Scientific Visualization

Visual computing tools are natural components of any computational research enterprise, and become essential as the spatial and temporal resolution and scale of empirical and simulated datasets increases. Visualization codes and applications supported by Princeton's Research Computing team (through OIT, PICSciE, and TIGRESS) run the gamut from libraries linked to codes running on a single researcher's laptop to full-fledged scientific visualization applications running in parallel on national computing resources at supercomputing centers.

topographic mapGeographic Information Systems

“A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a specialized computer database program designed for the collection, storage, manipulation, retrieval, and analysis of spatial data” (from page 4 of GIS Research Methods, by Steinberg and Steinberg (2015), Esri Press, Redlands, CA).

GIS allows you to analyze geographic information and present results as maps, databases, animations, web applications and other products. Because most information has a spatial component, GIS can provide new techniques to study how objects of interest vary over space and time.

The University Library and the Office of Information Technology work together to provide GIS data, software, training, and project support to university faculty, staff and students.


Visualization Labblack hole diagram

The Visualization Laboratory is located in Room 347 of the Peter B. Lewis Science Library, adjacent to the Research Computing staff offices. This facility provides advanced visualization resources, including high-resolution screens, support for scientific visualization, geospatial codes, and applications on Linux, Windows, and Mac platforms.

PICSciE recently installed two 85" Samsung 4K screens in the Visualization Lab. The display resolution is 3840 x 2160 providing over 8 million pixels per screen. The screens are side-by-side on the wall of the lab so we can have one continuous desktop with over 16 million pixels. The display is bright enough to operate in typical room lighting.

Visualization Software

Research Computing provides a wide range of software tools for scientific and geospatial visualization.  Software tools are available that run locally on users' laptops or workstations and remotely on Research Computing servers. 

Visualizing data from Research Computing clusters

The tigressdata2 server is available for interactive visualization of data produced by jobs running on the large high-performance clusters.  You connect to the tigressdata server using VNC, which is described in the FAQ article, "How do I use VNC on Tigressdata?

Weekly Help Session in Visualization

We offer an open, walk-in help session every Thursday afternoon from 2:00 - 3:00 pm in 347 Lewis Library. No appointment necessary.

For help at other times, please email

The Help Session is an opportunity to meet with research computing staff for one-on-one help with data visualization. We can discuss visualization programs, techniques, and data formats. In particular, how to effectively display your data.

Services we provide include:

  • consulting with students, faculty and staff to select appropriate software tools
  • training/short-course development and delivery
  • assistance with geospatial and visualization codes and data formats
  • technical support for the visualization lab


Every semester, we offer workshops in both scientific  and geospatial visualization.  To see a list of upcoming sessions, go to the Events page and search on "visualization" or "gis" for scientific visualization or geographical information systems respectively.