VR Design for Science: Syllabus, Fall 2019

Class Meetings

The class meets in two places:

Please check the calendar for when and where to meet. Classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 12pm.
The first class meets Thursday, September 5th at 10am in 180 George St. room 102B.


CS InstructorIllustration InstructorBiology CollaboratorTeaching Assistant
Name David Laidlaw Fritz Drury Stephen Gatesy Brandon Li
Email dhl@cs.brown.edu fdrury@risd.edu stephen_gatesy@brown.edu brandon_li@brown.edu
Office Brown CIT 521 RISD ISB 102 Brown Biomed Center 209
Phone (401)-354-2819 (401)-454-6241 (401)-863-3770 (609)-373-3008

Email all instructors and TAs with questions or comments at cs137tas@lists.cs.brown.edu.

Much of the course will include working in the YURT at 180 George St., so you may need to contact the staff if you have questions or problems that arise. The Brown Center for Computation and Visualization (CCV) provides support for the YURT as well as the Granoff Cave.

You can learn more about the research discussed in class by visiting the websites of David's group and on links from the calendar web page for the class.

Course Description

In this class we will experiment with and learn about design as it applies to scientific applications in virtual reality.

Goals for the class:


At the end of CS137, students will also have had experience with:

Objectives and Course Content Overview

The course will be organized around designing interactive visual solutions for exploring 3D animal motion and fluid flow datasets. We will work with collaborators in Computer Science, Illustration, and Evolutionary Biology in this design process.

We will learn about the scientific problem as well as about the interaction and visualization challenges that arise when addressing the scientific issues. We will learn about our "medium:" immersive virtual reality -- 3D computer graphics in a room of display screens. We will learn about design by designing visualization solutions to sub-problems of the larger problem. We will learn about communication by presenting and evaluating our designs based on the scientific needs. We will learn about evaluating our work by doing expert and group crits, by getting formal and informal feedback from users, and by doing reviews with one another. Finally, we will learn about some of the larger design issues by aggregating solutions to sub-problems into larger, more complete solutions.

Each student will design and/or realize several visualization approaches during the semester culminating in a final project. During the semester we will also read about related design and scientific visualization work to put our work in context. See the class outline and class by class calendar page for more details.

Assignments and Assessment

There is an assignment due every week! Assessment will be based on a combination of performance on assignments and in class. Much of the success of this class depends on the group critiques that will be held in class, and students are expected to participate in all of these. Late assignments will not be accepted, because they cannot be critiqued in class. Please keep up to date using the calendar page. Also note that, in addition to the parts of the assignments that will be critiqued in class, there are brief written handins due quite frequently.

We expect assignments each week to take ten to fifteen hours beyond the four class hours. Assignments will include targeted readings about visual design, the state-of-the-art in visualization, some engineering and mechanics, and some readings about anatomy and evolution. We strive to have assignments where everyone can learn about the design, implementation and evaluation processes and about how to collaborate and appreciate one anothers skills and expertise.


Readings will be copied and handed out or made available via the calendar page. On the calendar, each reading is listed under the class session for which it should be read. This means that you should look ahead to the next class session and do the readings before class meets.

Accessibility and Accommodations

We are committed to full inclusion of all students. Please inform David or Fritz early in the term if you have a disability or other conditions that might require accommodations or modification of any of these course procedures. You may speak with us after class or email for an appointment. For more information, please contact Brown Student and Employee Accessibility Services at 401-863-9588 or SEAS@brown.edu. Students in need of short-term academic advice or support can contact one of the deans in the Brown Dean of the College office.