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Aaron Bryden was on a two-week research field trip in high school, camping and collecting data on frog habitats, when he realized what he wanted to do when he grew up. It wasn’t the frogs that caught his attention. It was the amount of data he and his classmates generated.

“I could already see then that we were creating a huge amount of information and that the data we were collecting would be most useful visualized in map form, and it was then that I figured out that I wanted to use computer tools to help understand large amounts of data,” says Bryden.

As an undergrad at Iowa State University, Bryden helped with research at ISU’s Virtual Reality Applications Center, and he started an informal collaboration with Ames Laboratory scientists who developed VE-Suite, a virtual engineering software toolkit.

“For my graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, I worked with the visualization of proteins,” Bryden says. “So, it was a natural progression to try the techniques for other atomic structures. And since I had stayed connected to the ideas in VE-Suite, I returned to Ames Laboratory for a postdoctoral post.”

Bryden is now expanding the use of VE-Suite, first designed to engineer complex systems like power plants, to materials science.

“I’m using some of the visualization tools in VE-Suite and applying them to understanding data from atom probe microscopy experiments,” says Bryden. “We modified a technique known as spherical imposter rendering so that we can now visualize and interact with a 10-million-atom data experimental data set.”

For these types of data, scientists would perhaps not draw quantitative conclusions from just a look at the visualized data. But, Bryden and his colleagues believe that seeing materials science data more accurately and efficiently can help guide scientists’ experimentation and analysis, and, ultimately, help guide the overall search for new and better materials.

Image“My work in materials science is a bit odd, because I don’t do much creating or characterization of materials myself,” says Bryden. “But it’s exciting to be part of the larger community and really help people understand their data more effectively.”
 “Working with the materials scientists at Ames Laboratory is opening up new areas to apply my research,” says Bryden. “Ames Lab is giving me opportunities I wouldn’t have anywhere else.”

Bryden’s next aim is a staff researcher at a national laboratory or faculty member at a university.

“It’s funny that all these years later after that frog research field-trip, I’m still doing the same sorts of things,” he says.

Outside of work, Bryden still loves to travel, the outdoors and hiking. He recently made a trip to Honduras and plans to trek in Chile later this year.

“And at work, just like with the frog habitat data in high school, my whole goal is still to use visualization to help people do better science and engineering.”

~ by Breehan Gerleman Lucchesi