Katy Williams

PhD Student

Office: GS 756

Interests: Data visualization, high-performance computing


I am a fourth-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 how we imagine data and data abstractions, before designing the visualization. I was part of the CS Graduate Student Council, as the Secretary and Social Chair, with the goal of fostering cross-lab experiences and to encourage creativity and fellowship in the computer science department. 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. 

​​​​​Research Interests

I am interested in how we imagine data abstractions and how that affects data wrangling, communication, and visualization design. Before we even build a visualization, there is a decision about what data to use and how to collect it. I care about the differences in how we imagine the data “in the wild” compared to how that data is actually collected, manipulated, and passed along the wrangling pipeline. 

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

My overarching goal is to improve communication along the data visualization pipe, starting at the “conceptualizing the data” phase and continuing through the final “discussing the completed visualization” phase. I want to provide a vocabulary and a toolset to make it easier to explain how data were created and collected, manipulated from one abstraction to the other, and encoded into the visualization.

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 continue to swim and to coach in my free time.