Cornell undergrad wins IBM award for computer graphics project

The Cornell Theory Center (CTC) has announced that Warren Andrew Menzer is the winner of the second annual IBM Undergraduates in Computational Science Award. Menzer won the $3,000 prize for his development of a graphics tool to visualize complex socioeconomic data.

Made possible through IBM's endowment of a partial fellowship, the award supports outstanding students of computer and computational science at Cornell. The winner is selected by members of CTC's executive committee.

Menzer, from McLean, Va., is a computer science senior in the College of Engineering. He received the award for his exceptional research and as an incentive to continue on to graduate school. Working with researcher James Pratt in the Cornell Program on Dairy Markets and Policy, and Mildred Warner, an assistant professor of city and regional planning, Menzer constructed a computer graphics tool to analyze data on the impacts on local governments of continued reductions in federal aid, a study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Warren is able to easily and adeptly apply his skills to bridge the gap between the social scientist and complex computer graphics," according to Pratt.

Menzer said he heard about the study while taking a course in computer graphics. "I have been interested in computer graphics, but this was the first time I was able to put any knowledge I had to good use," he said.

For the project, he created software based on IBM's Visualization Data Explorer software (now OpenDX) and customized a graphical interface for social scientists in Pratt's group. His system features stacked two-dimensional maps with selected boundaries, such as states and counties, on which socioeconomic data are displayed. Mathematical relationships between maps are represented by color and/or opacity. Researchers also can zoom, rotate or change color scales.

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