SC4: Introduction to Data Visualization for Biomedical Applications

SUNDAY, MARCH 1 | 2:00 - 5:00 PM


In biology and other data-driven research areas, data visualization has become an integral part of the analysis toolkit. Data visualization approaches serve as the primary interface between analysts and the data. While great data visualization approaches can accelerate new discoveries, poor data visualization approaches can mislead and slow down progress. Participants of this introductory course will acquire the skills necessary to identify appropriate visualization methods for a given problem and learn about the state of the art in biological data visualization. This is an introductory course to the principles of data visualization.


  • What are the principles of perception and cognition relevant for data visualization?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of common visualization techniques for genomes, multivariate data, and networks?
  • How can visualization and algorithmic approaches be integrated to complement each other?
  • What are techniques for evaluation of visualization tools?


2:00 pm Course Introduction and Presentations Begin

3:15 Refreshment Break

5:00 Course Ends



Gehlenborg-NilsNils Gehlenborg, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Informatics, Harvard Medical School

Nils Gehlenborg received his PhD from the University of Cambridge and was a predoctoral fellow at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI). The goal of Gehlenborg’s research is to improve human health by developing computational techniques and interfaces that enable scientists and clinicians to efficiently interact with biomedical data. Tight integration of algorithmic approaches from biomedical informatics with advanced data visualization techniques is central to his efforts, as is close collaboration with clinicians and experimentalists. Currently, Gehlenborg is researching and developing novel tools to visualize heterogeneous data from large-scale cancer genomics studies such as The Cancer Genome Atlas, integrating visual and computational approaches to support sense-making in biology, and using software to support reproducible collaborative research in epigenomics and genomics. Gehlenborg is a co-founder and former general chair of BioVis, the Symposium on Biological Data Visualization, and co-founder of VIZBI, the annual workshop on Visualizing Biological Data. Occasionally, he contributes to the “Points of View” data visualization column in Nature Methods. Gehlenborg currently serves as the Director of the Master of Biomedical Informatics (MBI) program at Harvard Medical School.

Lex_AlexanderAlexander Lex, PhD, Assistant Professor, SCI Institute, School of Computing, University of Utah

I am an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute and the School of Computing at the University of Utah. Together with Miriah Meyer, I run the Visualization Design Lab where we develop visualization methods and systems to help solve today’s scientific problems. Before joining the University of Utah, I was a lecturer and post-doctoral visualization researcher at Harvard University. I received my PhD, master’s, and undergraduate degrees from Graz University of Technology. In 2011 I was a visiting researcher at Harvard Medical School. I am the recipient of an NSF CAREER award and multiple best paper awards or honorable mentions at IEEE VIS, ACM CHI, and other conferences. I also received a best dissertation award from my alma mater. I co-founded Datavisyn, a startup company developing visual analytics solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, and the Caleydo project, an open source visualization framework for biomolecular data.

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