Michael Lewis Receives DFI Fellowship Support for UIC CS PhD

August 23rd, 2011

Categories: Education, MS / PhD Thesis, Visualization

PhD student Michael Lewis giving presentation on UIC/EVL’s Cyber-Commons tiled display wall.
PhD student Michael Lewis giving presentation on UIC/EVL’s Cyber-Commons tiled display wall.


Michael Lewis, a PhD student in the UIC Computer Science department and the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), is a recipient of the State of Illinois’ 2011-2012 Diversifying Higher Education Faculty in Illinois (DFI) Fellowship - and the only person majoring in computer science.

As an African-American who has held various scientific visualization and virtual-reality programming jobs in industry, as well as a brief stint as a community organizer for political action, Lewis values the need for under-represented groups to become active within their communities, and to serve as mentors and role models. Always interested in a career in academia, he returned to graduate school two years ago, and earlier this year pursued the DFI Fellowship. In his DFI application, Lewis wrote that by becoming a professor, he would be able to “reach out to under-represented groups, develop my passion for helping and inspiring others through teaching, and have the opportunity to conduct cutting-edge, computer science research.”

Lewis is no stranger to EVL; he received his Master’s degree at UIC in Computer Science in 2002 for developing the CAVE virtual-reality application “Tele-Immersive Data Explorer 2 (TIDE2).” TIDE2 enabled users to import and interact with multiple large-scale visual datasets. Upon graduating, he worked for Fuel Tech, developing a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling application to enable engineers and clients to navigate through complex flow behaviors. In 2004, this software product was chosen as software of the year by Desktop Engineering magazine. Lewis eventually went to work as a researcher at the Army High Performance Research Center, (AHPRC) in Minneapolis, where he continued to develop in-house visualization software products.

His love of research, and his interest in becoming an educator, mentor, and role model, brought him back to UIC in Fall 2009. EVL immediately gave Lewis a research assistantship to work with a small team of students on “The Day the Earth Shook,” an earthquake preparedness video game for middle-school children, which was funded by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency through grants from the US Department of Homeland Security. When that project ended, he became a teaching assistant for a computer graphics course, where he prepared the class’ lab curriculum, lectured, and met with students during office hours. Most recently, Lewis has become interested in the new field of “cloud computing” and is exploring ways in which computer graphics can use clouds for his PhD dissertation.

The goal of DFI is to increase the number of minority full-time tenure track faculty and staff at Illinois’ two- and four-year, public and private colleges and universities. Those students who are selected to receive fellowships are considered most promising, and most likely to make outstanding contributions to their fields of learning. Further information can be found at: