A day has more than 24 hours - the life of a researcher
What does a researcher actually do all day? In the case of a computer scientist, the first thing that probably pops into your mind's eye is a computer screen full of cryptic numbers. VRVis researcher Johanna Schmidt shows how much more varied and diverse the tasks of a scientist are and gives an insight into her everyday work.
Johanna Schmidt is a researcher in the field of visual data analysis at VRVis and also heads the multi-member Visual Analytics research group. In her research, Schmidt, who holds a doctorate in computer science, focuses on how visualization can be used to translate large amounts of data in such a way that the complex information it contains can be made easily and intuitively understandable for the human user. At first glance, this may sound a bit abstract, but in fact research in the field of data visualization is extremely hands-on and application-oriented, because intelligent visualization systems and solutions are developed on the basis of real data from business, industry and science.
Of course, the computer is the most important working tool of Johanna Schmidt. However, her activities as a researcher and group leader go far beyond pure programming, data analysis and computer science. For example, being at home in "several worlds" is part of her daily research routine, which takes place in close cooperation with partners from industry and business. In addition, as head of a large team as well as an entire research area at VRVis, Schmidt also fulfills a variety of leadership and communication tasks. And all of this, so to speak, in addition to her actual role as a researcher, whose responsibilities range from lively publication activity, writing and coordinating project proposals, etc., to giving talks at conferences and supervising students and doctoral candidates.
In order to provide an insight into this varied day-to-day work, we accompanied Johanna Schmidt for a day with the camera. Because - as the visualization expert knows - pictures say more than a thousand words.
Plan, manage and coordinate
For a researcher with many parallel research projects as well as a role as manager, a day usually starts with a mountain of emails.
The calendar often fills up faster than you think, and group and project meetings in particular take up a lot of space here - fortunately, because research is a highly collaborative and communicative process. Due to the pandemic, most of the communication currently takes place virtually, just like the lectures that Johanna Schmidt, as a lecturer at TU Wien and FH Salzburg, now gives directly from her office.
Research "on paper"
Every researcher is above all also one thing: a precise author and reader. For researchers, publishing their scientific findings is one of the most important tasks.
By publishing and presenting her own research in renowned journals and at international conferences, Johanna Schmidt contributes significantly to the dissemination and further development of data visualization research. Writing papers always involves a lot of communication and collaboration, since a publication often involves a whole series of researchers collaboratively presenting their results. These results must be presented objectively, neutrally, and precisely in order to successfully pass the multi-stage peer review process that is common in science. The research work is presented to the scientific community in an easily comprehensible and reproducible form as a published journal paper.
Brainstorming: the search of new ways and ideas
Successful application-oriented research requires a great deal of ingredients.
You have to be constantly informed about the state of the art (and drive it forward), recognize the needs and requirements of project partners from a wide range of industries, and above all, actually always know in the present what will be relevant in the future. Something that is incredibly important in this process is to give yourself enough time to think. "Brainstorming" problems makes sense if you take a solution-oriented approach to the issues. Brainstorming is a must. And where outsiders might only see strange signs and arrows on a whiteboard, researchers see clever ideas shining from the wall, which subsequently give rise to software solutions, publications or new project proposals.
Cooperation at eye level
The operation of Johanna Schmidt's group naturally runs decentrally in times of Corona - 90% of her team currently works from home.
However, close contact with each other remains unbroken via the various internal communication channels and, of course, there are regular group meetings as usual - only virtually. While complying with all security regulations, colleagues also like to come into the office for days or hours at a time to work intensively on joint projects and solutions in a direct exchange. Here, Johanna Schmidt discusses current developments in the COMET projects RAILING and INGRESS with researcher Laurentiu.
Projects with partners from the business and industry sector
As group leader, Johanna Schmidt is the first point of contact for our corporate partners.
Particularly in the case of multi-year research projects, regular contact is very important in order to connect the VRVis researchers with the partner's experts and to jointly develop new technologies or prototypes. Johanna Schmidt's ability to listen well and to think in a connected way are the key to successfully building the bridge from science to industry every day and to bring the right know-how exactly where it is needed. But a coffee in between doesn't hurt either.