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    About Me

    I am a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Complex Systems Research group at Autodesk Research. I received my Ph.D at the Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto in July 2015, where my supervisor was Dr. Ravin Balakrishnan. I was affiliated with the Dynamic Graphic Project (DGP) lab during my Ph.D study. Before coming to University of Toronto, I received my B.Eng (with honour) at the College of Computer Science, Zhejiang University in June 2009, where I was also affiliated with the Chu Kochen Honors College.

    My research interests, broadly, are Information Visualization and Human Computer Interaction. My PhD thesis is titled with Interactive Visual Data Exploration: A Multi-Focus Approach. Specifically, my work falls in topics about designing novel interactive visualization systems supporting multi-focus visual exploration of complicated real-world datasets, developing new methods for information seeking and navigation on web, creating interaction techniques for mobile phones, and quantitatively modeling user performance on touch screens.


    Conference Full Papers and Journal Articles

    Conference Short Papers

    Posters, Work-in-Progress, and others


    Ji Wang, Jian Zhao, Sheng Guo, Chris North.
    Clustered Layout Word Cloud for User Generated Review.
    Yelp Dataset Challenge (Grand Prize Winner), 2013.


    Jian Zhao.
    A Particle Filter Based Approach of Visualizing Time-varying Volume.
    LDAV'12: IEEE Symposium on Large-Scale Data Analysis and Visualization, 2012.
    Abstract Paper

    Abstract: Extracting and presenting essential information of time-varying volumetric data is critical in many fields of sciences. This paper introduces a novel approach of identifying important aspects of the dataset under the particle filter framework in computer vision. With the view of time-varying volumes as dynamic voxels moving along time, an algorithm for computing the 3D voxel transition curves is derived. Based on the curves which characterize the local data temporal behavior, this paper also introduces several post-processing techniques to visualize important features such as curve clusters by k-means and curve variations computed from curve gradients.


    Jian Zhao, R. William Soukoreff, Ravin Balakrishnan.
    A Model of Multi-touch Manipulation.
    GRAND'11: Proceedings of the 2nd annual Grand Conference, 2011.
    Abstract Paper

    Abstract: As touch-sensitive devices become increasingly popular, fundamentally understanding the human performances of multi-touch gestures is critical. However, there is currently no mathematical model for interpreting such gestures. In this paper, a novel model of multi-touch interaction is derived by combining the Mahalanobis distance metric and Fitts' law. The model describes the time required to complete an object manipulation task that includes translocation, rotation, and scaling. Empirical data is reported that validates the new model (R2>0.9). Linear relationship between the difficulty and time elapsed is revealed indicating that the model can provide guidelines for interface designers for empirically comparing gestures and devices.

    PhD Thesis


    Jian Zhao.
    Interactive Visual Data Exploration: A Multi-Focus Approach.
    Department of Computer Science, University of Tornoto, 2015.
    Abstract Paper Bibtex

    Abstract: Recently, the amount of digital information available in the world has been growing at a tremendous rate. This huge, heterogeneous, and complicated data that we are continuously generating could be an incredible resource for us to seek insights and make informed decisions. For this knowledge extraction to be efficient, visual exploration of data is demanded in addition to fully automatic methods, because visual exploration can integrate the creativity, flexibility, and general experience of the human user into the sense-making process through interaction and visualization techniques.

    Due to the scale and complexity of data, robust conclusions are usually formed by coordinating many sub-regions in an information space, which leads to the approach of multi-focus visual exploration that allows browsing different data segments with multiple views and perspectives simultaneously. While prior research has proposed a myriad of information visualization techniques, there still lacks comprehensive understanding about how visual exploration can be facilitated by multi-focus interactive visualizations. This dissertation investigates issues and techniques of multi-focus visual exploration through five design studies, touching various types of data in a range of application domains.

    The first two design studies address the exploration of numerical data values. KronoMiner presents a multi-purpose visual tool for exploring time-series based on a dynamic radial hierarchy; and the ChronoLenses system supports exploratory visual analysis of time-series by allowing users to progressively construct advanced analytical pipelines. The third design study focuses on the exploration of logical data structures, and presents DAViewer that facilitates computational linguistics researchers to explore and compare rhetorical trees. The last two design studies consider the exploration of heterogeneous data attributes (or facets). TimeSlice facilitates the browsing of multi-faceted events timelines by organizing visual queries in a tree structure; and PivotSlice aids the mining of relationships in multi-attributed networks through a dynamic subdivision of data with customized semantics.

    This dissertation ends with critical reflections and generalizations of the experiences obtained from the case studies. High-level design considerations, conceptual models, and visualization theories are distilled to inform researchers and practitioners in information visualization for devising effective multi-focus visual interfaces.

    See my other interesting unpublished projects!

    Professional Experiences

    Postdoctoral Researcher, Autodesk Research, Toronto, ON, Jul 2015 -
    Graduate Research Assistant, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Sep 2009 - Jul 2015
    Research Intern, Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, Dec 2014 - Mar 2015
    Research Intern, Adobe Research, San Francisco, CA, Jun 2014 - Sep 2014
    Research Intern, IBM Almaden Research Center, San Jose, CA, Jun 2013 - Sep 2013
    Research Intern, Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, Jun 2011 - Sep 2011
    Visiting Student, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, Jun 2008 - Aug 2008

    Major Awards

    Accelerate Postdoctoral Award, $60,000, Mitacs, 2016
    Robert E. Lansdale/Okino Computer Graphics Graduate Fellowship, $2,000, University of Toronto, 2015
    Wolfond Fellowship, $10,000, University of Toronto, 2012
    Wolfond Scholarship, $5,000, University of Toronto, 2010, 2011
    Art & Science Graduate Fellowship, ~$30,000/year, University of Toronto, 2009-2014
    Chinese National Scholarship, ¥8,000/year, Ministry of Education of China, 2006, 2008
    1st Class Academic Scholarship, ¥5,000/year, Zhejiang University, 2006-2008



    Mira Dontcheva, Jian Zhao, Aaron Hertzmann, Alan Wilson, Zhicheng Liu.
    Providing Visualizations of Event Sequence Data. Filed in 2015.


    Liang Gou, Fei Wang, Jian Zhao, Michelle Zhou.
    Personal Emotion State Monitoring from Social Media. US Patent 20150213002 A1, 2015.


    Jian Zhao, Steven Drucker, Danyel Fisher, Donald Brinkman.
    Relational Rendering of Multi-Faceted Data. US Patent 20130194294 A1, 2013.

    Teaching Assistantships

    CSC108 Introduction to Computer Programming, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2011, and Summer 2015
    CSC148 Introduction to Computer Science, Fall 2010
    CSC318 Design of Interactive Computational Media, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, and Fall 2013
    CSC309 Programming on the Web, Fall 2012
    CSC428/2514 Human-Computer Interaction, Spring 2014


    Public Talks

    • Visualization and Design: What I Did and What I Learned, Mnubo Inc., Montreal, QC, Nov 2015
    • Supporting Data Analytics with Interactive Visualization, CaseWare International Inc., Toronto, ON, Jun 2015
    • Bridging Data and User with Interactive Visualization, Peking University, Bejing, China, May 2015
    • Bridging Data and User with Interactive Visualization, Autodesk Research, Toronto, ON, Nov 2014
    • Visual Comparison of Event Sequence Data, Adobe Research, San Francisco, CA, Sep 2014
    • Visual Data Exploration: A Multi-Focus Approach, UOIT, Oshawa, ON, Dec 2013
    • Visual Analytics of Online Social Media, IBM Research Almaden, San Jose, CA, Sep 2013
    • TrailMap: Facilitating Information Seeking in a Multi-Scale Digital Map via Implicit Bookmarking, ToRCHI seminar, Toronto, ON, Apr 2013
    • TimeSlice: Interactive Faceted Browsing of Timeline Data, Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, Aug 2011
    • Modeling Scrolling Interactions on Touch Screens, Jilin University, China, Dec 2010
    • KronoMiner: Using Multi-Foci Navigation for the Visual Exploration of Time-Series Data, KMDI seminar, University of Toronto, Sep 2010

    Conference Presentations

    • Visual Comparison of Event Sequence Data, ACM CHI, Seoul, South Korea, 2015.4
    • #FluxFlow: Visual Analysis of Anomalous Information Spreading on Social Media, IEEE VIS, Paris, France, Nov 2014
    • PEARL: An Interactive Visual Analytic Tool for Understanding Personal Emotion Style Derived from Social Media, IEEE VIS, Paris, France, Nov 2014
    • TrailMap: Facilitating Information Seeking in a Multi-Scale Digital Map via Implicit Bookmarking, ACM CHI, Paris, France, May 2013
    • Facilitating Discourse Analysis with Interactive Visualization, IEEE VisWeek, Seattle, WA, Oct 2012
    • Exploratory Analysis of Time-series with ChronoLenses, IEEE VisWeek, Providence, RI, Oct 2011
    • KronoMiner: Using Multi-Foci Navigation for the Visual Exploration of Time-Series Data, ACM CHI, Vancouver, BC, May 2011
    • A Model of Multi-touch Manipulation, GRAND, Vancouver, BC, May 2011


    Program Committee
    ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Late Breaking Work, 2016.
    IEEE Pacific Visualization Symposium (PacificVis), 2016.
    International Symposium of Chinese CHI (Chinese CHI), 2016.
    International Symposium on Visual Computing (ISVC), 2014-2015

    Student Volunteer
    ACM Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2014.
    IEEE VisWeek (VAST, InfoVis, SciVis), 2010-2011.

    Conference Paper Reviewer
    IEEE VIS (VAST, InfoVis, and SciVis) Conference, 2012-2016.
    IEEE Pacific Visualization (PacificVis) Symposium, 2014.
    IEEE Eurographics/VGTC Symposium on Visualization (EuroVis), 2015.
    ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2011-2016.
    ACM Conference on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST), 2013-2015.
    ACM Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (MobileHCI), 2014.
    ACM Nordic Conference on Human-Computer Interaction (NordiCHI), 2014.
    ACM Asia Pacific Conference on Computer Human Interaction (APCHI), 2012.
    ACM World Wide Web Conference (WWW), 2015.

    Journal Article Reviewer
    Information Visualization, 2016.
    Human-Centric Computing and Information Sciences, 2015.
    ACM Transactions on Interactive Intelligent Systems (TiiS), 2015.
    IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (TVCG), 2013.

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