Computer graphics and visualization technologies can show digital counterparts of our physical reality, typically addressing the macroscopic world we are familiar with. I create new technologies that can show the very tiny world around us, how atoms arrange into a complex structure up to living organisms, the virtual universe of the nanocosmos as we know it to date.

Ivan Viola is a Professor of Computer Science at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia. He is establishing the Nanovisualization Research Group as a part of the Visual Computing Center.

Scientific focus

Viola’s expertise spans over a spectrum of subfields in scientific visualization. His scientific focus is in multi-scale 3D visualization and modeling of complex biological models such as cellular organisms down to atomistic detail. New technology developed in the Nanovisualization team will uniquely allow to model, observe, and interact with computational representations of life forms and bionanotechnological structures.

Education and early career

He received M.Sc. in 2002 and Ph.D. in 2005 from TU Wien, Austria. Afterward, in 2006 he joined the University of Bergen, Norway as a Postdoctoral researcher and contributed to a buildup of a new research group on visualization at the Institute of Informatics. In 2008 he was promoted to Associate Professor and in 2011 to Full Professor at the University of Bergen, Norway. During this period he was also appointed as a scientific adviser at the Christian Michelsen Research, Norway. In 2013 after receiving a competitive research grant from Vienna Science and Technology Fund he re-joined TU Wien to as an Associate Professor.

Viola’s research has focused on illustrative visualization, in various forms until today. The most known work when he was a junior researcher is entitled Importance-Driven Volume Rendering published at IEEE Visualization 2004, where it was among nominated papers for the Best-Paper Award and its extended version was published in the IEEE TVCG journal. This work was followed by numerous influential publications, courses, and tutorials on illustrative visualization. This is Viola’s first significant contribution to visualization technology.

Together with colleagues from the University of Girona, Viola explored over several years the use of information-theoretic measures in visualization as a form of a controlling mechanism that quantifies certain visualization characteristics. This cooperation has also resulted in numerous top publications, several courses and tutorials, and two books on information-theoretic tools for computer graphics and visualization. This strand of research was Viola’s second notable contribution to the visualization technology.

After joining the University of Bergen, Norway, Viola started collaborations with several institutions that employ acoustic imaging in medicine, geosciences, and marine sciences. In 2013 his research team was awarded the 1st place in the Eurographics Dirk Bartz Prize for Visual Computing in Medicine and the Best Paper Award at the Eurographics VCBM conference. Ultrasound visualization was Viola’s third contribution to the visualization technology.

In 2011 Viola has been awarded a large grant on illustrative visualization of biological models by the Vienna Science and Technology Fund (WWTF). Viola and his research team have developed several novel technologies for visualization of mesoscale structural models, published at top visualization conferences, receiving to date twice Best Paper Honorable Mention at the IEEE VIS conference. A selection of these technologies is showcased in a publicle-available visualization system that is capable to depict huge multiscale biological systems such as viruses or simple bacteria down to atomic resolution. This system, called cellVIEW, has been developed together with biologists from Art Olson’s Molecular Graphics Laboratory at Scripps and received the Austrian Computer Graphics Award 2016 for the Best Technical Solution.

Career recognitions

Professor Viola has received a series of honors and recognition for his contribution to computing visualization such as the Austrian Computer Graphics Award 2016 for the Best Technical Solution, and the 1st Place Eurographics Dirk Bartz Prize for Visual Computing in Medicine 2013. He is also a member of Eurographics and VGTC IEEE Computer Society.

Editorial activities

Viola has been in the role of a program chair at various conferences, such as IEEE VIS, Eurovis, or Eurographics and has been acting as a reviewer and IPC member for multiple conferences in the field of computer graphics and visualization. Since 2020, Viola has also joined the editorial team of the Computer Graphics Forum journal in the role of an Associate Editor.

Why Nanovisualization?

Nanovisualization offers a unique opportunity to convey every structural detail of whole-cell models starting from the big picture down to tiniest atomistic detail. It also provides visual guidance for biotechnological applications, such as in-silico design for DNA-Nanotechnology. As such it will be an indispensable technology in the next industrial revolution.


Performing focused research to solve a substantial problem will neither be realized in one paper nor in one three-year grant. In case a substantial problem needs decade-long attention of a scientific team? There is no other place in the world which offers scientists generous resources to perform groundbreaking research for a longer period of time without the hassle of frequently submitting research proposals about the topic over and over again.

My vision is to be able to interactively visually represent a living mammalian cell. To achieve this challenge me and my team need some time. We are in a good way, but it will take us a while to achieve our vision. Therefore, the continuity of resources for performing scientific discoveries on nanovisualization over a longer period of time is an essential condition.


  • Building 1, Level 2, Office 2115



  • Executive Committee Member of the Eurographics 2020-2022
  • EG Eurographics 2021 Co-Chair
  • EG Eurovis 2020 Papers Co-Chair
  • EG EuroVis 2019 Papers Co-Chair
  • IEEE VIS 2018 Panels Co-Chair
  • IEEE VIS 2017 Panels Co-Chair
  • SCCG 2017 Papers Chair
  • IEEE Pacific Visualization 2017 Visualization Storytelling Contest Co-Chair
  • IEEE Pacific Visualization 2016 Papers Chair
  • Austrian Computer Science Day 2015 Co-Organizer
  • EG EuroVis State-of-the-Art-Reports 2015 Track Chair
  • EG EuroVis State-of-the-Art-Reports 2014 Track Chair
  • EG Visual Computing for Biology and Medicine 2014 Workshop Chair
  • EG EuroVis 2011 Organizational Chair
  • EG Eurographics 2010 Poster Chair
  • Search Committee for the Editor-in-Chief IEEE TVCG 2011
  • Computers & Graphics 2010, Special Issue on Illustrative Visualization, Guest Editor 


Professor Viola's Google Scholar profile

External Affiliations


  • Senior Lecturer of Computer Science (venia docendi), TU Wien, Austria (2016)
  • PhD in Computer Science (Dr. techn.), TU Wien, Austria (2005)
  • MSc in Computer Science (Dipl.-Ing.), TU Wien, Austria (2002)

Selected Publications

Wu, H.-Y., Nöllenburg, M., Sousa, F. L., & Viola, I. (2019). Metabopolis: scalable network layout for biological pathway diagrams in urban map style. BMC Bioinformatics, 20(1).
Waldin, N., Waldner, M., Le Muzic, M., Gröller, E., Goodsell, D. S., Autin, L., … Viola, I. (2019). Cuttlefish: Color Mapping for Dynamic Multi‐Scale Visualizations. Computer Graphics Forum.
Sorger, J., Mindek, P., Rautek, P., Gröller, E., Johnson, G., & Viola, I. (2017). Metamorphers. Proceedings of the 33rd Spring Conference on Computer Graphics - SCCG ’17. doi:10.1145/3154353.3154364
Waldin, N., Bernhard, M., Rautek, P., & Viola, I. (2016). Individualization of 2D color maps for people with color vision deficiencies. Proceedings of the 32nd Spring Conference on Computer Graphics - SCCG ’16. doi:10.1145/2948628.2948643