops as part of their offerings to classrooms and offices around the world.

While at the University of Calgary, Carpendale was instrumental in founding the Interactions Lab (iLab), the interdisciplinary graduate program (Master’s and Ph.D.) in Computational Media Design, and starting her InnoVis (Innovations in Visualization) Research Group. In 2018, she moved her InnoVis research group to SFU, where she co-directs the newly formed ixLab (Interactive Experiences Lab). Sheelagh’s many awards include the IEEE Visualization Career Award for lasting achievement in visualization, a 2012 NSERC EWR Steacie, a BAFTA (the British equivalent to an Oscar), the Technology Alberta ASTech Award, and the Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society Achievement Award (CHCCS). She is also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She has been inducted into the IEEE Visualization Academy and the ACM CHI Academy, which consists of principal leaders in the Human-Computer Interaction field.

Carpendale is committed to empowering people by making information and data more accessible, transparent, and understandable. She has worked with various data, including forestry, chemistry, linguistic, and medical data – building visualizations and tools ranging from forest management to medical decision support. Her research has led to many empowering concepts, including personal visualization and constructive visualization, which build on our inherent understanding and experience with the physical world, opening possibilities of enabling non-experts to comprehend, create, and engage with data and data visualizations. These ideas are widely used in workshops, classrooms, and even the United Nations (UN). Her co-authored book, ‘Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook (Greenberg, Carpendale, Marquardt, Buxton), has sold over 20,000 copies, has been translated into four languages, and is used in numerous classrooms worldwide. Sheelagh’s rigorous qualitative research frequently leads to fundamental insights and innovative technologies, and her contribution to interaction fundamentals has led to two Lasting Impact Awards (Tabletop Territoriality and 3D Touch Interaction). Her enviable breadth of research expertise helps fuel her insight into how people interact with technology, data, information, and each other.

She has built a strong reputation for putting her trainees’ needs first, who are now high-fliers themselves, most being professors or working in prestigious industrial research labs. Her trainees also regularly win top national and international awards, including the IEEE Visualization Dissertation Awards (4x), the Bill Buxton Best Canadian HCI Dissertation Awards (2x), an Ontario Early Researcher Award, and a Canada Research Chair.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, Carpendale is committed to improving equity, diversity, and inclusion and incorporating its guiding principles into all aspects of her work: in her research projects, her public installations, in training highly qualified personnel, mentoring junior faculty, and – her research goals to empower a greater diversity of people – by inventing (often co-designing with communities) more appropriate and inclusive technology. 

Carpendale espouses the philosophy that excellence is increased through diversity, as evidenced by her stellar trainees, who continue to propagate this philosophy in their labs, research, and industry practices.