Chen Receives 2016 NSM Junior Faculty Research Award

Honors His Contributions to Vector Field Visualization

Every year, the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics recognizes the exceptional research contributions of a faculty member at the assistant professor level by awarding the Junior Faculty Award for Excellence in Research.

Gunning ChenThis year’s recipient, Guoning Chen, assistant professor of computer science, has been recognized for his contributions to vector field visualization.

For this honor, Chen will be presented with a plaque and an award of $5,000. This award, which was introduced in 2015, requires nomination by the head of the department, who writes a letter in support. In addition, three respected individuals, who work within the nominee’s field and are unaffiliated with UH, are asked to provide letters of recommendation describing the candidate’s excellence in research.

“The quality and quantity of Guoning Chen’s research is truly outstanding,” noted one recommender. 

Chen joined the University of Houston in 2012 as an assistant professor. Chen’s research, for which he was awarded a highly prestigious NSF CAREER Award, helps scientists make sense of their experimental results by developing effective methods for visually representing vector field data.

In today’s world, where researchers have the ability to collect large amounts of data very quickly, interpreting these data in a timely and accurate manner is often the limiting factor to understanding experimental results.

“The visual communication channel is the most effective way for a person to receive information,” Chen said. “People can easily perceive patterns and trends from well-designed visual representations of data. This is why the field of visualization is so important.”

The visualization methods Chen is creating can be applied to a diverse array of fields as a way of understanding and interpreting large amounts of data. Areas that can benefit from his methods include climate study, physics, chemistry, mechanical and civil engineering, oceanography, earthquake engineering, and cardiovascular disease diagnosis.

“Chen’s expertise in several topics relating to scientific visualization can be considered to be at the top 1 percent of the researchers in the field,” wrote one recommender. “His work in the topographical analysis of 2D vector fields had an important impact on the field of vector field visualization,” noted another recommender.

“I want to create accurate representations to serve as an intermediary between the raw data and the experts who need to interpret the data, so that they won’t be drowning in a flood of data,” Chen said. “For this, my visualization representations need to be intuitive and informative, without losing any of the important information.”

- Rachel Fairbank, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics