Bo Zhu

New Assistant Professor Uses Computer Graphics to Better Understand World

Things that can be difficult to observe with the naked eye are often better explored through the lens of computer graphics.

Bo Zhu has used computer graphics to bridge the gap between the physical and the virtual, allowing for the possibility of scientific experiments that would otherwise be impossible.

Zhu spent five years at Dartmouth College and earned an NSF CAREER Award for his research in 2022. He will continue to explore the endless possibilities created by computer graphics and computational physics as he starts this fall as an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing.

Zhu’s focus has been the simulation of fluids, from drops of dew gliding across strands of spider silk to soap bubbles bursting into droplets. He has published numerous papers accepted into the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM)’s SIGGRAPH conference, the International Conference on Learning Representations (ICLR), and the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS).

As he begins at Georgia Tech, Zhu said he looks to have his lab pivot toward building high-fidelity, artificial intelligence (AI) physics simulation algorithms with science, design, and health applications. For example, by combining mathematical models, physics simulations, and real-world data, Zhu and his team will explore the complex physical processes of the human respiratory system and track the flow of pathogen-carrying droplets.

“We develop computational tools to help scientists explore fundamental problems related to complex physical systems,” Zhu said. “We wanted to build computational tools to reproduce these processes based on first principles and to explore their different possibilities. These experiments are expensive or impractical to carry out in the real world, so we use computers to automate this exploration.”

graphic of fluid simulations
Top photo: Assistant Professor Bo Zhu joins the faculty of the School of Interactive Computing for the fall 2023 semester. Courtesy photo by Eli Burakian/Dartmouth College. Above: A sample of simulated fluid computer graphics created by Zhu. Courtesy photo provided by Bo Zhu.

What interests you about working at Georgia Tech?

What captivates me about working at Georgia Tech is the opportunity to collaborate with exceptional colleagues and students across the School of Interactive Computing, the College of Computing, and the broader Institute. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of my research, being part of a community where individual groups strive to address common scientific problems aligns perfectly with my career goals. I am incredibly excited to participate in this process. 

What will your research consist of?

My research undertakings at Tech will revolve around developing computational methodologies tailored for exploring intricate physical systems, with specific applications spanning visual computing, scientific computing, and human health domains. Central to my research vision is a commitment to modeling physical systems and natural phenomena characterized by their multifaceted geometric and dynamic attributes. 

What inspired you to pursue this field of research?

I draw my inspiration from the intricate and captivating nature of our physical world. As a computer scientist, the constant desire to reproduce this beauty and complexity within a virtual realm through computer code motivates me.

Our collective fascination with the visual allure and mathematical intricacy of multifaceted natural phenomena serves as a potent motivation. This motivation stems from their significant roles in addressing scientific and health-related challenges. It fuels our pursuit of forging computer algorithms that can authentically replicate and systematically study these intricate processes within a virtual, computational environment.

What do you hope to accomplish in your research?

My overarching aspiration for my research is to create computational tools that cater to the broader scientific community, facilitating their endeavors to tackle fundamental and socially pertinent scientific challenges. Given the inherently visual nature of our research, I also aim for our computing platforms to enhance connectivity with the public and captivate their interest in these significant scientific issues.

What are you looking forward to about teaching your students and how do you plan to work with them?

I eagerly anticipate the opportunity to engage with Georgia Tech students through the dual avenues of instructing them in cutting-edge courses in computer graphics and scientific computing, as well as collaborating closely with them to tackle intriguing research challenges.

At the core of my approach to research mentoring lies the philosophy that "interest is the best teacher." This guiding principle underscores my commitment to providing personalized support to every student, facilitating the development of their passions and skills in scientific research.