By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

School of Information Studies (iSchool) doctoral student Nathan Prestopnik took top honors among academic awards presented at the annual iConference held in Fort Worth, TX, last week.

Prestopnik was named winner of the Lee Dirks Best Paper Award, considered the highest honor at the annual conference, according to iSchool Dean Elizabeth D. Liddy.

The honor was unanticipated, but comprises a gratifying form of recognition, according to Prestopnik, who said he regards conference attendees as academic peers, mentors, and educational partners. Receiving the top award at the iConference “is quite an honor, quite surprising and very, very nice,” he said. “It’s an impressive venue in which to win something like this because there are so many people I know there within all the iSchools.” He reflected, “I knew it was a good paper; I was happy with it and I thought it was a relatively good piece of work and an interesting project to be writing about. But I didn’t submit it with any idea that it would win an award. I’m very grateful and honored of course, so I want to say thank you to the people involved.” 

The paper, titled, “Cooperative Visualization: A Design Case,” describes results of a participatory approach to visualizing a complex computational pipeline, with the goal of exploring what benefits might be derived when groups of people visualize complex information for themselves. It demonstrates how cooperatively creating visualizations can enhance understanding and support group activities and goals, according to Prestopnik. As it describes the design of visualization tools to support the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory project, the paper comprises a call for more human-centeredness within the visualization literature, according to the author.

iSchool Professor Ping Zhang has served as Prestopnik’s adviser. Also involved were Howard Turtle, Director of the iSchool's Center for Natural Language Processing and Research Associate Professor/Professor of Practice, as well as several faculty members in SU’s Physics Department. The paper is available here:

Dean Liddy, who is serving in her second year as chair of the iSchools Organization, which hosts the iConference, called the selection of Prestopnik’s paper “an honor that means so much for multiple reasons. First, it is the Best Paper Award amongst many excellent papers; the iConference is the prime peer group for our school, and it honors Lee Dirks, a strong Microsoft leader who was such a good friend of our field.”

Prestopnik was awarded a cash prize and a crystal trophy. Presenting the honors was Tony Hey, Vice President of Microsoft Research Connections. Hey is responsible for worldwide external research across Microsoft Corporation, as well as building long-term partnerships with academic, government, and industry partners. Hey also works with internal Microsoft groups to build future technologies and products that will transform computing for scientific and engineering research, and oversees Microsoft Research's efforts to enhance the quality of higher education around the world.

The iSchools Organization is comprised of 39 schools of information located in the United States and internationally, including universities in Germany, Denmark, Singapore, China, Japan, Ireland, The Netherlands, Canada, Scotland, Australia and Finland. 

A third-year doctoral student at the iSchool, Prestopnik is a user-experience designer and human computer interaction researcher. His research interests include the user experience, purposeful and entertainment game design, information visualization, and design science. 

During his Ph.D. studies, Prestopnik has served as the lead designer, project manager, and graduate researcher for an NSF-funded research effort exploring purposeful gaming in the context of online, crowdsourced science, “Citizen Sort.”  The project explores participant motivation, engagement, and resulting data quality in the context of citizen science.  In his lead capacity, Prestopnik manages more than 20 student researchers, programmers, database developers, designers, and artists in the development and evaluation of two purposeful games to support the taxonomic classification of plant, animal, and insect specie.

Prior to entering the iSchool doctoral program, Prestopnik earned two degrees from Syracuse University. He graduated in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in Radio-Film production and American Military History, and in 2006 with a master’s degree in New Media. He has worked since then as a web and multimedia developer in Los Angeles, CA, Clifton Park, NY, and as the web administrator for Morrisville State College. He also has more than 10 years of experience in interactive design, web development, and graphic design, and has operated a web design firm, Imperial Solutions, for the past 13 years. 

He is completing his doctoral studies this year and is scheduled to defend his dissertation, “Design Science in Human-Computer Interaction: A Model and Three Examples,” at the end of March.