HCI and Information Visualization MSc and PhD Positions at UOIT

  • Vialab is at capacity and not accepting new students for fall 2018.

Dr. Christopher Collins, Canada Research Chair in Linguistic Information Visualization, is seeking highly motivated MSc and PhD students for funded research positions in information visualization, visual analytics, and human-computer interaction. Positions are available on an ongoing basis, including Fall 2015. Successful candidates will join the visualization for information analysis lab (http://vialab.science.uoit.ca), a well-equipped research facility at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Canada. UOIT, founded in 2002, is Canada’s newest university, located just 40 minutes east of the vibrant and multicultural city of Toronto.

Research Themes

Themes of research at the vialab include visual text analytics, interaction design for gestural and multi-touch interfaces, social media analytics, and computer-assisted learning. In our world of big data, experts who can research, design, implement, and manage projects to sift through, analyze, and reason about data are in very high demand. Business intelligence, data science, and text analytics are some of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. Graduates of the vialab are equipped with interdisciplinary skills in data analytics, visualization, interaction design, and research management and leave the lab well-equipped for a variety of opportunities with governments, business, industry, and academia.

Example new project areas include designing intuitive guidance for visual text analytics (how to help people use visualizations effectively), and investigating ways to infer and respond to user state (frustration, engagement) with a variety of state-of-the-art sensor hardware. Many topic areas are possible upon agreement with the supervisor.

Skills Needed

Good candidates will have:

  • A bachelor’s degree or higher in computer science, information visualization, and/or human-computer interaction (non-traditional candidates with demonstrated technical skills are invited to apply)
  • Strong programming skills
  • Demonstrated design skills or an interest in learning about design
  • Good written and oral communication skills (in English)
  • Be excited to join a creative, motivated, fun team of people!


Funding is provided at levels commensurate with other Canadian and American universities as long as the student is in good standing in the graduate program. Students also receive full funding to attend international conferences (e.g. ACM CHI, ACM ITS, IEEE VIS) to present their research. Doctoral students are encouraged and supported to participate in internship opportunities at industry partners.


Interested applicants should email christopher.collins@uoit.ca as soon as possible and include a CV and a statement describing your interest in the lab’s research. After an initial contact, candidates will be encouraged to apply through the official application process.

More information about the CS Graduate Program at UOIT is available at http://www.gradstudies.uoit.ca/future_students/


UOIT Password Research featured in New York Times and other media

The password security research of vialab researchers Christopher Collins and Rafael Veras, and collaborator Julie Thorpe from the Faculty of Business and Information technology has been featured by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ian Urbina in a feature article in the New York Times Magazine.  In his article, “The Secret Life of Passwords“, Urbina investigates the stories behind the passwords we use.  Through the concept of keepsake passwords, the article investigates the evocative stories hidden in passwords. Our research relates to this work in that we have been investigating the numeric and linguistic patterns in passwords, in terms of how these patterns affect security as well as how these patterns reveal the culture and language.

Our research has also been featured in additional media, including:

We have also been featured on UOIT Homepage, including and article entitled “Heartbleed update: UOIT researchers analyze why consumers use weak passwords


vialab @ IEEE VIS 2014

This year four of us are attending IEEE VIS in Paris, France to present work by lab members and collaborators. Lab members are presenting on two papers. DimpVis, by Brittany Kondo and Christopher Collins, presents a new object-centric temporal navigation technique for information visualization. #FluxFlow, by U of Toronto doctoral candidate Jian Zhao and colleagues, including vialab’s Christopher Collins presents a visual analytic system to detecting anomalous patterns in social media. #FluxFlow received an honorable mention for best paper at IEEE VAST.

Lab members are also presenting three posters.  Lexichrome by Chris Kim and Christopher Collins introduces a visualization which reveals the colors evoked by text.  Visitors are invited to upload their own texts to see the chromatic fingerprint. Rafael Veras and Christopher Collins will present an exploration of uneven tree cut models for automatic emphasis and abstraction of visualized hierarchies.  Finally Brittany Kondo, Hrim Mehta, and Christopher Collins will present the IEEE InfoVis best poster winner, Glidgets: interactive glyphs for dynamic graphs.

Christopher Collins was also the co-chair of the IEEE VIS Doctoral Colloquium, a full day event for senior doctoral students to present their research programme and request advice and feedback from distinguished researchers in their field.  Chris also has been leading the redesign of the website for the IEEE Visualization and Graphics Technical Committee, which launched just before the conference.

Congratulations to all the lab members for their hard work and achievements!

Congratulations Brittany Kondo, M.Sc.

Congratulations to Brittany Kondo who successfully defended her M.Sc. thesis. Her work on object-centric temporal navigation for information visualizations featured two major projects, one on time-varying information graphics and one on dynamic graphs. This work will be published in November in both a full paper and a poster at IEEE VIS in Paris. Brittany has been a core member of the vialab for four years, since being hired after third year undergrad as a research assistant.  Brittany is accomplished student, having received support for this research through an NSERC SurfNet Special Projects award, an ICCD Scholarship, an Ontario Graduate Scholarship, and a finalist award for the Google Anita Borg Scholarship.  Brittany leaves the lab to join Oculus Info in Toronto in September.

Sentiment and Semantics Talk at CANVAS 2014

Today I gave a talk on sentiment and semantics in visual text analytics at CANVAS 2014, the Canadian Visual Analytics Summer School.  The summer school gathers together graduate students, academic, and industry researchers in visual analytics from across Canada. There have been many great talks which are going to be archived online. My talk today introduced students to the language technologies we most often use in the lab, including NLTK.  I also discussed our work on visualizing semantics and sentiment in various research projects, as well as highlighting some great research by other people.  Check out the slides!

Visualize your Tweets with SentimentState

We have just launched a new visualization of emotion as expressed on Twitter.  Visitors to SentimentState can use the tool to explore the overall positive/negative score of tweets for a selected user over time.  Filters allow for analysis of various emotions such as surprise, disgust, and joy, as expressed in the NRC’s emotion lexicon graciously provided by Saif Mohammad.

Try it now with your own account to reveal how your emotions are expressed in Twitter over time!

We are interested in feedback on this project – email christopher.collins@uoit.ca with your comments.  We hope to expand the search to allow views based on hashtags and geolocations.

Princess Marconi of Italy visits the vialab

Princess Elettra Marconi Giovanelli of Italy

The members of the vialab research group had the pleasure to meet Princess Elettra Marconi Giovanelli of Italy when she visited our lab on June 24, 2014. She is the daughter of Marchese Guglielmo Marconi who received the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in wireless communication. As part of her tour of North America to celebrate her father’s legacy and promote science and technology, Princess Elettra was interested to see demos of the type of research that we work on. Prior to her visit to UOIT, she visited Rutgers University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States. For the UOIT news article, visit this link.

Best Raytracing Project for CSCI 3090, 2014

Congratulations to Wesley Taylor for the best raytracing project for CSCI 3090 for Winter 2014.  Wesley’s rendering includes the basic requirements, plus reflection, refraction, soft shadows, and a series of complex geometries.  Furthermore, Wesley created a parallelized implementation and ran the rendering on a high-performance computing system to generate a 4K image for his final submission.  Well done!


Paper on semantics of passwords presented at NDSS, San Diego

On February 25, Rafael Veras presented the results of his Masters research at the Network and Distributed Systems Security Symposium 2014, which took place in San Diego. The 15-page article, co-authored by Julie Thorpe and Christopher Collins is the first to show how semantic patterns extracted from publicly available password leaks can significantly improve the guessing performance of off-line attacks, exposing a security vulnerability. Rafael continues as a member of the vialab, currently in the first year of his PhD studies. He has been studying how data-centric measures of interestingness can be used to suggest relevant views of the data in visual analytics applications. Check out the UOIT news article describing this work.

Canada Research Chair in Linguistic Information Visualization Announced

131107-43The Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) recently announced that I will be the new Canada Research Chair in Linguistic Information Visualization at UOIT.  I am very excited to begin this new role, and grateful for the significant investment of both UOIT and the Government of Canada through NSERC.  The planned research, on new ways to interact with, manage, analyze, and explore the barrage of linguistic data produced daily has a high probability of economic impact and social interest.  I look forward to working with great students, as well as local and international academic and industrial partners as I pursue solutions to pressing information visualization and human-computer interaction research challenges.  See also: UOIT’s announcement about the Chair, and more information about the Canada Research Chairs program.

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