UAF professor blends arts and sciences

Andrew Sheeler / Sun Star Reporter
March 29, 2011

At the intersection of the arts and the sciences, you will find UAF professor

Professor Miho Aoki explains the design of a poster to the Advanced Digital Design class at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Aoki's art has been on exhibit at a number of galleries including the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, University of Alaska Museum of the North. March 24, 2011. Heather Bryant/Sun Star

Miho Aoki. Her office might be tucked away inside the Fine Arts complex, but some of her most notable work was done on West Ridge. Case in point, her tsunami animation.

After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake triggered tsunamis that led to more than 200,000 deaths, there was a need for the public to understand just how tsunamis work. That was where artists like Aoki stepped in.

Although Aoki is in the art department, she frequently works with departments on West Ridge, including the Arctic Regional Supercomputing Center (ARSC) and the Geophysical Institute (GI). Following the Indian Ocean tsunamis, Miho Aoki and GI tsunami researcher Elena Suleimani received a Sea Grant to put together a computer animation depicting how tsunamis form. Suleimani initially used the animation as a teaching tool, but it didn’t take long for national media outlets to get wind of the animation. Aoki started receiving requests from The History Channel, PBS’ NOVA and others.

For Aoki, computer animation is a powerful tool that can be used to explain difficult concepts. Aoki said that 3-D animation and computer graphics draw on many different artistic disciplines, including sculpting, film, lighting and photography. Would-be students also need a healthy understanding of computer science.

“It’s very good for people who are very curious,” Aoki said.

Aoki received her Master of Fine Arts degree from Ohio State University and while she was there, studied digital art and animation at the Advanced Computing Center for Arts and Design (ACCAD). ACCAD has produced several animators who have gone on to work for Dreamworks, Pixar, Adobe Systems and others.

Despite her impressive resume, Aoki is quiet about her accomplishments. Hannah Foss, a junior on exchange from Adelaide, South Australia, is taking Advanced Digital Design from Aoki. She said that Aoki was mum on her record at first.

“The funny thing is, she never told us about her awards until I had to Google her name to find her email,” Foss said.

 

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