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Miriah Meyer: Making Sense of the Matrices

Miriah Meyer

When it comes to bringing beauty to big data, University of Utah computer science professor Miriah Meyer is a rock star. Her work gives life to massive sets of data points, making research and findings easier to understand for both the layperson and those directly involved with the information, like biologists, doctors and geneticists.

She’s an aesthetics specialist, an info-graphic guru, a visualization magician who has been featured as one of the “most creative people” by Fast Company magazine, highlighted by MIT Technology Review as one of the “35 innovators under 35″, and named a fellow by TED, PopTech and Microsoft.

According to Meyer’s online bio, her work “allows scientists to validate their computational models, to understand their underlying data in detail, and to develop new hypotheses and insights.” Frankly stated: she gives clarity to some very complex stuff.

The components that go into delivering such clarity can be pretty complex, too. Meyer first collaborates with the experts from whom the data is derived to determine how best to build and incorporate computational geometry and computer graphic algorithms that power the visualization. She also must examine the subject from a more artful angle, leaning on the principles of design, layout and user experience to make information accessible and memorable.

“As a global community, we have tons of data, whether medical, financial, or from scientific devices. So, all this data, underneath it’s just a bunch of numbers,” Meyer told the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where she spent time as a postdoc. “As humans, our brains are like a computer with limited memory. So we can rely on the outside world as an external hard drive. We can store all this information in diagrams or graphs or whatever. In visualization, we rely on our perceptual system to be able to see patterns and see trends.”

One project that exemplifies how Meyer’s work can help scientists see the layers of information of given research is “Pathline”, an interactive tool that conveys temporal gene expression data over multiple molecular pathways across multiple species with the ability to be charted in various ways. It’s this ability to see the relationship between the moving parts that helps researchers identify how the different variables react with each other.

It’s all work that Meyer hopes will help catalyze the next big breakthrough in fields as diverse as astronomy to biology, or wherever big data needs to be digested.

  • Dave T

    Can this U of U computer asset be used to develop new complex materials that will take impact of a person who falls? It is known that 1 out of 3 seniors will fall per year. Then many seniors will suffer from head and hip injuries as a result. Many of them will end up in the emergency rooms and ICU. Then the prognosis is not good afterwards.
    Many will fall in the kitchen and bathrooms. There will be many seniors who fall in nursing homes and hospitals, as well. To reduce injuries, there must be a new material that will take the brunt of impact and not on the person who falls. Sort on like how a racecar has materials that takes the brunt of impact, thus allows the driver to simply walk away after a crash. The challenge is to develop a new material within the sub-floors/countertops that will take the impact of a person who falls. Thus allowing the person who falls to simply have no injuries afterwards. But how do you design the sub-flooring/countertops system to where people might walk/lean on it, yet it collapses whenever the person were to fall? Thus the impact will be on this new material and not on the person.
    I discovered an article in Scientific America about a super computer developing all kinds of new materials. Some leading universities have these computers that do such thing. I have attached the article about this.

    So for hospital inventors to continue to develop this new anti-injury elderly falls sub-flooring/countertops system; perhaps these super computers would do the trick.
    This new material could be designed in layers. Thus the upper most layered material (within the sub-floor/countertops) would collapse on less weight of impact than the next lower layer of this material. Then for every additional lower layered of this material would be stronger as you go downward. This way, the new material would collapse based on a person’s weight. This system may work whether you are dealing with a fall from someone weighing just 98 pounds or a person who weighs 300 ponds. After a person who fell, that
    portion of the sub-floor/countertops section would simply be replaced.
    There are companies who sell rubber tops that look like real tiles and countertops. As part of this new-flooring/countertops, this rubber mat would help reduce injuries from falls. This would be an improvement as compared to hard floors placed in hospital bathrooms and other rooms…
    What if these super computers develop a material that can collapse based on someone’s weight, but yet strong enough to walk on? Can this computer that the U uses, develop a new material that just may work, as well. Thus you may save thousands of lives of people who fall every year. This new system would pay for itself up to the costs savings from people who fall and injure themselves, both in terms of financial and human suffering. Then the U will be credited of improving the lives of seniors as they age.
    Finally, Professor Meyer, how do I go about in finding possible super computers, both here at the U and elsewhere, so to discover that right nano-material matrices for this sub-flooring/countertops that will prevent injuries from elderly falls?

  • Chloe Young

    Must be a role model for her students…you are right, she seems like a rock star of computer data!!