Faces of Research - Meet Sheila Isbell

Sheila Isbell, Georgia Tech Research Institute

Meet Sheila Isbell, Chief, Software Engineering and Analytics Division at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI).

What is your field of expertise and why did you choose it? 

I fell in love with computing because it merged my lifelong interest in language, art, and science in a visual, tangible, and reproducible manner. Computing has remained compelling over the years as it has afforded me the opportunity to pursue problem spaces that reflect my identity and experiences while engaging my communities. Trusted and secure information access, transparency, and consumption for decision-making in maternal health, family advocacy, and population health is my jam. 

What makes Georgia Tech Research Institute unique?        

Amazingly, I have been at GTRI for 16 years, this longevity is due to three main things: 

First, GTRI is a place for learners and the curious. We have the ability to pursue research in multiple domains which allows the problems that we solve to evolve and mature as we do. 

Second, given the prioritization on learning and curiosity, we can work alongside inspiring researchers and students on problems that matter now and in the near future. The proximity to innovation mixed with the ability to effect immediate change is thrilling.  

Third, over my time at GTRI, I have raised a family and obtained a graduate degree, all while moving from researcher to Principal Investigator, from member to manager, from Research Scientist I to Principal Research Scientist. I am not saying that we can have it all, but we can do a lot!   

What impact is your research having on the world?  

The impact our research has is bridging the gaps that reside in physical, political, process, and people systems. In the end, we want decision makers to have the right information to make informed decisions and relay consumable information to their population - whether it be their family, community, state, or country. 

What do you like to do in your spare time when you are not working on your research or teaching?  

Whether I am at work or at home, I love to participate in, build, and sustain communities. Specifically, I enjoy running, biking, hiking, kayaking, and orange theory fitness. I teach a 4th grade girls small group, serve as an usher for the Fox Theatre, and lead a local chapter focused on women in computing. However, my favorite company to be with is my family - there is nothing quite like a rainy Saturday afternoon at home listening to music with my husband and two kids as we review the week and plan the next.