Plaisant, Catherine

Plaisant at CHI 1997
Catherine Plaisant with Gary Marchionini at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in March 1997 in Atlanta, GA.

Catherine Plaisant is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and the Associate Director of Research of the Human-Computer Interaction Lab. She earned a Doctorat d’Ingenieur (the French diploma corresponding to a Ph.D. in industrial engineering) in 1982 and traveled to the United States in 1988 to join Professor of Computer Science Ben Shneiderman at the Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL), where she continues to work with multidisciplinary teams to design and evaluate new technologies and user interfaces.

Before joining HCIL, Plaisant worked in Paris, France at the Centre Mondial Informatique et Ressources Humaines. She developed learning environments for pre-school children and conducted evaluations in classrooms. During her time with HCIL, her research contributions have included: focused user interaction techniques, such as Excentric Labeling; innovative visualizations, such as LifeLines for personal records or SpaceTree for hierarchical data exploration; and interactive search interface techniques, including Query Previews. These techniques were meticulously tested with user studies and have been adopted in industry, government information systems, and digital libraries.

Plaisant 2011
Catherine Plaisant with long-time collaborator Ben Shneiderman at the HCIL Annual Symposium at the University of Maryland in College Park on May 26, 2011.

Plaisant’s recent research projects include novel designs for electronic health record systems and visual analytics environments for the analysis of temporal event sequences. Plaisant has written more than 200 published papers on subjects ranging from information visualization to medical informatics to technology for families. She became a co-author for the 4th, 5th, and 6th editions of Designing the User Interface, among the most prominent books on Human-Computer Interaction.

Plaisant was elected to the CHI Academy in 2015.

“Catherine has been my close collaborator since 1987, as we worked together to write 100+ papers, often with UMD Computer Science graduate students who we jointly supervised.  As a Research Scientist, she complemented my professorial role in supervising students, connecting with companies, and conducting rigorous studies.  We often had constructive differences of opinion, leading to respectful discussions that pushed our thinking forward.  May you all be so fortunate as to have a creative research collaborator (and a friend) as wonderful as Catherine.” – Ben Shneiderman


  • Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, Université Pierre at Marie Curie – Paris VI, France (1982)
  • Engineer, Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Artes et Métiers, Paris, France (1979)


  • INRIA International Chair (2018 – 2022)
  • Affiliate Senior Research Scientist, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland’s iSchool (2012 – Present)
  • Associate Member, Center for the Advanced Study of Language (2009 – Present)
  • Associate Director of Research, Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory (1997 – Present)
  • Acting Director, Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory (HCIL) (1996 – 1997)
  • Senior Research Scientist, University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (1987 – Present)
  • Research Associate, Centre Mondial Informatique et Ressources Humaines, Paris, France (1982 – 1987)


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