Dr Sarah Goodwin
SEEKING MORE FROM ENERGY DATA
By Ms Nancy Van Nieuwenhove | 9th December 2019
Dr Sarah Goodwin
Lecturer with the Immersive Analytics Lab in the Faculty of Information Technology.
Deputy Energy Theme Lead for the Faculty of Information Technology
Research interests: Visualization, Analytics and big data, Energy, Computer Graphics, Smart grid, HCI, Smart Cities, Geo-statistics, GIS, Spatial temporal statistics, Spatial cognition, Creativity
Sarah studied Art & Design, Maths and Geography, and followed a Geography degree (Bachelors with Honours). “I did my bachelor in geography, as I was interested in how we can better understand how people are affecting the environment. We had lectures in Geographical Information Systems (GIS) including GPS (Global Positioning Systems), no-one had heard of them, it didn’t exist in people’s phones or cars back then. I followed the path of this exciting and relatively new field, which coincidently combined what I enjoyed in geography, design and statistics”.
After her degree, Sarah worked in the UK and Germany as a Data Analyst with GIS and was always looking to increase her skills to develop her career opportunities. At the same time, she studied part-time for a master’s degree. “I focus on energy because it affects everyone. We all need energy, yet, we rarely think about what goes on behind the scenes. This interest in the energy sector developed over several years working as Business Intelligence Analyst for Verivox GmbH, a leading price comparison company in Germany. There, I learnt about the complexity of the energy sector, the versatility of the market and the variety of tariffs that were available for consumers. My challenge was to communicate the vast number of energy tariffs in an easy to understand format to the business owners, clients and the general public. I found it fascinating that while other sectors, such as retail, had a pretty good idea of their customer base, the energy sector seemed to have a limited understanding of how people use energy, and how consumption differs by time, but also location and demographics. This experience led me to PhD research, where I spent my time exploring demographic and geographic variations of residential energy consumption data at City, University of London”.
During her PhD, she identified the effects of scale and geography on multivariate analysis through visualisation techniques. Learning from the research group and developing new skills was the goal, not following an academic path, but she has since continued an academic journey in Australia. She ended up coming to Melbourne because she met leading academics from Monash at a conference during her PhD.“The PhD work was based in the UK because more data is openly available and because I was awarded a scholarship to study with the giCentre - made up of world leaders in Geo-visualisation research. I ended up staying on the academic career path because I like jobs where I work on different things every day and because of the great colleagues, mentors and supervisors who have helped guide me in this direction”.
Most of Sarah’s work is about people and the environment. Her research seeks to create useful and novel visualisation solutions for complex, multi-dimensional and geospatial data sets. She also looks to improve user-centred visualisation design methodologies, where she focuses on the use of creativity workshops with domain experts. She is particularly interested in how we can use data more effectively to better understand society for a smarter, cleaner and more sustainable future. “Many of the projects I have worked on have been about how we can be more sustainable; including recycling, green spaces, transport and energy. Energy is a very broad topic, it affects everyone, and people rarely understand it. Technology is evolving, the industry is catching up, there is now a lot of data and making sure that data is understandable is essential. My work seeks to highlight the benefits of incorporating properly designed, intuitive and effective visual solutions in smart energy systems, where data-driven decision making and a clear understanding of automated procedures and predictions is critical".
Sarah started as a Lecturer at Monash University in July 2018. She is part of the Monash Energy Institute because she wants her research to be industry-relevant and have an impact. She is also the Deputy Energy Theme Lead for the Faculty of Information Technology and supervises various students working on energy data analysis and visualisation projects. At the same time, she is an advocate for research projects using the Future Control Room (New Horizons Building, Clayton Campus). Now in its third year, Sarah chairs an international workshop series “CityVis” exploring the challenges and goals in Urban Visualisation. She recently won interdisciplinary funding for her project: “Net Zero Precincts: citizen data commons and technological sovereignty. “It has been a crazy busy year! But I knew many people and it feels like a lot longer, as I spent 15 months here as a Research Fellow in 2015/16”.
In her career, Sarah has worked with many domain experts in different fields from Energy to Epidemiology to Constraint Programming. She has over 15 years of experiences in Geographical Data Analysis and Visualisation. From her first job in the field as a GIS technician for a local council through to her academic research with some of the leading research centres for spatial analysis and visualisation around the world, including giCentre, City, University of London; g2Lab, HafenCity University, Geospatial Science, RMIT University and Immersive Analytics Lab, Monash University.
She always has her eye open for new projects and new collaborators: “I really enjoy working as part of a group, where we all bring our different skills together as part of a team. This is true both on the sports field as well as at work. People motivate and inspire me. This also means I continue to learn new things every day. Carving a career takes time, effort and determination. It also never quite goes the way you might expect, but when you look back in years to come, you will realise there were so many unexpected things that greatly influenced your journey. Whatever you want to do: be inspired, stay intrigued and maintain your drive and passion for your goal. You will make it!"
For further information:
- https://research.monash.edu/en/publications/a-framework-for-creative-visualization-opportunities-workshops In this paper we reflect on 10 years’ worth of workshops for visualisation projects, to really understand how we can better work with domain experts to elicit visualisation needs, and improve our methods to do that.
- https://research.monash.edu/en/publications/creative-user-centered-visualization-design-for-energy-analysts-a This follows from my work with energy analysts, where were exploring the future of energy analysis with smart home data sets.
- https://cityvis.io/workshop.php Workshop series on city visualisations with some excellent collaborators.