Seminar Series - Melissa Clarkson - Demonstrating the Value of Design Research in Biomedical Informatics: Designing for Understanding Using Semantic and Visual Representations

Thursday, April 27, 2017 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Thomas C. Robinson Commons, 127 CTW Building

Seminar Series
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Thomas C. Robinson Commons, 127 CTW Building
Demonstrating the Value of Design Research in Biomedical Informatics: Designing for Understanding Using Semantic and Visual Representations
Melissa Clarkson, PhD


Melissa Clarkson image



Biomedical informatics plays an essential role in supporting biomedical researchers and clinicians in discovery and decision making. But software tools for supporting these activities are often designed through a technology-centered approach, with limited consideration given to usefulness of the tools, usability of interfaces, and effective presentation of the information. In this talk I will present an argument that human-centered design is crucial for the success of software tools supporting researchers and clinicians. The first project I will discuss is my work to design a browser for visualizing the Foundational Model of Anatomy ontology. The design of this tool not only reflects the content and structure of this ontology, but was informed by the needs of users and common conceptualizations of anatomy. Next I will highlight the role that ontologies can play in facilitating interactions between the biomedical research community and those making use of biomedical information. The second project I will present is my work auditing the Foundational Model of Anatomy, which revealed gaps between the existing ontology and the content and structure needed to support informatics applications. Finally, I will outline my future research agenda to re-envision biological and medical atlases as “information portals.” This work will advance the fields of semantic and visual representation through (1) developing “intelligent interfaces” that use knowledge within ontologies to provide context-specific content and navigation, and (2) designing SVG-based graphic libraries to explore scalable approaches to visual representation.


Short Bio


Melissa Clarkson is a researcher, designer, and educator working at the intersection of informatics, design, and life sciences. She has extensive cross-disciplinary training, including a Master of Arts in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from the University of Kansas, a Master of Design from Carnegie Mellon University, and a PhD in Biomedical and Health Informatics from the University of Washington. Her research focuses on applying methods of knowledge representation and visualization to improve the understanding of data and knowledge generated in the life sciences. As an information designer, she specializes in “making things that explain things.” As an educator, she helps scientists and engineers to develop skills for effectively communicating their work