Dr. Alexander Bock - Post-Doctoral Fellow
My research interests have always focused on creating visualization applications and algorithms that provide insight for the largest possible number of people. On the one side, there are expert domain scientists that utilize these applications to gain insight into their datasets and either generate new hypotheses or test previously generated theories for a specific dataset. On the other side, visualization applications can be used as an expressive storytelling tool aimed at the general public. In my PhD thesis I classified these into "Exploration", which are applications where users perform an initial investigation of a new dataset in order to arrive at these novel hypotheses, "Analysis", where an already established technique is repeatedly applied to a larger number of datasets as a means of confirming a specific hypotheses for a particular case. The last layer is "Communication" that covers the use case of disseminating research findings to a wider public audience.
The majority of my research work so far has been concerning astronomical and astrophysical phenomenæ, in particular in the development of the open-source software OpenSpace. In addition to using OpenSpace as a platform for computer graphics research, such as order-independent transparency methods and developing techniques for handling large scale differences in scenes, OpenSpace has served as a platform for three research projects aimed at both scientists and the general public. One example is the development of tools for the analysis of time-varying volumetric simulations of space weather for the Community Coordinated Modeling Center at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. This application provides an analysis tool for the researchers to compare ensembles of simulations quickly and reliably in order to improve the predictive power of these simulation codes. Parts of this application were later merged into OpenSpace to be used during public presentations by the scientists to public audiences. A second example is the visualization of space missions, such as New Horizons, Rosetta, or Osiris Rex. A third project is concerned with the high-resolution rendering of planetary surfaces. Centimeter-resolution images are available for large parts of Earth, the Moon, and Mars and are used in this project to provide an accurate and realistic surface context. While the environments can be used in public presentations directly, their main power comes from the usage when visualizing surface operations. In the case of Mars, this is the visualization of rover operations. In the case of the Moon, it is, for example, the dissemination of the Apollo moon missions.