Designing and evaluating immersive scientific visualisation software

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Dr Selen Turkay
Lecturer in Computer Human Interaction
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


Scientific research of the 21st century is highly collaborative. Science teams are getting large and distributed around the world. While this is necessary to solve wicked problems, it poses difficulties for teams due to spatial and temporal dimensions of the teamwork. This project will focus on the design and development of scientific collaboration tools for a principal astrobiology data analysis tool for Mars 2020, NASA's next Mars rover that will be used by a distributed science team. The software will be developed in collaboration with, and delivered to NASA, for use by geologists, geochemists, and astrobiologists participating in the Mars 2020 mission. The application to be developed takes an interactive visual analytics approach and will allow a team of scientists to interact with statistical and machine learning output.

These include building or adapting a version control system to maintain versioning of the science datasets and analysis files; iterative design and development of annotation tools as well as deep linking for seamless collaborative work experiences among scientists. The researcher will conduct talk aloud sessions and eye tracking to investigate how expert and notice scientists interact with the data using the visualisation software.

The project will also investigate using immersive technologies such as AR and VR for collaborative data visualisation; and evaluate how collaboration tools and interactive data visualization help scientists explore their data more effectively, and ultimately gain new insight into data.The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) is a micro-X-ray fluorescence spectrometer selected to fly on the Mars 2020 rover. PIXL is a next-generation instrument designed to map the elemental composition of rocks on a micrometer scale. PIXL, and other instruments like it aboard Mars 2020, generate large volumes of data that will be downlinked and analyzed on compressed decisional timelines. The complex nature of the data and tight tactical timelines have led the PIXL science team to develop several prototype visualization tools. The collaborative features will be integrated into a visualisation software tool that is being designed to enable the mission science team to rapidly and collaboratively analyse data downlinked from contact science instruments.

Research activities

  • Conduct background research
  • User-centred design
  • Designing and running laboratory studies
  • Development of a prototype environment (AR/VR)


  • A prototype environment (AR/VR) for data visualisation
  • Reports on the results of experimental studies

Skills and experience

  • Software development
  • User experience research
  • Teamwork and communication skills
  • HCI


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.