Catherine Plaisant

Catherine Plaisant is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and Associate Director of Reserach of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab. Catherine Plaisant earned a Doctorat d'Ingenieur degree in France (similar to a Industrial Engineering PhD). In 1988 she joined Professor Ben Shneiderman at the Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory where she now enjoys working with multidisciplinary teams on designing and evaluating new interface technologies that are useful and usable.

Catherine Plaisant has over 140 published papers, on subjects as diverse as information visualization, medical informatics, universal access, digital humanities, technology for families, and evaluation methodologies. With Ben Shneiderman she co-authored the 4th and 5th Editions of Designing the User Interface, one of the major books on Human-Computer Interaction.

Research contributions range from focused user interaction techniques (e.g. Excentric Labeling) to innovative visualizations (such as LifeLines or EventFlow for the analysis of temporal records or SpaceTree for hierarchical data exploration) and interactive search interface techniques such as Query Previews. Those interaction techniques have been carefully validated with user studies and are finding applications in industry, government information systems and digital libraries.

Need (a lot) more? Resume

Click to enlarge
and other pictures

Contact information

Tel: +1 (301) 405-2768, Fax (if you alert me first): +1 (301) 405-6707
Surface mail address: HCIL, 2117C Hornbake South Wing University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, U.S.A.
Coming to visit? see directions to HCIL

** News **

12/10/2014: I was elected to the ACM SIGCHI CHI Academy. A wonderful award, thank you, and see you in Seoul for CHI 2015!

12/10/2014: We contributed several chapters to this new eBook summarizing results from the Sharp-C project: Better EHR: Usability, workflow and cognitive support in electronic health records
Book cover

12/8/2014: AMIA 2014 talk on "Reducing Wrong Patient Selection Errors: Exploring the Design Space of User Interface Techniques" already has an impact as vendors start implementing our recommendations

12/01/2014: Our book chapter on Information Visualization - including a case study of the use of EventFlow for the analyis of asthma medication prescriptions now available as Chapter 12 of Big Data and Health Analytics, Katherine Marconi and Harold Lehman (Eds), CRC Press - Taylor and Francis (2014).
Book cover

11/09/2014: Our VIS 2014 workshop EHRVis - Visualizing Electronic Health Record Data was a great success (150+ listened to the morning talks, and 50+ followed us to the different afternoon venue for discussions and indepth demos, which ran overtime till 6:30 - on a Sunday, in Paris... We are now planning ahead for next year, and coordinating with AMIA events.

7/1/2014: Check out Inspired EHRs: Designing for Clinicians, an eBook for developers of Electronic Health Record systems. You will find clinical scenarios, designs, interactive prototypes, and introductory materials on human factors, design and usability.
Book cover

Previous news entries...

Publications and projects

o Publications: See Resume
or you can also look for early online versions of the papers by searching for "plaisant" in the HCIL Tech Report database

o Book: Designing the User Interface, 5th ed. (2009) by Ben Shneiderman and Catherine Plaisant.

Book cover (2009), and the older 4th edition was: Book cover for older 4th edition (2006)

o Special Issues
Information Visualization: State of the Field and New Research Directions" 10(4), 2011 - Catherine Plaisant, Andreas Kerren, Stasko (Guest Editors).
Special Issue on the Evaluation of Visual Analytics (Spring 2009)
Catherine Plaisant, Jean Scholtz and Georges Grinstein (Guest Editors)
IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications (May/June 2009)
IJHCI cover Special Issue in Honor of Ben Shneiderman's 60th Birthday: Reflections on Human-Computer Interaction
Catherine Plaisant, Chris North (Guest Editors)
International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 23, No. 3 (December 2007)

o Videos: Editor of the HCIL Video Report Series (1991-2006). All videos are now available for download. Recent ones (including the 2000 retrospective) are also available in the Open Video Project.

o Selected projects (starting with most recent ones)
Coco CoCo (short for COhort COmparison) helps analysts compare the event sequences found in 2 groups of records e.g. patients.
EventFlow EventFlow, for exploration of temporal patterns in sequences of events. Builds on LifeLines2 and Lifeflow, but now with interval data and enhanced search and simplification capabilities.
[Video by Megan Monroe]
list of medications image of a doctor in lab coat SHARP-C project: Novel interfaces for clinicians. We are looking at the problems of medication reconciliation, missed labs and wrong patient selection. Our Maryland project is part of the National Center for Cognitive Informatics and Decision Making in Healthcare (NCCD) led by The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
E.g. VIDEO of Twinlist for medication reconciliation
vis Treeversity: Visualizing Changes Over Time Using Dynamic Hierarchies. Users can analyze relative and absolute change over one variable in each node, as well as created and removed nodes. They cab also compare non-inherently hierarchichal datasets, by grouping them by attributes.
thumbnail of network graph Community Analysis and Visualization for "Nation of Neighbors"; looking at social network analysis
LifeFlow LifeFlow, for summarizing temporal sequences of events. Applications to Electronic health records, transportation incidents, web logs etc.
Screenshot of patternfinder Screenshot of Lifelines2 LifeLines2, Patternfinder (and now Patternfinder in Azyxxi): Interfaces for searching temporal categorical data, visually explore results and look for potential cause and effect. Our focus is on Electronic Health Records.
[Video by David Wang]
FeatureLens FeatureLens : we worked with literary scholars to develop a tool for exploring patterns of repetitions in text collections. This is part of the larger MONK project.
VAST challenge VISUAL ANALYTICS EVALUATION: The NSF SEMVAST project seeks to develop benchmarks datasets and metrics for evaluation. To encourage researchers to work on realistic problems and test the tools they develop, I co-chair the VAST 2010 Challenge, which follows the 2009 Challenge, 2008 Challenge, and the 2007 and 2006 contests, all organized in conjunction with the IEEE Visual Analytics symposium .
Monk logo MONK is a large multi-institution project whose goal is to design and develop a digital environment helping humanities scholars discover and analyze patterns in the large collections of texts they study, using data mining and visualization. It continues the the NORA project. See JCDL paper nominated for Best Paper award (or the related HCIL project highlight ) or the FeatureLens and BasketLens projects
TreePlus TreePlus, for browsing graphs using a tree layout, with an emphasis on readability. It was used to display social networks and food webs.
NetLens NetLens for iterative querying of bipartite graphs such of bibliographic data or email collections.
overview of Timeseries and search boxes TimeSearcher for exploration of time series.
Logo Information Visualization Benchmarks Repository and
the InfoVis CONTESTS we ran in 2003 and 2004.
GOVSTAT project: Finding what you need, understanding what you found Integration of Data and Interfaces to Enhance Human Understanding of Government Statistics. A collaborative project with University of North Carolina. Our motto: "Find what you need, understand what you found". We worked on diverse topics but my main focus was on new methods for helping novice users get started with complex interfaces, dealing with missing data, and improving accessibility to blind users (see the project below)
table and corresponding map iSonic: making georeferenced data accessible to users with visual impairments
[Video by Haixia Zhao]
Photo of two grandparents using a computer Interliving: New Technology for Families. In particular we developed and evaluated to share calendar information between intergenerational family members, using digital pen technology.
Colorful screenshot of Treemap showing 3000 items Treemap 4: New development in hierarchical information visualization with Treemap
Screenshot of SpaceTree SpaceTree: a scalable and searchable hierarchical information browser
Young boy in a wheelchair controlling a yellow fuzzy robot by moving his arms A story telling robot for children in rehabilitation.
Browsing and annotating photos organized in collections PhotoFinder: Personal Photo Libraries
The labels of all the objects under a circular cursor are revealed at once Excentric Labeling for Information Visualization
Incident and traffic simulation User interfaces for highway traffic management. In collaboration with the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology.
Interactive overviews avoid zero-hit queries Dynamic Queries and Query Preview Interfaces. Looked at how to avoid zero-hit queries with dynamic previews of the data available. In collaboration with NASA EOSDIS. Later on some of those ideas were applied in the user interfaces of the Global Land Cover Facility, and influenced the development of faceted search now common in many interfaces.
Record, replay, annotate or email your interaction with a learning simulation Learning Histories for Simulation-based engineering education environments
A one screen summary of the entire patient record LifeLines for Visualizing Medical Patient Records (and other personal histories)
Browsing photographs User Interfaces for the Library of Congress National Digital Library. How to "bring treasures to the surface" in the design of Digital Libraries.
See also WebTOC: a Tool to Visualize and Quantify Web Sites using a Hierarchical Table of Contents
Novel overview techniques for rapid exploration of anatomical images (1995) User Interfaces for the Visible Human Project
(1992-93) Cancer Atlas: Dynamic Queries on a choropleth map [6:43 on the video]
Touchscreen interface to control devices in a home (1988) High precision touchscreens, Information Kiosks, Home Automation (Summary)
e.g. [Video] of the Scheduler.
Touchscreen ON/OFF switches (see HCIL touchscreen research summary)
Screenshot of GOVA, a touchscreen hypertext kiosk used in a travelling Smithsonian (1988) Hypertext research (my first project at HCIL in 1987!)

oand MORE projects...

. Role Management as a guiding concept for the next generation of user interfaces (Summary)
. User interfaces for Youth Services Information Systems
. Network Management (Summary)