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  Reports from SIGGRAPH 2001

Interview with Tamara Munzner

22 July 2002
Jan Hardenbergh

Tamara Munzner is known for using hyperbolic space to visualize the Web, knowledge, and organize web sites. I caught up with her at lunch on Monday for this interview.

What first drew you to computer graphics?

Pattern-matching, actually. I had a summer job for three years at a supercomputer company, which like most other supercomputer companies eventually went bankrupt. When I was looking for another summer job, somebody matched up my resume with a place called “The Geometry Supercomputer Project”. That was a mathematics research group which ended up creating good enough algorithms that it didn’t need supercomputer-class power to create things like tilings of hyperbolic space, and had gotten more and more interested in visualization on workstations. I ended up doing interactive 3D graphics and RenderMan that summer, and I’ve been addicted ever since.

Do you have any favorite CG mentors?

Pat Hanrahan – the stuff I did that first summer was based on a project of his, and I ended up getting my PhD with him several years later.

What was the first time you contributed to SIGGRAPH?

1994. We got eight whole minutes in the Electronic Theater, woo woo! It was for “Outside In”, a mathematical visualization video about turning a sphere inside out.

What year/city was your first SIGGRAPH? Which was most intense? Why?

1992, in Chicago. It was the second conference I ever attended, and I didn’t know many people at all. A very different experience than now, where part of the fun is running into lots of old friends.
1995 was the most intense – I was doing two lectures in a course and a panel talk. Plus I had something in the Animation Theater, but that didn’t take any work during the conference itself. Since I, ahem, am not the best at getting things done early, I showed up at Siggraph not having slept in a couple of days. I almost lost my voice during my talks, and discovered that I had bronchitis when I got home after a long week. Also, part of my panel talk included a live demo of 3D through the web that relied on a working Net connection to a remote server. When I tested right before session, the remote server didn’t work and my local backup was broken. I got up to talk being fairly sure my demo wouldn’t work and I’d look like an idiot, but luckily enough the remote connection did indeed work.

What contributions to SIGGRAPH are you most proud of?

Outside In. Listening to the audience applaud your piece in the Electronic Theater is an amazing rush.

What's your favorite thing at this year or last year's SIGGRAPH?

“Protrude, flow”, the metal blobby liquid thing in the art show.

What near/intermediate developments in CG do you look forward to?

Information visualization becoming a mainstream tool.


Tamara has finally escaped from the Minneapolis - Stanford ping pong game she played for the past decade.

Stanford PhD page

Geometry Center page


She is now a professor at UBC in Vancouver.



This page is maintained by
Jan Hardenbergh
All photos you see in the 2002 reports are due to a generous loan of Cybershot digital cameras from SONY