James F. O'Brien

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For other people with the same name, see James O'Brien (disambiguation).
James F. O'Brien
James F OBrien small.jpg
Citizenship Flag of the United States.svg American
Nationality Flag of the United States.svg American
Fields Computer graphics
Institutions University of California, Berkeley
Alma mater

Georgia Tech College of Computing (PhD)

Florida International University (BSc)
Doctoral advisor Jessica Hodgins
Notable awards Academy Award, SIGGRAPH Impact Award, Sloan Fellowship, FIU Torch Award,GVU 15 Impact Award, TR100

James F. O'Brien is a computer graphics researcher and professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2015, he received an award for Scientific and Technical Achievement from Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.


O'Brien received a Bachelor of Science in 1992 from Florida International University. He then did his graduate work under the supervision of Dr. Jessica Hodgins at Georgia Tech's GVU Center. He received his doctorate in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing in 2000 for a thesis entitled Graphical Modeling and Animation of Fracture.[1]


He joined UC Berkeley's Computer Science department as a faculty member in 2000. Prof. O'Brien runs the Berkeley Computer Animation and Modeling Group and his research focuses primarily on physically based animation, 3D modeling, and audio simulation.[2]


Research and professional activities[edit]

Prof. O'Brien has published an extensive collection of research papers on topics such as surface reconstruction, human figure animation, mesh generation, physically based animation, surgical simulation, computational fluid dynamics, and fracture propagation.[9]

Prof. O'Brien served as a consultant on the development of the game physics engine Digital Molecular Matter (DMM).[10] To date, this game engine has been used in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed and an off-line version of it was used for special effects in the film Avatar, Sucker Punch, Source Code, and X-Men: First Class" and more than 60 other feature films'.

In 2015, his work on developing DMM was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with a Technical Achievement award. [11] The citation reads:

"To Ben Cole for the design of the Kali Destruction System, to Eric Parker for the development of the Digital Molecular Matter toolkit, and to James O’Brien for his influential research on the finite element methods that served as a foundation for these tools. The combined innovations in Kali and DMM provide artists with an intuitive, art-directable system for the creation of scalable and realistic fracture and deformation simulations. These tools established finite element methods as a new reference point for believable on-screen destruction."


  1. ^ J. F. O'Brien, Graphical Modeling and Animation of Brittle Fracture. PhD thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia, Aug. 2000.
  2. ^ Taylor, Chris (2005-01-02). "What Does Wind Really Look Like?". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  3. ^ "2004 TR100: Computing". Technology Review. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  4. ^ "2004 Sloan Research Fellowships". Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  5. ^ "FIU 2006 Torch Awards". Florida International University. Archived from the original on July 25, 2008. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  6. ^ "GVU 15 Anniversary Celebration and Symposium". Archived from the original on 2007-12-25. Retrieved 2007-11-01. 
  7. ^ "EECS Faculty Awards". Retrieved 2008-03-03. 
  9. ^ "James F. O'Brien Publications". Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  10. ^ "Professor Helps Bring Reality to Video Games". The Daily Californian. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  11. ^ King, Miranda (2015), Thanking the Academy, UC Berkeley, retrieved February 10, 2015 

External links[edit]