Foley Scholars 2023 Winners and Finalists

Foley Scholar winners 2023

Foley Scholar winners 2023 Arianna Mastali and Karthik Seetharama Bhat.

The Foley Scholar Awards recognize the achievements of top graduate students whose vision and research are shaping the future of how people interact with and value technology. Winners and finalists for the 2023 Foley Scholar Award were celebrated at Georgia Tech’s hotel and convention center on October 30, 2023. The event was hosted by the Institute for People and Technology with its executive director, Michael Best, serving as the master of ceremonies as each finalist was recognized for their innovative research. James Foley, professor emeritus and for whom the awards are named for, joined in the evening’s festivities to celebrate the achievements of all finalists.

“Congratulations to the two awardees and all the finalists who represent the best that Georgia Tech has to offer,” said Michael Best. “Departing from previous years, this year we only awarded two prizes making them even more precious. Next year we will return to awarding multiple prizes among the finalist,” said Best.

Congratulations to the newly named Foley Scholars for 2023-2024 who are:

  • Karthik Seetharama Bhat, Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing, in the
    in the doctoral category who was awarded $5,000.
  • Arianna Mastali, master’s student in Human-Computer Interaction, in the
    master’s category who was awarded $1,000.

The finalists in the Ph.D. category were Karthik Seetharama Bhat, Arpit Narechania, Sachin Pendse, and Alexandra Teixeira Riggs.

The finalists in the master’s category were Arianna Mastali and Josey Benandi.

A short description of each finalists’ unique research along with their Georgia Tech faculty advisor is listed below:

Karthik Seetharama Bhat is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Neha Kumar. Bhat’s research explores the future of carework by studying how emerging technologies can support and augment caregiving interactions and relationships. His research examines telehealth efforts in India to understand technology adoption for formal and informal caregiving across socioeconomic, geographic, and cultural boundaries. He is designing new technologies and technology-aided workflows as probes into the potential futures of telehealth. He is also examining the role that emerging AI and data-driven technologies (like conversational agents) could play in informal care environments. He has partnered with ARMMAN—a Mumbai-based NGO that is employing mHealth technologies towards improving maternal and child health outcomes through information provision and care delivery to pregnant women and new mothers. He is also working on the design and deployment of a chatbot that can perform automated tasks that reduce burdens on community health workers who moderate a chat-based online health community for maternal and child health. This is a collaborative study with researchers at IIIT Delhi, India, and SWACH Foundation—an NGO in Haryana, India, that runs multiple WhatsApp-based online health communities for maternal and child health, serving thousands of pregnant women and new mothers from rural and urban regions of north India.

Arpit Narechania is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science, advised by Alex Endert. Narechania designs mixed-initiative, guidance-enriched interfaces that facilitate visual communication of appropriate and timely guidance between users and systems, and promotes the design of new visualization tools for enhanced human-data experiences from data preparation through analysis. He also develop tools that augment visualization interfaces with the querying power of natural language. A recent team research project of his examined how misrepresentation using fertility maps could change how funds are distributed to different locales and how people perceive the state of fertility in India. This project involved 16 cartographers and GIS experts from 13 global organizations such as the World Bank, UN, NASA, CDC. His team findings revealed that even the most expert map-makers find choosing appropriate binning methods challenging; this is due to limited knowledge, lack of awareness of harmful implications of using arbitrary binning methods, and organizational protocols conflicting with cartographic principles and map-maker’s preferences. His research team invented “Resiliency”, a new “goto” binning method. As a result of this research, the World Bank invited him, Dr. Clio Andris, and Dr. Alex Endert [fellow team members] to give a talk, and the United Nations offered to integrate this new map-making method into their website.

Sachin Pendse is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Munmun De Choudhury and Neha Kumar. Pendse is addressing mental health challenges and the positive role that technology can play. There are diverse and effective approaches to treating mental health concerns, but the process of being diagnosed and finding care can be extremely intimidating. Individuals in distress are confronted with diverse barriers, including the stigma associated with being labeled as mentally ill, the trial-and-error process of determining the medication or forms of therapy that work best for an individual, and economic or cultural factors that limit access. Navigating the pathway to care can be an ordeal as taxing as the experience of mental illness itself. He is working to better understand where technology-mediated support may be able to reduce and eliminate mental health-related barriers. He examines the role that identity and culture play in how people experience distress, and studies people from diverse backgrounds, including people in geographically sparse areas, people with limited financial means to access care, and people from minority backgrounds. He is using a mixed methods approach to understand the role that technology-mediated mental health support systems (such as helplines, online support communities, or Google search results) play in helping connect individuals in distress with effective, culturally valid support as they journey upon a pathway to care.

Alexandra Teixeira Riggs is a Ph.D. student in Digital Media, advised by Anne Sullivan. One of Riggs’s research projects, entitled “Button Portraits: Embodying Queer History with Interactive Wearable Artifacts,” is a wearable experience that explores Atlanta’s queer history using artifacts from the Gender and Sexuality Collections at Georgia State University. The project uses archival buttons from the collection to reveal oral histories of two Southern queer activists, linking the activists’ own objects to specific audio fragments. As a case study, “Button Portraits” offers insights on how wearability, embodiment, and queer archival methods can shape the design and experience of tangible historical narratives and their ability to call for reflection on our relationships to archival materials and history. By designing tangible experiences that center around queer community, history, and identity, she hopes to continue to express, loudly and proudly, that queer and trans people have always existed and will continue to exist, and that the design of technology, importantly, must center these histories, communities, and identities.

Arianna Mastali is a master’s student in Human-Computer Interaction, advised by Melody Jackson. Mastali has been working on a wearable activity and gait detection monitor for sled dogs and other canine athletes, called WAG’D. During her last undergraduate semester, she discovered the field of animal-centered computing. The WAG’D device consists of an IMU and a load cell and is focused on measuring gait anomalies and pull force in order to minimize injuries within sled dog racing. Her research team conducted several interviews with mushers and veterinarians who have been a part of the Iditarod in order to learn about the most common injuries in sled dogs and the existing methods to detect them. This work has significance as it will not only help better detect injuries, but will help dog owners and veterinarians better monitor dogs in order to prevent injuries.

Josey Benandi is a master’s student in Human-Computer Interaction, advised by Agata Rozga. Benandi is currently working on a project called the Care Coordination Study, which is funded by the AI-CARING Institute through the National Science Foundation. This project involves conducting qualitative research in the form of semi-structured interviews with people diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment and their informal caregivers, so that we may better understand how these folks manage their day-to-day activities, what challenges they face in doing so, and how they go about overcoming those challenges. The Care Coordination Study has been a joint effort between myself, Dr. Agata Rozga, Dr. Tracy Mitzner, and other students, where Josey has taken the lead role in all research activities. She is seeking to create a qualitative codebook of the findings which will serve as a guide for other researchers within AI-CARING and beyond whose work may require precedent real-world data regarding the experiences of those diagnosed with and those coordinating care for those diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. 

About the James D. Foley Endowment
The James D. Foley Endowment, established in 2007, is named for Dr. James D. Foley, professor and founder of the GVU Center (now integrated with IPaT as of January, 2023) at Georgia Tech. The award was established by Dr. Foley's colleagues and GVU alumni to honor his significant contributions in the field of computing, his influence on the work of others, and his dedication to the development of new research directions.

Funds from the Foley Endowment are used to support the students and research activities of the Institute for People and Technology (IPaT), including the Foley Scholars Fellowships, awarded annually to two graduate students on the basis of personal vision, brilliance, and potential impact. Foley Scholars are selected by an advisory board comprised of alumni, current faculty, and industry partners during the fall semester.

Foley Scholar 2023 Finalists

Foley Scholar 2023 Finalists with Michael Best, IPaT's executive director (far left). Then left-to-right are Arianna Mastali, Josey Benandi, Karthik Seetharama Bhat, Arpit Narechania, Sachin Pendse, and Alexandra Teixeira Riggs.

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