You studied what…?

An answer to my most frequently asked question

Computational Visualistics. That’s what I studied.

-Ahh, I know, you will say. Something with design, huh?

-Nope. (Honestly a bit, but everybody gets confused with this answer.)

-So, what’s this about?

Good that you ask, because I have this short (or little bit longer) speech prepared that I can rattle off atevery networking event.

. . .

Computational Visualistics (in German Computervisualistik) is a Bachelor’s (and also Master’s) programme taught at two universities in Germany. I studied it from 2012 to 2016 in Magdeburg, a city an hour south west from Berlin. It’s an interdisciplinary* computer science course that focuses on “investigating scientifically pictures “in” the computer”. That’s the short version without any confusing terms that (probably) one of my former professors wrote on Wikipedia a while ago. Since this says pretty much nothing more substantial, here the longer version: The emphasis in this study program is on the computer-based generation and analysis of graphics and images. It provides the happy student with a profound knowledge in all the major components of computer science (like Algorithms and Datastructures, Programming of course, Databases, …) and — the more fun part — it teaches a special knowledge in image-related topics, like Computergraphics, Image Processing, Algorithmic Geometry and many more. All this is basically Math. Math, Math, Math. So for everyone who thinks Computational Visualistics is about drawing pictures with a fancy program, it’s not. It’s Coding. Coding with Math. And with Algorithms.

(*I know, nowadays, each and every description of a degree program includes the word interdisciplinary. Just to sound more attractive. But this one is really spreads out across multiple disciplines. Next to the coding you can or have to choose from human sciences like perceptual psychology, design, medicine or architecture. All these either help you understand the user of your application or are a huge field of application or they make you learn long definitions by heart.)

. . .

-Okay, I got the definitions. But honestly I still have no idea what you did precisely.

A few examples from my seven semesters of study:

General computer science topics:

Maths, Logic, Algorithms and Data Structures & Theoretical Computer Science

Image-related fields:

Computer Graphics, Visualisation, Information Visualisation, Algorithmic Geometry, Computer Aided Geometric Design & Medical Image Processing

Bachelor Thesis: “Multiple Linked Views for the Exploration of Optical Coherence Tomographic Image Data to Evaluate the Cerebral Artery Wall” (Read more in my Portfolio).

GUI for the evaluation of brain vessels

(All credits for the shown lecture slides go to the professors and lecturers.)


Bottom line:

Of course I learned how to code during my studies. But none of the examples above I have ever applied in any real life projects (yet). Seems like a waste of time, effort and brain activity, doesn’t it? But in fact studying Computational Visualistics taught me personally a lot more.

It trained me to think abstractly and to solve algorithmic problems — the core of every computer science field. It helped me empathise with the user. To switch from the developer to the user side to build better products. And most of all, it let me discover my passion for visual things. It enabled me to see the beauty of a pile of code when I turn a design into an engaging web application or an interactive data visualisation. It let me become what I am today — a Frontend Developer.


How did you find your field of work? What made you study your subject?


Originally published at www.kristin-baumann.com on October 22, 2016.