Katy Williams

PhD Student

Office: GS 756

Interests: Data visualization, high-performance computing


I am a third-year PhD student, advised by Kate Isaacs. I am a member of the Humans, Data, and Computers (HDC) lab at the University of Arizona. I am currently investigating the use of visualization in Jupyter Notebooks with the aim of developing a set of guidelines and strategies for visualization design in Jupyter notebooks. I also build visualizations to aid the Stellar group at LSU with the development of Phylanx, a general purpose system for computations on distributed arrays for applied statistics on commodity cloud systems. I am from Apex, North Carolina and graduated from Davidson College in 2017 with my Bachelor's degree in Computer Science and a Math minor (go 'Cats!). While at Davidson College, I collaborated with Dr. Laurie Heyer as part of Project PRONTO (PRoductive ONline TOols), a team of student programmers that build web applications to help streamline processes at Davidson College and the community. I also founded the club FICSIT (Females in Computer Science and Information Technology), with the goal of providing a comfortable space for female programmers to foster out-of-classroom learning experiences and to encourage creativity and exploration in the computer science community.

​​​​​Research Interests

I am interested in how we can optimize visualization in computational notebooks. Computational notebooks, such as the Jupyter notebook, are web-based coding environments that allow the user to combine live code, visualizations, and narrative text into one document. These notebooks are used by scientists to explore data sets, by teachers and professors to explain data analysis or computation concepts, and by machine learning experts to develop and refine prediction models. However, visualization support in notebooks is rudimentary and it is difficult to integrate more advanced interactive visualizations into this format. I am examining how visualization is currently used in existing notebooks and how we can improve the integration of visualization into notebooks.

What long-term project do you want to work on?

My overarching goal is to make data visualization easier to use for notebook users. I eventually want to create a library or plugin for notebooks so that everyday users can get auto-generated suggestions of visualizations to add to their notebooks. Having visualizations designed specifically for a notebook environment will improve the user experience and overall understanding of what the author is trying to communicate. A notebook-optimized visualization library will make it easier for the author to display their data.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

I like how visualization can provide a way to make data accessible and tangible. Through careful design, we can create systems that allow exploration of the data space that enable the user to see the greater context and to examine relationships within the data.

What are your career goals?

My goal is to become a professor at a teaching-focused liberal arts college, like my alma mater Davidson College.

​​​​Tell us something interesting about yourself!

I am a competitive swimmer: I was a Division I swimmer in college and competed at the 2016 Olympic Trials in the 100m and 200m breaststrokes. I hope to qualify for the 2020 Trials.