Tableau Veteran and Leader in Data Visualization, Melanie Tory, Joins the Roux Institute

Empowering Maine Businesses with Data

Melanie Tory, a leader in data visualization, is the Roux Institute’s Director of Data Visualization Research, joining Rai Winslow, Jack Lesko, Gretchen Fougere, and Usama Fayyad on the Research Leadership Team. Tory joins the institute from Tableau Software, an interactive data visualization software company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, and recently acquired by Salesforce for over $15B.

Of the appointment, Senior Vice Provost and Academic Lead of the Roux Institute, Michael Pollastri, says, “Recruiting Melanie Tory to lead data visualization research at the Roux Institute will position us here in Portland to bring the field to our partners and learners to springboard them into the data-forward economy of the future.”

At Tableau, Tory focused on both industry research and applied user research, where her work centered on enabling natural language interaction with visualizations, as well as how people use analytics and business intelligence tools “in the wild” within organizations, and what barriers exist in those organizational sense making practices. Senior Director of Research Development for the Roux Institute, Gretchen Fougere, says, “Melanie brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise both from her academic background and time at Tableau, the leading organization for data visualization.”

The great thing about the field of visualization is that virtually everyone has data and can benefit from better analytics. I hope to partner closely with Maine area organizations to empower more people with data.

Melanie Tory

Director of Data Visualization Research

The Roux Institute

Partners as Collaborators

At the Roux Institute, Tory will lead a Data Visualization Research program where she will work in close collaboration with Roux Institute partner organizations, as well as her Engineering, Biomedicine, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) research colleagues at the institute.

Adds Pollastri, “Data Visualization is at the very crux of humanics: how do humans interface with big data in a way that is productive, meaningful, and creative?”

Over the last six years at Tableau, Tory has been straddling the boundary between applied and academic research. Because the Roux Institute is uniquely positioned as a university that places their partnership model at their center, it’s a seamless continuation of that journey. Says Tory, “I expect that partners will bring real world challenges and I hope they will engage directly in the research efforts as collaborators.”

She goes on to say, “While it can be challenging to find those projects that both advance the state of the art in visualization research and deliver valuable impact to partner organizations, I find that those are the projects that are most exciting and rewarding.”

Opportunities for Visualization Research

With its strengths in AI, Biomedicine, and Engineering, the Roux Institute generates unique research opportunities and data visualization is a cross-cutting technology that will bridge many of these verticals, one advantage of making visualization a core research focus area.

“Melanie joins us amidst explosive growth in Data Visualization at Northeastern, in a beautiful, cross-college initiative that spans the College of Arts, Media, + Design, the Khoury College of Computer Science, and the Roux Institute,” says Pollastri.

In addition to leading research with institute partners and her colleagues, Tory will engage with learners at the Roux Institute through guest lectures and analytics curriculum development. Says Tory, “learners at the Roux Institute will have opportunities to engage in research through class projects and research internships or co-ops.”

Maine Impact and Beyond

“Melanie’s highly visible role as a leader in visualization at the Roux underscores our desire to become known to be at the vanguard in the field,” adds Pollastri.

Driven by the Roux Institute’s mission to bring economic impact to Maine, Tory believes that in her research she will, “collaborate with many different Maine companies, nonprofits, and government organizations, from Business Intelligence to Fisheries to Healthcare.” Tory goes on to say, “I want to do research that makes a positive impact in the world.”