This project applies a multiphase approach to the design and implementation of a data visualization resource within two UC colleges (DAAP and CEAS) and three schools (SAID, SOP and SEEBME) to provide new opportunities for interdisciplinary teaching and research with cutting-edge interactive and immersive virtual reality visualization technology.

Project Investigators

Ming Tang, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, Associate Professor of Architecture, School of Architecture and Interior Design (SAID), College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. His multi-disciplinary research includes the use of virtual reality, human computer interaction (HCI), parametric architecture & urban design, digital fabrication, building information modeling, performance driven design, digital computation, algorithm & programming, GIS, simulation, Mathematical form, interactive design and visual effects. His research has been published in international conference proceedings, peer-reviewed journals, books, and displayed in exhibitions. He is the author of urban paleontology: evolution of urban forms. His recent book, Parametric Building Design with Autodesk Maya was published by Routledge in 2014. He is an registered architect, and founding partner of TYA Design, which has won numerous design awards in China, Spain, Mexico, U.K. and United States, including first prize for the d3 Natural System competition, first place in the Cities with Soul competition, first place in the IAAC self-sufficient housing contest, and first place in the Chichen Itza lodge museum design competition. His homepage is www.Ming3d.com.

Xinhao Wang, PhD, Xinaho Wang is a professor of Planning in School of Planning (SOP), College of DAAP. He teaches courses in GIS, environmental planning, statistics, and planning research methods. His research interests are in the areas of environmental planning and GIS application in planning. Examples are: analysis of the spatial pattern of water quality indicators; the relationship between land use and water quality; GIS-based water quality modeling and flooding analysis; spatial distribution of human health and environmental indicators; and integration of 3-D imagery and GIS in planning. Dr. Wang’s publications and presentations can be found in various planning and environmental journals, proceedings and conferences. Prior to UC, he worked as a research associate, planning consultant and senior GIS analyst. Dr. Wang is a fellow in the Institute of Data Sciences and the Co-Director of the Joint Center of Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis.

Christopher Auffrey, PhD, Associate Professor of Planning, School of Planning, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. He teaches courses in healthy urban planning, sustainable urbanism, planning economics and planning theory. His research interests include healthy urban planning, sustainable development and communication in the urban environment. He has co-authored three books, Social Areas of Cincinnati, Fourth and Fifth editions, (with Michael Maloney) and Managing the Development of Intermediate Size Cities (with Michael Romanos), and has published articles in various planning journals. He has professional experience with local development projects in Los Angeles and with an environmental consulting firm in Washington D.C.

Mingming Lu, PhD, Associate Professor. Department of Biomedical, Chemical and Engineering (BCEE), College of Engineering & Applied Science. Dr Lu’s research area include submicron particle and PAH formation mechanisms from combustion processes including diesel, biodiesel, coal, and waste derived fuel, etc.; the compositional  characterization of aerosols and gaseous pollutants from industrial, transportation and agricultural sources. She has collected and analyzed air quality data from both China and the US.


Michael Rogovin, Craig Moyer, Shinji Miyajima, Seth Davis, Sagar Desai, Laura Kennedy, Alex Bowman, Andrew Letourneau,

Project Background

The College of DAAP has as its primary mission the creation of a better visual and design environment through educational programs, research, creative works, and service to the community. The College of CEAS is dedicated to providing the highest quality engineering and applied science education featuring new breakthroughs in science and technology while transferring that knowledge to both students and the local community. Both colleges share a dedication to discovering, preserving, and disseminating knowledge; educating people in search of a rich and meaningful existence; exploring and integrating technology; creating, studying, and interpreting the many aspect that make up the world in which we live. We achieve our mission through research and teaching that is academically rigorous, technically sound, socially responsible, and aesthetically superior. We are committed to educating future leaders in their respective fields, enhancing an understanding of the arts and science, contributing to cultural understanding in a global society, and effective utilization of technology in academic and professional endeavors.
Problem Statement

Over the past three years, project investigators have jointly initiated multiple teaching and research collaborations, engaging faculty and students from SEEBME in CEAS and SAID and SOP in DAAP, as well as numerous students from three other UC colleges representing more than nine different majors. The Sustainable Urbanism in China study abroad program was launched by the group in 2011, with a spring semester course and field work in China focusing on the concept and practice of urban sustainability from a global perspective. Through field study across multiple disciplines, the project investigators have examined some of China’s (and the world’s) most challenging sustainability issues.

One of the other notable benefits of bringing together future planners, designers and engineers, and others, into the same classroom is that it has required faculty to share with one another their disciplinary perspectives on sustainability issues so they can present an interdisciplinary perspective to the students. Ultimately, students have been provided with experiential learning in the interdisciplinary application of the current theories, models and methods used in engineering, architecture and urban planning to specific, real-world issues of sustainable urbanism as they are currently being confronted in one of the world’s most rapidly developing countries.

These faculty members have come to understand that their interdisciplinary teaching and research requires that they utilize new technologies to better organize and analyze the large and complex social, economic, environmental (natural and built), and spatial data related to sustainable urbanism. “Big Data Visualization” (the use of analytic graphic software to support the analysis of multiple, large, inter-related data sets) using virtual reality (VR) simulation models is one such technology.

In recent years there have been a number of significant breakthroughs in VR, with a focus on interactive visualization within an immersive digital environment. Head mount display (HMD) hardware together with advances in software (modeling a real time immersive virtual environment) provided advanced modeling capability at greatly reduced prices. It has become clear to the project investigators that their sustainable urbanism research would greatly benefit from utilizing such data visualization tools. It is also clear that a collective approach to training the faculty on the use of VR hardware and software will ultimately result in greater collaboration on teaching and research. Unfortunately, these emerging visualization technologies are not readily available on the UC campus, either because of a lack of understanding about how this new technology can be used for university teaching and research, or because of the relatively steep learning curve for its use.

Consequently, this proposal request funding for the hardware, software and training required to acquire and use these emerging visualization tools to UC for using in teaching and research. The project investigators, as a group of junior and senior faculty, are eager to bring this new technology into our creative community, and to promote it in a variety of campus collaborations. If successful in acquiring the requested funding, the faculty will purchase needed hardware and software, attend visualization and VR training, create a shared online resource of immersive visualization data, provide rentable hardware and learning material to our students and other faculty, and construct a social network for dissemination of visualization and VR resources within the DAAP and CEAS. The proposed effort will support the already established sustainable urbanism course and research, as well as promote engagement with the broader university community.


The primary goals of the proposed project are to:

  • Provide new tools to teach and research sustainable urbanism, involving a diverse group of UC faculty and students from various disciplines who promise to be the future problem solvers of urban sustainability issues;
  • Increase the knowledge base among the students and faculty and provide faculty with new perspectives on how to integrate data visualization into curriculum development for core courses;
  • Promote communication of data visualization and VR research to the broader UC and aligned professional communities.