CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Engineering and Computing


Michael J. Laszlo

Committee Member

Francisco J. Mitropoulos

Committee Member

Sumitra Mukherjee


gene ontology, graph drawings, protein interaction networks, visualization


Protein interaction data is being generated at unprecedented rates thanks to advancements made in high throughput techniques such as mass spectrometry and DNA microarrays. Biomedical researchers, operating under budgetary constraints, have found it difficult to scale their efforts to keep up with the ever-increasing amount of available data. They often lack the resources and manpower required to analyze the data using existing methodologies. These research deficiencies impede our ability to understand diseases, delay the advancement of clinical therapeutics, and ultimately costs lives.

One of the most commonly used techniques to analyze protein interaction data is the construction and visualization of protein interaction networks. This research investigated the effectiveness and efficiency of novel domain-specific algorithms for visualizing protein interaction networks. The existing domain-agnostic algorithms were compared to the novel algorithms using several performance, aesthetic, and biological relevance metrics. The graph drawing algorithms proposed here introduced novel domain-specific forces to the existing force-directed graph drawing algorithms. The innovations include an attractive force and graph coarsening policy based on semantic similarity, and a novel graph refinement algorithm.

These experiments have demonstrated that the novel graph drawing algorithms consistently produce more biologically meaningful layouts than the existing methods. Aggregated over the 480 tests performed, and quantified using the Biological Evaluation Percentage metric defined in the Methodology chapter, the novel graph drawing algorithms created layouts that are 237 percent more biologically meaningful than the next best algorithm. This improvement came at the cost of additional edge crossings and smaller minimum angles between adjacent edges, both of which are undesirable aesthetics. The aesthetic and performance tradeoffs are experimentally quantified in this study, and dozens of algorithmically generated graph drawings are presented to visually illustrate the benefits of the novel algorithms. The graph drawing algorithms proposed in this study will help biomedical researchers to more efficiently produce high quality interactive protein interaction network drawings for improved discovery and communication.