Engagement Centers

RENCI’s engagement centers allow RENCI experts to collaborate with North Carolina university academics, scientists, and students across a variety of disciplines. They provide faculty the unique opportunity to take advantage of RENCI visualization technology, computational and analytical expertise, and other resources for applications in science, engineering, the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

renci-at-unc-chapel-hill-bRENCI at UNC Chapel Hill opened in summer 2007 in the Manning Information Technology Services building. This state-of-the-art facility gives RENCI the opportunity to collaborate with UNC faculty on new and existing multidisciplinary research projects. The facility also contains a Social Computing Room (SCR), a technologically innovative space designed by RENCI. The SCR contains a floor-to-ceiling computer desktop that projects on all four walls, allowing users to immerse themselves in panoramic montages of data and images. Unlike a typical presentation shown as flat slides on a screen, an SCR presentation allows users to present multiple ideas, facts, and visualizations in a larger context, making presentations more immersive and understandable. Read more about the SCR here.


RENCI opened an officerenci-at-duke-university-b in the Telecommunications building on the campus of Duke University in Durham, NC in the spring of 2008. The site supports the use of visualization technology and advanced computational methods. This state-of-the-art facility gives RENCI experts the opportunity to easily collaborate with Duke faculty on a wide range of  research projects. RENCI is also working with Duke’s Office of Information Technology on plans to develop a research and educational support space similar to its Social Computing Rooms (SCR) at UNC Chapel Hill and NC State (see below).


renci-at-north-carolina-state-university-bRENCI at North Carolina State University opened in early 2007 to support the use of visualization technology and analytical methods to explore engineering, scientific, design, and educational challenges. The site focuses primarily on serving the NC State community, its partners, and collaborators. In 2014, RENCI co-developed a Social Computing Room in NCSU’s D.H. Hill Library, which is similar to the one at UNC Chapel Hill. For more information, visit NCSU’s Visualization Studio.

The following list represents projects that Duke University staff worked on in collaboration with RENCI through the Faculty Engagement Program in Applied Scientific and Information Visualization.

Towards a Mechanistic Understanding of Carbon Export from the Surface Oceans: Advanced Geographical and Visualization Analyses

enviroNicolas Cassar, PhD, an assistant professor in the division of Earth and ocean sciences in Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, has partnered with RENCI to explore geographical variations in oceanic carbon export. Cassar and his team are gathering and analyzing chemical and physical data measurements on variables such as ocean salinity and temperature which are likely to indicate the speed and nature of processes which shape the transference of carbon between the atmosphere and the ocean’s surface. Since the Earth’s surface is 70% water, these measurements promise to contribute significantly to our understanding of climate change as shaped by the presence of atmospheric carbon dioxide. RENCI visualization experts are helping Cassar and his team to create a web-based interactive map and database, which allows researchers to access and query current carbon export-related measurements as well as enter new information. The researchers are studying the geographic patterns in oceanic carbon export by using the map to identify areas of variability and observe their surface ocean properties in relation to other factors, such as ocean depth. The project will help researchers all over the world study the impact of chemical interactions between the atmosphere and ocean on CO2 distribution.

View the current state of this ongoing project here.

Visualization of Multidimensional Data Obtained from a Virtual Environment Intervention

nConstance Johnson, PhD, associate professor and Allison Vorderstrasse, DNSc, assistant professor, both of the Duke School of Nursing are collaborating with RENCI to visualize data acquired from an interactive virtual environment that they developed to help patients with Type 2 diabetes understand and control their disease. This immersive virtual community allows patients to interact with each other and with clinicians, form social connections, and explore diabetes educational resources. The team is using these visualizations to analyze data on the patients’ participation along with a wide variety of other data. The goal is to understand the impact of the social structures that develop and how they impact patients’ management of their disease. The visualizations are being used as a basis for future larger intervention studies, in which RENCI is also participating.

View the current state of this ongoing project here.

Visualization for Knowledge-Based Treatment Planning for Prostate Cancer


 Joseph Lo, PhD, an associate research professor of radiology and biomedical engineering and Shiva Das, PhD, a professor of radiation oncology in the medical physics department, worked with RENCI software developer Steve Chall to design a tool that allows clinicians to visualize and analyze a large dataset of prostate cancer cases in order to develop better treatment plans for new patients. The software can help clinicians view radiation therapy effects in as many ways as possible in order to spare healthy tissue from radiation beams as much as possible during treatment.

Read more abut the outcome of the project here.

Visualizing Historical Materials

dukeViz2RENCI assisted Caroline Bruzelius, PhD, an art and art history professor, with designing a 3D relational database for ancient and medieval structures that linked to the place they were originally displayed. The visualizations included the history and development of Venice, Italy, and the construction of the Franciscan Churches of Campania in Florence, Italy. The database also served as a shared repository of assets (documents, images, 3D models, maps), and provided a space for archival gallery publishing.

 Visualizing Art Markets

visualizing-art-markets.240.123RENCI staff helped Victoria Szabo, program director in the Duke department of art, art history, and visual studies (AAHVS) apply information visualization techniques to the study of emerging art markets. A team from the Duke Visual Studies Initiative created a collaborative infrastructure to analyze the flows of art markets in early modern Europe in order to understand how these markets emerged and grew. The database-driven visualization tool incorporated a variety of media to be as comprehensive and user-friendly as possible, and then integrated them into the information visualization program for use by other VSI scholars.

The following list represents projects that NC State University staff worked on in collaboration with RENCI through the Faculty Engagement Program in Applied Scientific and Information Visualization.

Advanced Analysis of Direct Numerical Simulation of Bubbly Flow Turbulence

imagesIgor A. Bolotnov, PhD, a professor in the nuclear engineering department uses RENCI expertise to perform large-scale simulations of turbulent bubbly flows. Turbulence is one of the most challenging and interesting phenomena in nature, playing a pivotal role in many engineering disciplines (nuclear, chemical and biomedical). The team is conducting analysis of the influence of the bubbles and other structures on the turbulence, including parameters such as velocities, gas volume, and kinetic energy. The research could impact the engineering and design of the next generation of nuclear power plants, chemical processing plants, marine propulsion systems, and other multiphase flow engineering applications.

Two major accomplishments from this project have already been achieved: a 2014 Department of Energy INCITE proposal, and a Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) proposal, now in the planning stages.

Modeling, Control, and Visualization of Smart Power Systems Using Real-Time Synchrophasor Data

UntitledRENCI works with Aranya Chakrabortty, PhD, Assistant Professor of electrical and computer engineering, and his research group to develop a method to effectively make sense of the increasing amounts of data generated from power grids. The goal of this project is to create visualization and visual-analytics tools to address this challenge and use the abundant data to understand dynamics of the grid. The researchers will develop spatial-temporal analysis of smart grid data that will help operators to model, monitor, and visualize power grid quantities and inherent uncertainties, which will lead to a more secure and robust smart grid.

 Visual Analysis Tools for Biomolecular Structure Exploration


Yaroslava Yingling, PhD, a professor in the NC State materials science and engineering department, worked with RENCI’s Hong Yi to build a 3D visualization tool to study the structure of various proteins (seen above). The research focused on understanding protein complexes that synthesize cellulose, the foundational component of plant cell walls, to find ways to produce energy from algae, bacteria, and other plants or create new bio-renewable materials for manufacturing, medicine, and other uses. The research team developed two open source tools, freely downloadable from http://sourceforge.net/projects/x3dbio1 and http://sourceforge.net/projects/x3dbio2.

Visualization of Terrain Evolution from Animations to Space-Time Cube


Helena Mitasova, PhD, a professor in the department of marine, Earth and atmospheric sciences, and her research team worked with RENCI’s Sidharth Thakur to create 3D models of the dynamics of North Carolina’s coastal terrain. The researchers created visual, geographically accurate digital elevation models (DEMs) of the topography of the Outer Banks over time, which allowed them to study the effects of large events (such as hurricanes and storm surge) and long-term phenomena (such as winds and rising sea levels) on the terrain of the Outer Banks.

The Use of Visual Analytic Tools for Accelerating the Development of Polymer Materials with Enhanced Properties

polymerMelissa Pasquinelli, PhD, a textile researcher and assistant professor in the College of Textiles at NC State, worked with RENCI visualization expert Sidharth Thakur to create computer simulations of polymers which adjust properties of the material—such as temperatures, configurations, and processes—virtually. The researchers use the simulations as a preliminary step before experimenting with real-life materials. The visual and analytical tools created by RENCI help Pasquinelli obtain more insights into polymer systems. The researchers are applying that knowledge to develop stronger bulletproof vests and electro-conductive yarns.

Thakur and Pasquinelli collaborated on several publications, including reports for the International Symposium on Visual Computing (2009), an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference (2010), and an American Physical Society meeting (2010).