The Urban Data Visualization Lab is the newest among CUPPA research centers. It came into existence on July 1st, 1998. Associate Dean Albert Schorsch III was instrumental in conceptualizing the initial vision and research directions for the GCUDV Program and Lab. Schorsch worked with former Dean Wim Wiewel, senior faculty within CUPPA, and with some units across campus to secure permanent university funding for the lab.

Evolution from 1998 to 2001

In October 1998, soon after the establishment of the center, a working group came together to develop a strategic plan for the center and set goals for the five-year period (1999 – 2003). The minutes of that strategic planning retreat reflect the working group’s emphasis and desire to create something new, not just another program or project. The group sought to build a learning community that would allow different disciplines (for example architecture, urban planning/design, geography) to come together through the common medium of information technology. The lab would become a place where high quality, innovative research could take place without the imposition of traditional disciplinary boundaries. Cognizant of UIC’s urban mission and the ideals of engaged research, the GCUDV program and lab used the following core values to shape its efforts:

  • Public data should be accessible to the public;
  • Information technology should reduce barriers between citizens and public institutions; 
  • Interdisciplinary research among scholars is essential to make effective contributions in complex urban and regional environments; and,
  • Collaborative university-community partnerships should break down barriers between public and expert cultures and produce true partnerships and inform research

By 1999, the GCUDV lab had established itself in CUPPA B-15. The program and lab acquired new hardware (e.g., 6 computers, printer, digitizer, etc) and software (e.g., campus GIS license for ESRI products in conjunction with other campus units), invested in CUPPA faculty research (e.g., computer, peripherals), supported students from UPP, the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), Art and Design, Architecture, Mathematics and Statistics, Geography, and Computer Science (CS) through research assistantships, and contributed to campus wide projects and inter unit collaboration through the acquisition of large datasets, and by supporting joint projects with the Department of Architecture and the Library. Several interdisciplinary funding proposals, including NSF proposals were generated between 1998 and 2000.

After an international search, Michael Shiffer joined the faculty and took over as the Director of GCUDV Program and Lab in January 2001. He established a collaborative research project “Making the Chicago Transit Authority More Competitive in the 21st Century” bringing together partners from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), a consulting firm URS, and UIC-GCUDV. This grant beginning 1/1/2001 to 6/30/2002 was instrumental in raising the profile of GCUDV among public agencies in Chicago and at a national level.

Michael Shiffer went on leave from Fall 2001 to take the position of Vice President for Planning and Development of the Chicago Transit Authority at the request of civic leaders. Sue McNeil (Director of UIC's Urban Transportation Center, UTC) then took on the additional responsibility of managing the lab of Fall 2001. Shiffer, Schorsch and McNeil facilitated the hiring of the new Visiting Assistant Director. Dr. Laxmi Ramasubramanian was hired to fill this position for a twelve-month period beginning January2002. Dr. Ramasubramanian subsequently held the posts of Associate Director and Research Assistant Professor, GCUDV, until August of 2004, when she began full-time work as a faculty member at Hunter College, New York City, while retaining a part-time position as Research Assistant Professor at the UIC Urban Transportation Center.

In the Spring of 2004, Prof. Mike Shiffer resigned the post of Director, GCUDV, and his tenure as UIC Urban Planning and Policy (UPP) Faculty to work full-time indefinitely for the CTA. He remained on 10% UPP faculty appointment as Clinical Associate Professor and 0% Associate Professor, and continued to teach and advise CUPPA students. In Fall of 2004, CUPPA Dean Robin Hambleton appointed CUPPA Associate Dean Albert Schorsch to serve as Interim Director of GCUDV, and the administrative relationship between GCUDV and UTC ended, while the research partnerships and mentoring of students with UTC and its director Prof. Sue McNeil continued.


With Prof. Michael Shiffer’s resignation as the Director of GCUDV to serve as Vice President for Planning and Development of the Chicago Transit Authority, and with Prof. Laxmi Ramasubramanian’s resignation as the Associate Director of GCUDV to join the faculty of Hunter College in New York City, GCUDV faced what baseball calls “a rebuilding year” for Academic 2004-5.

Both Prof. Shiffer and Prof. Ramasubramanian continued aspart-time faculty appointments at the UIC College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, the home of GCUDV, with Prof. Shiffer on the Urban Planning and Policy (UPP) faculty and its clinical faculty, and Prof. Ramasubramanian on the research faculty of the UIC Urban Transportation Center. Later, all the original staff had left, and Max Dieber and Nina Savar joined the GCUDV team along with Professor Kheir Al-Kodmany. Professor Kheir-Al Kodmany and Max Dieber became Co-Directors with Nina Savar acting as the GIS Coordinator.


The newly renamed Urban Data Visualization Lab continues to operate today. The current Co-Directors are Max Dieber and Professor Al-Kodmany, and Nina Savar acts as GIS Coordinator in addition to GIS Course Instructor. Max Dieber also instructs courses along with several adjunct faculty and affiliated professors. See the People page for current information.

The Co-Directors, Staff, Affiliated Professors and Adjunct Faculty work on a variety of exciting and challenging visualization and GIS projects and teach several courses across campus and within the new GSAV Certificate Program.

Staff and adjunct faculty teach a variety of courses including introductory and intermediate GIS courses, visualization courses, statistics for GIS, and others.

Please contact udvl@uic.edu or schorsch@uic.edu for further information.

Contact us at:
Urban Data Visualization Lab
412 S Peoria Street, Room B-15 M/C 350
Chicago, IL 60607
Email: udvl@uic.edu
Phone: 312-996-3860

Latitude (WGS 84): 41° 52' 33.85" N
Longitude (WGS 84): 87° 38' 59.05" W

image of urban graphics, such as model of neighborhood, drawing, etc.