interviewed 29 July 2003 by Erin Callihan and Wendy Ju
Judith Brown is the
Past President of ACM SIGGRAPH, and currently
the chair of the 2003-04 Nominating Committee. Brown was
Research Computing Services (ARCS) at the University of
|What first drew you to computer
||My college degrees were in mathematics in
the 60s. At this time, there was no computer science in my
university, but Collins Radio Company (now Rockwell Collins)
hired people with math and science backgrounds and trained
them to do scientific programming. I was discouraged that computer
programming did not use my math background, until I discovered
graphics. I also had a longtime interest in art. The idea of
doing programming that
used math and produced images was very exciting.
|Do you have any favorite computer graphics
Yes, Maxine Brown, now at Electronic Visualization
Lab at University of Illinois, Chicago, is my
computer graphics mentor, although she is younger
than I am. She was already doing very exciting
things with computer graphics, and she was on the
ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee when we met in
1982. I also have always admired Tom DeFanti for his
creativity, leadership, and sense of humor.
|What was the first time you
contributed to SIGGRAPH?
I was co-founder of the ACM SIGGRAPH Education
Committee, which was started in 1982. My first major
contribution was providing information on careers,
which resulted first in several career seminars at
the annual conference, and then in the first
Computer Graphics Careers Handbook.
| What year/city was your first
SIGGRAPH? Which was most intense? Why?
I first attended the annual SIGGRAPH conference
1979, and I have attended every year since then,
I guess the most intense conference was 1987, the
first time I was a presenter. I chaired an
educational workshop, "Computer Graphics Education:
An Interdisciplinary Approach," that year. In 2000,
I chaired the celebration for the thirtieth
anniversary of the organization, ACM SIGGRAPH. This
gave me an opportunity to show off all the
activities of the organization that take place
around the world and throughout the year.
|What contributions to SIGGRAPH
are you most proud of?
||I am proud of my contributions to building
education committee from scratch, editing the first
Computer Graphics Career Handbook, chairing
educational sessions at the annual conference,
organizing international computer graphics workshops
on education and visualization, international
outreach efforts to build the computer graphics
community worldwide, and serving on the ACM SIGGRAPH
Executive Committee in four positions.
|What's your favorite thing
at this year or last year's SIGGRAPH?
||The annual conference is the best opportunity
all my friends and colleagues each year and to meet
new and interesting people.
|What near/intermediate developments
in CG do you look forward to?
||I have worked for many years as a consultant
early user of computer graphics technologies for
research and education. I have seen the progress
that allows artists and scientists to use computers
interactively to accomplish their creative and
scientific goals, where they once had to use a
FORTRAN program to do so. The tools for creating
virtual environments and using these for
collaborative educational and research applications
are also increasingly affordable and easy to use. I
look forward to this continuing technological
development to increase collaborative opportunities
worldwide. I am co-chair of an international ACM
SIGGRAPH conference on the "Virtual Reality
Continuum for Applications in Industry," to be held
in Singapore June 16-18, 2004, and I expect to see
even more fascinating new applications and tools
shown a strong focus on education in your work. What is the
motivation for that?
Well, that empahsis began when my students
would ask me questions I couldn't get answers to, questions
such as "What do you need to know to do computer graphics?,"
"What jobs are there?" and "What schools are there to learn
At first, it was largely career information that we sought
to provide. It has since expanded to other things. These
days, there is a lot more education possible.
When I started, you couldn't get a degree in computer graphics.
It was neat to see all the schools for computer graphics
on the show floor because none of these things existed
when when I started working with the Education Committee
around 1982.. A lot of the software and the hardware didn't
exist. In the last ten years, we've made
enormous strides. You used to have to be a computer programmer
to do graphics, because the tools that we take for granted
now weren't created yet. Now things are more efficient, less
expensive, and more accessible. It's allowed
us to focus on what we want to do rather than on how to make
|Do you have
advice for people starting out in computer graphics?
||Well, I always advise people that the annual
conference is the place to be to learn what's available, to
open your eyes to what can be done. After that, it depends
on what area you're trying to get into. A strong math or computer
science background is essential for the technical positions,
and a background in traditional art is important for the creative
positions. Knowing something about both the technical and creative
sides is valuable, and sometimes you can get the balance you
need by building a team of technical and creative people.
collaborate with artists, right? How has this influenced your
It's been very important to have artists
in my lab at the Advanced Research Computing Services at
University of Iowa. They would help us with so many things,
such as specifying color palettes, page design layout, visual
communication. That's led up to an area I'm working on now,
Visual learning requires collaboration with people from
many backgrounds--photojournalists, psychologists-- to create
the best images for learning.
now, but you still have many projects underway. Can you tell
us about those?
I've been working on some things that I've
always wanted to do. Taking drawing lessons, for instance,
I have learned that anyone can learn to draw, though maybe
not like Picasso. It's a craft, not necessarily an art. That
You can't have a profession for 25 years and just drop it.
I'm still working, but I've just stopped going to staff meetings.
I'm still working on visual learning. I'm coordinating the
virtual reality conference. It's still interesting to keep
a hand in things. I'm lucky that I've evolved into a position
where I like everything enough to keep doing it. I particularly
believe in volunteering. The volunteers I have worked with
for so many years have become part of my family.