Vassilissa Semouchkina


Advancing Visual Design Culture in STEM Laboratory Groups


Scientific communication issues are pervasive. Researchers face difficulties in effectively communicating their essential but often complicated work. This problem is especially apparent with scientific visuals, which are often the first aspects of research to be reviewed. While Universities and specialists offer a selection of resources that attempt to combat these issues in STEM fields, the results are often short-term and limited. Intervening at the laboratory level presents the opportunity to create and customize insular, intuitive resources to promote continuous self-learning in visual design. Directed by personal observation and documentation of current visual design culture in multiple laboratory groups, this thesis proposes the creation of tailored resources for self-education covering visual design basics and visual critique practice as they relate to researchers’ needs.

Download the full thesis publication.


  • Karen Cheng, Chair (Visual Communication Design)
  • Kristine Matthews (Visual Communication Design)


Read the full essay about Vassilissa Semouchkina’s thesis by Heidi Biggs.

Vassilissa Semouchkina’s thesis asks how art and design might inherently strengthen the dissemination and interpretability of scientific research. As data and information science become exponentially more bound with scientific knowledge production, she suggests that better design of scientific information offers a way forward in addressing disinformation, information literacy and information access. Over the course of the year, by conducting workshops at various research labs from UW’s sciences community, Semouchkina introduced scientific researchers to design basics with emphasis on crafting more clear and aesthetic data visualizations. As informational literacy is becoming ever more important and information science has revolutionized the sciences, Semouchkina sees information design as an important bridge between scientific discovery and broader research dissemination. She hopes that by giving scientists the design know-how to create more aesthetic and interpretable figures and data visualizations, scientific research will eventually become more available, trusted and legible to the public.

— Heidi Biggs


Vassilissa Semouchkina is a multidisciplinary designer and scientific communication specialist. Born in Saint Petersburg, she grew up spending time between the Russian Federation and Pennsylvania before eventually moving to Michigan. She graduated in 2016 from the University of Michigan with two degrees: a Bachelor of Science in Architecture and a Bachelor of Art in Art and Design.

Prior to graduate studies at the University of Washington, Vassilissa worked as a senior designer at Michigan Technological University. During her time at UW, she has been a teaching assistant for both the Division of Design and the Master of Human-Computer Interaction + Design Program. She also worked as the creative director for the UW Graduate and Professional Student Senate and as a scientific communication specialist for the UW Design Help Desk. After graduating, Vassilissa will work as a guest lecturer for the UW Division of Design and GIX Program and will pursue opportunities to further her interests in design-science communication.




  • 2020-2021 MFA + MDes Thesis Exhibition, Henry Art Gallery, Seattle, WA
  • 2021 MDes Work in Progress, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
  • Designing for a Healthier Future, Microsoft Design Expo, Bellevue, WA


  • 2021 de Cillia Teaching with Excellence Award, Seattle, WA
  • 2021 University of Washington Striker Design Graduate Award, Seattle, WA
  • 2020 University of Washington Striker Design Graduate Award, Seattle, WA
  • 2019 University of Washington Top Scholar Award, Seattle, WA


  • Master of Design, University of Washington, Seattle, 2021
  • Bachelor of Science, Architecture, University of Michigan, 2016
  • Bachelor of Arts, Art and Design, University of Michigan, 2016