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Intellect

BYU computer scientist earns distinction of being "Highly Cited"

A Brigham Young University professor has been designated "Highly Cited Researcher," earning a ranking among the top 1 percent most cited of all publishing scholars in his field.

Thomas Sederberg, professor of computer science and associate dean in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, was recognized by Thomson Reuters as being among the 108 most-cited researchers in computer science as rated by the Highly Cited database. He's one of just 54 Americans on the list. 

"Tom is certainly deserving of this honor," said Bart Kowallis, a fellow associate dean in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences at BYU. "His pioneering work in free-form deformation and his invention of T-splines have made him a world-leader in the field of computer aided design."

A citation occurs when researchers reference a previous publication as having informed their new work.

Researchers earn the distinction by writing the greatest number of reports officially designated as High Cited Papers. Sederberg's placement on the listing means his published work has consistently been judged by peers to be of particular significance and utility.

Sederberg, who researches computer graphics and computer aided geometric design, has 55 papers that have been cited more than 1,800 times according to the Web of Science database, which surveys a limited number of journals. Using a broader search on Google Scholar, Sederberg has been cited more than 10,000 times. His most notable work focuses on a problem that has troubled the computer-aided design industry since 1980.

Most computer-aided design programs share a common limitation: Creative designers can make a visually appealing model, but it doesn't work for engineers who need to analyze how a product would hold up under stress. Sederberg's innovative design technology called "T-splines" uses math to unify geometric models for engineering and design.

Sederberg joined the civil engineering faculty at BYU in 1983 after receiving his Ph.D. from Purdue University. His experience led him to serve as an associate editor of the journals ACM Transactions on Graphics and Computer Aided Geometric Design, and his research led to the development of significant intellectual property, on which a company was founded. He invented a technology called free-form deformation that is used in most commercial animation and CAD programs. He also invented T-splines and co-founded T-Splines, Inc. that was acquired by Autodesk in 2012. 

Sederberg's colleagues speak highly of his work ethic, as well as his character.

"It is an honor for our department to have such a well-respected researcher," said Michael Goodrich, chair of the Computer Science department at BYU. "Tom is a world class researcher, but an even better person. It is a greater blessing to have him as a friend and colleague."

If there's a publication that Sederberg takes pride in, it's a 2003 paper involving his T-splines work that has been cited 223 times.

"Although there are several others that are a close second, the T-splines paper is significant because it is making an impact in several spheres: the geometric modeling research community, the CAD industry, and the computer-aided engineering research community." Sederberg said.

Balancing the responsibilities of teaching undergraduate students and serving as associate dean while simultaneously trying to do his own research, Sederberg has averaged about three publications per year throughout his career.

"Early in my career, I was inspired by a statement by Hugh Nibley, referring to the publication of research papers. 'Ten alley cats don't make a mountain lion.' In other words, ten mediocre papers don't equal one landmark paper."

Sederberg has additionally been recognized for his accomplishments through numerous awards including the Steven V. White University Professorship, the Technology Transfer Award and the Distinguished Faculty Lecturer Award. ACM SIGGRAPH awarded him the Computer Graphics Achievement Award in 2006 and in 2013 he received the Pierre Bezier Prize to honor him for his research in computer aided design. Sederberg is also listed in the Thomson Reuters publication, "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014."

Professor Tom Sederberg

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