Andries van Dam Thomas J. Watson Jr. University Professor of Technology and Education, Professor of Computer Science

Andries van Dam is the Thomas J. Watson Jr., University Professor of Technology and Education and Professor of Computer Science. He has been a member of Brown's faculty since 1965, is a founder of Brown's Computer Science Department, and was its first Chairman from 1979 to 1985. From 2002 to 2006 he was Brown's first Vice President for Research. His research includes work on computer graphics, hypermedia systems, post-WIMP user interfaces (including pen-centric computing), and educational software. Over the last four decades he has worked on systems for creating and reading electronic books with interactive illustrations for use in education and research.

He is the co-author of nearly a dozen books, including "Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice", with James D. Foley, Steven K. Feiner, and John F. Hughes (Addison-Wesley 1990). He received a B.S. degree (with Honors) in Engineering Sciences from Swarthmore College in 1960 and a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1966. He is a Fellow of ACM, IEEE, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and is a member of National Academy of Engineering. His awards include the ACM Steven A. Coons Award for Outstanding Creative Contributions to Computer Graphics and the IEEE James H. Mulligan, Jr. Education Medal. He holds honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College and Darmstadt Technical University.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

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research overview

Andy van Dam's research has concerned computer graphics, hypermedia systems, post-WIMP user interfaces, including pen-centric computing, and educational software. He has been working for nearly four decades on systems for creating and reading electronic books with interactive illustrations for use in teaching and research.

research statement

His computer graphics research interests have included the development and advocacy of graphics standards, such as the SIGGRAPH Core graphics library, PHIGS+, and others, that helped to bring together researchers from different manufacturers and research organizations. These standards facilitated the development of graphics tools that significantly advanced graphics research. Another outcome of his graphics research has been the co-authorship of two field-defining textbooks in Computer Graphics and over a hundred scientific articles.

His research group's post-WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointing-device) user interface research has included both IVR (Immersive Virtual Reality) interaction research on the one hand and gesture-based user interfaces for both desktop computers and the Tablet PC on the other. The IVR research uses the Cave facility (an 8' cube with three walls and floor that are stereo projection surfaces) and includes projects such as scientific visualization of Mars exploration and human artery blood flow. Gesture-based user interface research has included Sketch, a two-handed gestural constraint-based sketching system for the desktop and more recently, work with the Tablet PC that has culminated in the March 20th founding of the Microsoft Center for PenCentric Computing.

His pioneering work in hypertext and text processing, dating back to HES in 1967, helped created the field through hypermedia systems such as HES, FRESS, EDS, and IRIS Intermedia, all of which pre-date, foreshadow, and functionally provide features still unavailable on the Web. In 1990 he was a co-founder and chief scientist of Electronic Book Technologies, the first company to use the then still new SGML (the precursor of XML) to build hypertext-based electronic books, primarily for technical documentation.

The hypertext research stimulated his interests in systems development so that in parallel with the ongoing work on FRESS, EDS, and Intermedia, he and his team conducted research in software systems, compilers, microprogramming, and distributed computing. As part of the efforts in distributed programming in 1976 and 1977 he co-founded the distributed computing workshops at Brown that later evolved to become the IEEE ICDCS conferences, which celebrated their 25th anniversary last year.

Undergirding all the computer graphics, hypermedia, systems, and user interface research has been a lifelong interest in the use of software for education, starting with the use of FRESS to teach courses in environment science and poetry and continuing with Intermedia used for courses in Biology and Literature.

In more recent years he and his team have continued to develop educational software tools that combine interaction within hypermedia information structures, starting with Exploratories, which are Java applets designed to teach concepts in computer graphics either as stand-alone units or embedded within hypermedia frameworks.

Their most recent education research includes GTT (Graphics Teaching Tool), a Java-based interactive application; Tablet PC-based projects such as MathPad, a mathematical sketching application for mathematical problem solving, and ChemPad, an organic chemistry 3D molecule visualization tool; and Immune Attack, a educational software biology simulation game being deployed in the Spring of 2006;

Looking towards the next generation of educational software, he is developing a theoretical framework called Clip Models, which are simulation-based families of components that represent multiple levels of explanatory power and simulation fidelity designed to interoperate and to be assembled into systems. Unlike clip art, clip models emphasize behavior, interaction and exploration, and interoperability.

funded research

Microsoft Center for Research on Pen-Centric Computing (PI), Microsoft, $1,200,000, 3/13/06 - 4/1/09

Visual Digital Literacy: Curricular and Modules for the IT Worker (PI), National Science Foundation (subcontract via Maricopa County Community College District), $300,000, 08/01/05-07/31/08

Advanced Visualization in Solar System Exploration and Research (ADVISOR) (Co-PI), NASA, $870,000, 10/01/04-9/30/07

ITR: Collaborative Research - (ASC) - (sim + int): Building Biologically Based Immune System Simulations for Education and Training (PI), National Science Foundation, $160,000, 10/1/04-9/30/06

A Digital Notepad for Education (PI), JADL, $350,000, 7/24/03-3/30/06

Application Driven Research, Development, and Evaluation of Interactive Scientific Visualization Techniques in Multiple Working Environments (PI), Department of Energy (DOE), $900,000, 9/15/03-9/14/06

Developing Immersive VR Techniques for Interactive Scientific Visualization (PI), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), $525,000, 6/1/03-5/31/06

Gift of Tablet PCs for Electronic Student Notebook Project (PI), Microsoft, $25,000, 2003

Remarkable Texts: A Digital Notepad for the NSDL (PI), National Science Foundation, $425,000, 11/1/02-10/31/04

ITR/SY: Electronic Books for the Tele-Immersion Age: A New Paradigm for Teaching Surgical Procedures (PI), National Science Foundation, $1,750,000, 9/01/01- 8/31/05

A Gesture Driven Music Notepad (PI), Microsoft, $128,387, 9/01/01-10/15/02

Special Projects: Workshop to Establish a Research Agenda in Learning Science and Technology (PI), National Science Foundation, $100,000, 9/15/00-8/31/01

Accessible Color II (PI), Adobe, $100,000, 06/01/00 - 05/31/01

Collaborative Research: A Component Repository and Environment for Assembly of Teaching Environments (CREATE) (PI), National Science Foundation, $244,000, 06/01/00 - 02/02/03

Technologies for Interactive Visualization of Large Data Sets (PI), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), $1,198,536, 07/27/99 - 06/30/03

Accessible Color (PI), Adobe, $100,000, 03/01/99 - 02/28/00

Research on Computer Graphics (PI), Microsoft, $100,000, 1999-2002

MRI: Acquisition of Equipment for Telecollaboration, Telepresence and Design (PI), National Science Foundation (subcontract via University of Utah), $304,375, 10/01/98 - 09/30/02

Collaborative Research: Java 3D (PI), Sun Microsystems, $50,000, 01/01/98 - 12/31/98

Support for the 1997 Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics (PI), Office of Naval Research (ONR), $20,000, 04/25/97 - 12/31/97

1997 Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics (PI), ARL, $20,000, 02/25/97 - 01/31/98

1997 Symposium on Interactive 3D Graphics (PI), National Science Foundation, $25,000, 03/15/97 - 02/2/998

User Interface Technology Transfer to NASA's Virtual Wind Tunnel System (PI), NASA, $40,000, 04/01/97 - 03/31/98

Vannevar Bush Symposium (PI), National Science Foundation, $25,000, 10/01/95 - 09/30/96

Self as a First Programming Language at Brown University (PI), Sun Microsystems, $70,000, 1994-1996

Exploiting Multiprocessors for Time-Critical 3D Graphics (PI), Sun Microsystems, $180,000, 1994-1996

Three Dimensional User Interfaces for Scientific Visualization (PI), NASA, $400,000, 04/01/93 - 03/31/97

Science and Technology Center in Computer Graphics and Scientific Visualization (PI), National Science Foundation, $7,310,698 out of $35,473,614, 02/01/91 - 07/31/02

Collaborative Research on 4D modeling (PI), Sun Microsystems, $200,000, 1991-1993

A Framework for an Object-Oriented Time-Parameterized Modeling and Animation Platform (PI), IBM, $360,000, 1991-1993

Collaborative Research on 4D modeling (PI), Sun Microsystems, $100,000, 1991-1992

Demonstration of Animation (PI), IBM, $25,000, 1990

4D Modeling (PI), IBM, $50,000, 1990-1991

Collaborative Research on 4D Modeling (PI), Sun Microsystems, $100,000, 1990-1991

Computer Graphics Group Affiliate (PI), NCR Corporation, $300,000, 1989-1992

Cooperative Research and Development (PI), NCR Corporation, $75,000, 1989

Interactive User-Controlled Animation (PI), NCR Corporation, $40,000, 1988

Project Quattro (PI), Digital Equipment Corporation, $140,000, 1986 - 1987

Project Quattro (PI), Digital Equipment Corporation, $250,000 plus $750,000 equipment credit, 1985 - 1986

Ideographics (Co-PI), Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-Office of Naval Research (ONR), $1,700,000, 1983 - 1987

An Instructional Computing Environment (PI), Exxon Education Foundation, $229,143, 1983 - 1986

Research in Interactive Computer Graphics (PI), Atari Computer Division, $150,000, 1982 - 1983

An Integrated Experimental Environment for Research in Computer Science (Co-PI), National Science Foundation, $2,736,377, 1982-1987

Document Production Systems (PI), IBM (Research Agreement), $295,000, 1981 - 1983

Cause: Integrated Personalized Computing Environments (Co-PI), National Science Foundation, $250,000, 1980 - 1983

Automated Technical Documentation and Assistance (PI), Office of Naval Research, $891,084, 1980-1985