NIU STEM Café to explore why data visualization matters


DEKALB — SciVis, maps, charts, graphs and infographics. There is some truth to the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.

The public is invited to learn more about the art and science of data visualization at the next NIU STEM Café on Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at Fatty’s Pub and Grille (1312 W. Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb). The event is free and open to the public, with food and drink available for purchase from Fatty’s. Register at

Presenter Joe Insley is a data visualization researcher at Argonne National Laboratory and an associate research professor in NIU’s School of Art and Design. He’ll share a wide range of visualization examples, including large-scale computer simulations, and discuss how these examples impact scientific research and our everyday lives.

“Visualization can be beautiful and compelling,” Insley said. “Beyond producing pretty pictures, it can provide insight and communicate complex phenomena. It can also inspire students and get them excited about the creative process, about science and learning.”

Insley has been a researcher at Argonne National Laboratory for more than 20 years, where he’s primarily been involved in high performance computing and scientific data visualization. He’s currently the team lead for data visualization and analysis at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF), which is home to some of the largest supercomputers in the world.

“In addition to computer science, I also have a background in fine art,” Insley said. “And several years ago I returned to the School of Art and Design at Northern Illinois University, where I had received my undergraduate degree. Combining my passion for art and computer science, I teach courses in data visualization and computer programming in art and design.”

Insley also co-leads the Data, Devices and Interaction Laboratory (ddiLab) at NIU, along with his colleague Michael Papka, NIU professor of computer science. The lab brings together students from both the Department of Computer Science and the School of Art and Design with the goal of using computers to support and enhance knowledge and discovery, as well as artistic expression.