Barb MirelBarbara Mirel, D. Arts

NCIBI Senior Scientific Director
NCIBI Core 5 Co-Director

Research Associate Scientist

Phone: 734-615-1226


Dr. Barbara Mirel received her doctorate in Rhetoric from the University of Michigan in 1987. For 10 years, she was a professor of technical communication, specializing in usability, research methods, help systems, and audience and task analysis. Her work then as now was transdisciplinary, highly collaborative, and unifies theory and practice. Her focus has been to uncover users’ domain-specific approaches to higher order problem solving and transform findings into software design for usefulness and usability.

Approached by Lucent Technologies in 1997, she left tenure for the opportunity to better pursue this research interest. She became head of Human Factors efforts to transform Bell Labs interactive visualizations into commercial software oriented to users’ needs. She spent several years in industry, conducting extensive field research on users’ problem solving processes in numerous domains, including hospital bar code medication administration systems. She worked with cross-functional teams to institute usability into design and development.

Barbara resumed her academic career as a research scientist and also taught graduate Information Visualization courses. She studies biomedical scientists’ needs for exploring and explaining mechanisms of diseases and ways to integrate findings into design and development of bioinformatics systems. Currently, she is mapping scientists’ cognitive tasks and workflows in their visual analytics to user requirements for application design. She leads NCIBI activities in website design, instructional materials, tool integration into undergraduate biology courses, usability testing, and usability designs and improvements.

Barbara has received several awards for outstanding articles, co-edited a volume awarded best collection of essays in 2003, and is the author of Interaction Design for Complex Problem Solving: Developing Useful and Usable Software (Elsevier). She co-holds a patent for Visual Discovery and has received the ACM-SIGDOC Award for Lifetime Achievement.