Cecilia Aragon is an associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering and the eScience Institute at the University of Washington, where she directs the Scientific Collaboration and Creativity Lab. Previously, she was a computer scientist in the Computational Research Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) for six years, after earning her Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 2004. She is currently a joint faculty member at LBNL. She earned her B.S. in mathematics from the California Institute of Technology. Her current research focuses on human-computer interaction (HCI) and computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), visual analytics, data science, scientific collaborations, distributed creativity, collaborative games, the visual understanding of very large data sets (big data), and emotion in text communication. She has developed novel visual interfaces for collaborative exploration of very large scientific data sets, and has authored or co-authored over 70 peer-reviewed publications and over 100 other publications in the areas of HCI, visual analytics, machine learning, and astrophysics. In 2008, she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers, for her work in collaborative data-intensive science.
Her research has been recognized with six Best Paper awards since 2004. She won the Distinguished Alumni Award in Computer Science from UC Berkeley in 2013, the student-nominated Faculty Innovator in Teaching Award from her department at UW that same year, and was named one of the Top 25 Women of 2009 by Hispanic Business Magazine. Her work on the Sunfall data visualization and workflow management system for the Nearby Supernova Factory helped advance the study of supernovae in order to reduce the statistical uncertainties on key cosmological parameters that categorize dark energy, one of the grand challenges in physics today.
Aragon has an interdisciplinary background, including over 15 years of software development experience in industry and NASA, and a three-year stint as the founder and CEO of a small company. Aragon's early research was in theoretical computer science and analysis of algorithms. She is the co-inventor (with Raimund Seidel) of a data structure, the treap, which has been commended for its elegance and efficiency, and is now widely used in production applications ranging from wireless networking to memory allocation to fast parallel aggregate set operations.
Aragon is also active in program service and supporting diversity in computing. She is a founding member of Latinas in Computing, was a board member of the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W), a founding member of Berkeley Lab's Computing Sciences Diversity Working Group and Women in Science Council, chair of the IEEE Computer Society's Entrepreneur and Pioneer Awards committee, and has served as a reviewer and program committee member for numerous computer science conferences.
She has also been a test pilot, aerobatic champion, and medallist at the World Aerobatic Championships, the Olympics of aviation. She holds the record for shortest time from first solo in an airplane to membership on the United States Aerobatic Team (less than six years), and was also the first Latina to win a slot on the Team. She has logged over 5,000 accident-free hours, flying airshows and competitions throughout the United States and in Europe. An active flight instructor since 1987, Aragon is a pioneer of "unusual attitude recovery training," where flight students are taught how to recover from emergency situations in flight. She was the founder of one of the first aerobatic and tailwheel flight schools in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989.
Aragon and her husband have two children. She enjoys reading, walking, biking, and flying. Her Erdös number is 3.