Designing a Digital Reality

November 13, 2013


A headshot of Holly RushmeierEver wonder who creates those realistic renderings in games, movies, or industrial design? That would be someone like Holly Rushmeier, one of our 1987–88 American Fellows. “Making synthetic images of numerically defined scenes that look identical to reality,” as she describes it, is just one of the many projects that she has worked on during her career in computer science. She also collects data required for generating realistic computer-graphics models. Her Yale faculty biography page outlines many rendering projects, including “a digital model of Michelangelo’s Florence Pietà” and “a scanning system to capture shape and appearance data for presenting Egyptian cultural artifacts on the World Wide Web.”

Having worked in private industry for Boeing and Washington National Gas Company, for the government at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and in academia — first in mechanical engineering at Georgia Tech and most recently as professor and chair of the computer science department at Yale — Rushmeier has headed projects across diverse sectors. Currently she is involved in a number of programs on Yale’s campus. She told us, “One is the medieval manuscript analysis project in which we are collaborating with members of the Yale English department and the people in Yale [library’s] Digital Collections to develop tools to assist those studying the growing digital collections of manuscripts.”

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Rushmeier has gained recognition for her work, and not just from AAUW. Earlier this year she won the prestigious SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics Achievement Award, which recognizes individuals who have made outstanding achievements in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Still, her own education is ongoing. “Education is about learning how to learn. My education, particularly graduate school, taught me how to keep learning new things all of the time. The process can be difficult at times, but is always rewarding afterwards.”

During her fellowship year, Rushmeier had the opportunity to meet with a number of AAUW members. She recalled

I met a lot of the women who raised money for fellowships at the time, and that impressed on me the importance of making good use of the opportunity I was given. I needed to work hard on my studies to justify all of the effort those women had made. They believed that education is the key to a better future, and they were right.

For those interested in pursuing a career like Rushmeier’s, she offers these words of wisdom: “Don’t let worrying about whether your ideas will work slow you down. Keep moving and try things out; you will learn from failures, and those will help you develop the next idea. I am not sure who originally said it, but ‘Fail faster to succeed sooner.’”

Lauren Byrnes By:   |   November 13, 2013

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