SFU visual analytics pioneer recognized with career award

November 10, 2016

SFU News

Simon Fraser University engineering science professor emeritus John Dill is being recognized with a major professional award for his lifetime contributions to the fields of computer graphics and visual analytics.

Dill is the recipient of the 2016 Visualization Career Award, given by the IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity.

The award recognizes those who have made a significant contribution to the community through their research. This year’s award recognizes Dill’s “major industrial and academic research advances, spanning computer-aided engineering and design, human-computer interaction and data visualization.”

He is also being recognized for his organizational leadership that helped to develop the Visual Analytics (VA) field.

VA assists analysts to process enormous amounts of text, numbers, photos, video and other data from many unrelated sources, and visually represent the information for human evaluation, using a variety of computerized analytical processes.

“VA is a strong and growing field, and emphasizes the ‘human-in-the-loop’ aspects of analysing large, complex collections of data,” says Dill. “It enables analysts to interactively visualize and work with the results of these computational techniques.”

Dill came to SFU’s School of Engineering Science from industry in 1987 and joined SIAT in 2005. At the time he also served as a member of the U.S. National Visual Analytics Centre panel that defined VA, and was one of two Canadian researchers to participate in VACCINE, a major U.S. government research project on preventing terrorism, using the powerful and relatively new VA field.

With colleagues at SFU and UBC, he initiated efforts to establish VA in Canada, and with funding from The Boeing Company, launched the SFU-based Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics (VIVA), a joint SFU-UBC effort. VIVA has since established a national centre (CANVAC) and an industrial consortium (VARDEC).

He also worked with colleague Brian Fisher on research to evaluate and improve ways to analyze complex data related to aircraft safety, reliability and maintainability. Several researchers at SFU and UBC were supported by funding from Boeing.

Dill also co-developed the CZSaw text analytics system, which enables analysts to work with large collections of text documents, and identify important relationships among entities in these documents, such as people, places and transactions.