Immersive visualization pioneer Donna Cox to receive IMERSA lifetime achievement award

02.22.17 -

Dr. Donna Cox, MFA, PhD, director of the Advanced Visualization Laboratory (AVL) and "Culture and Society Theme" at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 8th annual IMERSA 2017 Summit in Denver, Colorado this week. The Summit creates an opportunity to explore the converging worlds of virtual reality-themed entertainment and immersive cinema.

"Donna Cox stands at the center of some of the best-known and innovative projects available in the immersive community," said IMERSA (Immersive Media Entertainment, Research, Science & Arts) CEO Dan Neafus. "We all owe her and her team a great debt for their significant contributions to the world of fulldome film. This honor is truly the highest accolade we can give to someone who has had such a profound impact on our profession."

Dr. Cox is the University of Illinois' first Michael Aiken Chair, Director of AVL, Director of the Illinois Emerging Digital Research and Education in Arts Media Institute (eDream), and Professor in the School of Art and Design at the College of Fine and Applied Arts. She is a recognized pioneer in scientific visualization for public outreach and education and originator of the collaborative model of Renaissance Teams and the concept of visaphors (digital metaphors of computational science).

"I feel very honored and elated to receive this award," said Dr. Cox. "As I have been putting together my speech, it humbles me to think of all of the women who have sacrificed before, during and after my career. This award also makes me think of all those who have enabled women like me to have the opportunity to pursue educational and artistic pursuits through visualization. I am most appreciative of the teams and individuals I have collaborated with and am proud of the creative work we have been able to accomplish."

Through public outreach projects, Dr. Cox and her collaborators have inspired millions with cinematic virtual tours through astrophysics, earth sciences, engineering, and other data domains. AVL's work is shared through venues such as international digital-dome museum shows, high-definition documentary television programs, and IMAX movies. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry selected Dr. Cox as one of 40 modern Leonardo DaVincis.

As director of the eDream Institute, she is working with Illinois campus leadership to build a new interdisciplinary academic research and education program that includes visualization and interactive performance.

"Donna Cox's extraordinary career has changed the way scientists and the general public explore data and understand the world around us," said Bill Gropp, acting director of NCSA. "Additionally, Donna has shown us the power of transdisciplinary collaboration and inspires all of us at NCSA each and every day."

Recent work from Dr. Cox’s AVL team includes "A Beautiful Planet," which premiered in April 2016. A behind-the-scenes video of the production of that film can be seen here: