James D. Foley Endowment at Georgia Tech
Foley Scholar winners 2023 Arianna Mastali and Karthik Seetharama Bhat.
Foley Scholars 2023
Foley Scholars 2022
Vedant Das Swain, Computer Science (advisors Munmun DeChoudhury and Gregory Abowd)
I'm Vedant Das Swain, a PhD candidate in Computer Science (specializing in Human-Computer Interaction) from Georgia Institute of Technology. Here I am co-advised by Prof. Munmun De Choudhury and Prof. Gregory D. Abowd. My interests lie at the intersection of ubiquitous computing and computational social science. Humans interact with technologies in many ways that are impreceptible to them. Since, computers and computing have begun to engulf people's reality, they provide a unique perspective to understand human behavior. I like to extend beyond simply context-aware systems and try to understand socially-aware systems, that can help researchers understand how humans behave in communities. In my work, I leverage devices embedded in everyday life as unobtrusive sources of behavioral data and analyze human dynamics to inform the design of interventions for improving personal health and wellbeing. In particular, I investigate approaches to improve the future of work and campus life.
Alyssa Rumsey, Human-Centered Computing (advisor Christopher Le Dantec)
I am a researcher, leader, teacher, and mentor with a passion for user centered design. I am obsessed with understanding how people work and developing tools to support them. Combining my background in sociology, design, and engineering, I create and lead teams to evaluate and build solutions to real-world problems. As the Director for the Center of Innovation for Aerospace, I consult with commercial and defense aviation companies across Georgia to identify opportunities for operational improvement and multi-disciplinary research projects to support economic growth. As a PhD candidate in Human Centered Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, I apply ethnographic methods and participatory design techniques to balance organizational goals with worker wants and needs.
Yixuan (Janice) Zhang, Human-Centered Computing (advisor Andrea Grimes Parker)
I am a Ph.D. candidate studying Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology, under the advisory of Dr. Andrea Grimes Parker. My research broadly lies in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Data Visualization (VIS), Equity, and cross-disciplines of crisis informatics and health informatics. The impact of my research extends beyond academia: I was invited to present my work focused on crisis visualization design and public trust to broader audiences such as the World Health Organization (WHO). My PhD dissertation has focused on examining how people form their online trust in a way that promotes the usage of information and technologies, and how we can design trustworthy information and technologies that enhance wellbeing, with a focus on vulnerable and marginalized populations. To answer these questions, I have used a variety of empirical methods, such as (longitudinal) surveys, interviews, observations, co-design, systematic analysis of artifacts, and user evaluations.
FOLEY SCHOLAR FINALISTS 2022
Karthik Seetharama Bhat, Human-Centered Computing (advisor Neha Kumar)
Broadly, my research interests are at the intersections of Health, HCI, and ICTD. My research looks at I am interested in designing technologies that facilitate constructive, and socioculturally situated engagement with health data in resource-constrained and infrastructure-constrained contexts. My initial research in this space comprised a qualitative study of how patients with chronic illnesses engaged in health tracking, and the sociocultural dimensions that complicated this engagement.
Gerry Chen, Robotics (advisors Frank Dellaert and Seth Hutchinson)
My career interests are in robotic perception paired with dynamics and control. I have a passion for autonomous machines (i.e. cars, UAVs, search and rescue, etc). My current project is to build and control a cable robot for painting graffiti. Cable robot control is notoriously difficult due to the nonlinear coupled forward dynamics, constraints, and nonidealities, but the difficulties in control are offset by their scalability, cost, and speed.
Tingyu Cheng, Human-Centered Computing (advisors Gregory Abowd and Hyunjoo Oh)
My interest is highly interdisciplinary, combining Science, Engineering and Arts, reflecting from my versatile background in mechanical engineering, liberal arts and Human-computer interaction. My research focus is on how to bridge soft active material, and sensing technology to HCI field.
Youngwook Do, Computer Science (advisors Sauvik Das and Gregory Abowd)
I am a HCI researcher and PhD student at Georgia Tech building Physical Computing Systems for Cybersecurity, Food, Wearables, Paper, Fabrication, and Education. I explore how to design and implement a novel tangible interface to bridge the gap between the physical and virtual worlds for cyber security and digital privacy.
Nadia Fereydooni, Human-Centered Computing (advisor Bruce Walker)
I am a Ph.D. student in the Human-Centered Computing program at the Georgia Institute of Technology. My research interests are in the areas of Human-Computer Interaction, Autonomous Vehicles, and Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). I am particularly interested in understanding the effects of being in a dynamic real world environment on the VR experience and the influence of bystanders on VR users. I am a member of the Georgia Tech Sonification Lab where my research is advised by Dr. Bruce N. Walker.
Sachin Pendse, Human-Centered Computing (advisors Munmun DeChoudhury and Neha Kumar)
I’m a PhD student in Human-Centered Computing at Georgia Tech. I study the diverse ways that people express, experience, and seek care for their mental health. My research focuses around the question of how the identities we hold (such as our cultural background, our socioeconomic class, our gender identity, or our sexual orientation) have an influence on how we come to understand and express our experiences of distress, as well as what specific kinds of care we need and have access to when we aren’t feeling well. Through mixed-methods examinations of these factors, I hope to understand the role that technology can play to address the individual and structural barriers that prevent people from consistent mental health.
GVU DISTINGUISHED MASTER'S STUDENT 2022
Kyle Leinart, Human-Computer Interaction (advisor Jessica Roberts)
I am an MS in Human-Computer Interaction student at Georgia Tech, solving problems by crafting unique experiences. Previously, I was a software developer that worked on cutting edge technologies which used the Unity game engine to solve complex engineering problems. For every project I worked on, I saw there was a need for someone to make the vision a clear reality and to be the glue between the business, design, and engineering teams. My goal is to become that person so that I can help my team create a product which will change the world. I have multiple years of experience in engineering, data, entrepreneurship, and design. In each job, I have found myself performing some of the roles of a product manager, ensuring the delivery of high-quality and optimized products that meets customer expectations and keeping a cohesive and happy team. As a Unity developer I have been able to apply the principles of game development in projects that offer more than entertainment and helps humanity.
GVU DISTINGUISHED MASTER'S STUDENT FINALISTS 2022
Xiao Luo, Human-Computer Interaction (advisor Andrea Grimes Parker)
I make work easier and more exciting for people through product design. I have designed key features of a digital health mobile app to support the wellbeing of black women, with a particular focus on effecting equitable outcomes in women’s reproductive, sexual, and maternal health. I also had the opportunity to redesign key Georgia Tech web pages for TechDining and human resources, achieving a boost in information display efficiency and user satisfaction.
Max Zuo, Computer Science (advisor Thad Starner)
I am a Computer Science major at the Georgia Institute of Technology working towards a combined M.S. degree with a specialization in Machine Learning. I conduct research on semantics in embodied AI and weakly supervised learning. I also enjoy working on deep representation learning and open-vocabulary object detection.
Foley Scholars 2021
Advisors: Gregory Abowd, Thad Starner
Nivedita Arora’s research focuses on re-imagining the future of mobile and ubiquitous computing by embracing an alternative view of computing where everyday objects and surfaces would be covered with a material that can do computational tasks. She has created a sticky note-like piece of paper that can sense a rich set of human interactions, give feedback to the user and communicate the sensed information – all done without requiring any batteries or wiring. Her work inspires multidisciplinary out-of-the-box thinking for a new direction for computing – “the Internet of Materials” – where computing is woven into the very fabric of our lives.
Advisor: Mark Riedl
Upol Ehsan cares about people first, technology second. His research around Explainable Artificial Intelligence (XAI) has a personal origin story – he was wrongfully detained at an airport due to an automated system’s error, which no one could explain or hold anyone accountable for. Combining his expertise in AI and background in Philosophy, he envisions a future where anyone, regardless of their background, is empowered to interact with AI-powered technology with dignity. Putting the human first and focusing on how our values shape the use and abuse of technology, his work has charted the visions of Human-centered Explainable AI (a sub-field of XAI). By promoting equity in the conversation around AI, he wants to ensure stakeholders who aren’t at the table do not end up on the menu.
Qiaosi (Chelsea) Wang
Advisor: Ashok Goel
Qiaosi Wang’s research aims at understanding the design and impact of Artificially Intelligent (AI) agents that can blend into online human communities and facilitate interactions among community members. Taking a human-centered approach, her work offers design implications on AI agents that can mediate the social interactions among online students by catering to their current practices and challenges in building social connections. Building upon online students’ preferences and concerns in interacting with AI agents, she proposes a new design framework called “Mutual Theory of Mind” to explore humans’ and AI agents’ understanding of how they perceive each other, which drives their behaviors and expectations during interactions. She is also examining the social and ethical implications of designing Mutual Theory of Mind in human-AI interactions.
Foley Scholar Finalists 2021
Mehrab Bin Morshed
Advisors: Gregory Abowd, Thomas Ploetz
Mehrab Bin Morshed’s research is at the intersection of human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing, and health informatics. His research goal is to leverage and expand the sensing capabilities of widely used technologies to assess the mental well-being of a variety of communities. This involves data-driven, domain-driven, and user-centered approaches to (i) rethink the use-cases of existing sensors on smart devices, (ii) extend sensing capabilities to acquire human behaviors, and (iii) leverage such behaviors to model individual mental well-being. Such an iterative strategy allows him to study the feasibility and efficacy of the designed system in real-world contexts. In this way, he makes empirical, methodological, and technical contributions to the assessments of people’s well-being.
Adriana Alvarado Garcia
Advisor: Christopher Le Dantec
Adriana Alvarado Garcia's research uses social media data as a proxy to understand local and situated systems of knowledge. Alvarado has partnered with national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Mexico to examine the role of organizational practices and human interpretation when NGOs use data to inform their interventions. Building on the lessons of these partnerships, Alvarado is developing tools that support NGOs to use digital traces as evidence to uncover citizens’ plurality of ways of knowing and doing in times of crisis. These tools center community perspectives and the context of data production. With her research, Alvarado aims to encourage NGOs’ practitioners to reflect on the dynamics encoded in collecting social media data and challenge the notion that data-related work is neutral.
Advisor: Christopher Le Dantec
Alyssa Rumsey’s research is deeply connected to her background working in industry. Her time at Lockheed Martin motivated her to pursue her PhD to better understand and develop technologies that support and extend the abilities of the blue-collar workforce. By prioritizing the values and perspectives of people actually performing manual labor tasks, she seeks to create methods and tools that lead to increased job satisfaction and more meaningful, fulfilling work. The development and implementation of new technologies will shape the education and skills needed by the next generation workforce. Alyssa is reimagining the future of work as a place where technology is a tool designed and used by workers, for workers.
Advisor: Keith Edwards
Fereshteh Shahmiri's PhD research revolves around the invention and implementation of wearable sensing platforms for body motion analysis with practical solutions in health and rehabilitation applications. Her ultimate goal as an HCI researcher is to design usable sensing wearables that are accurate and unobtrusive while they fully respect the human body's anatomical constraints. She leverages machine learning, signal processing, sensor fusion and biomechanical analysis techniques to assess the body joint kinematics through pattern recognition and pose estimation models. All software and hardware implementations in her work are intended to provide opportunities for better comprehension of human body motions.
Yixuan (Janice) Zhang
Advisor: Andrea Grimes Parker
Yixuan (Janice) Zhang’s research seeks to enhance the autonomy of marginalized populations during crises through information technology. Her work examines how the design of information and technologies shapes trust and distrust among marginalized communities, and how mistrust undermines their autonomy during crises. To explore how technological systems can be designed to reduce inequity, she captures people’s interactions with technologies and the dynamics of people’s perceptions during emerging crises through surveys, interviews, observations, co-design, and user evaluations. Her research shapes the understanding of how marginalized groups interact and perceive the massive amount of information and how trust forms, develops and collapses among these groups. Her research sheds light on how technologies can mitigate informational vulnerability and help marginalized groups navigate through crises.
GVU DISTINGUISHED MASTER'S STUDENT 2021
Advisors: Thad Starner, Gregory Abowd, Omer Inan
Ali Mirzazadeh’s research is concerned with improving healthcare and preventive medicine with the combination of machine learning and wearable technology. His work with the COSMOS lab is concerned with ultra low power sensing and communication, enabling everyday surfaces to communicate sensor information with nanowatts of power. Additionally, he collaborates with the Inan Research Lab to develop wearable bioimpedance sensors for athletes to track fatigue and injury recovery, to prevent potential muscular injuries.
GVU DISTINGUISHED MASTER'S STUDENT FINALISTS 2021
Advisors: Ellen Zegura, Mike Best
Grace Barkhuff studies human rights in the digital age, thinking about how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 should be updated to account for the huge change technology has had on society. For example, her research group considers questions such as if internet access should be considered a human right and if people have a right to remain anonymous online. In addition, Grace works on research with DataWorks, a data services organization based out of Georgia Tech that employs and trains Atlanta youth from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. She also loves teaching and mentoring the next generation of computer scientists and has a particular passion for helping more women join and feel that they belong working in technology.
Advisor: Melody Moore Jackson
Josh Terry aims to optimize enrichment and healthcare for sea otters under the care of aquariums and zoos through SOFT (Sea Otter Foraging Technology). By applying his background in game design, interaction design, and UX principles, he's taking an evidence-informed approach to researching, designing, and implementing a computer-driven toy to entertain – and monitor the health of – sea otters at the Georgia Aquarium. His goal is to apply modular design practices to expand this platform to other marine mammal and bird species under the care of aquariums and zoos for the welfare of aquarium collection animals around the globe.
Foley Scholars 2020
Ceara Byrne, Computer Science (advisors Melody Jackson and Thad Starner)
In the Animal Computer Interaction (ACI) lab, I create and study technologies that improve communication between working dogs, like service dogs, and their handlers. In particular, my research focuses on improving the outcomes of service dog training. Not all dogs that go into service dog training as puppies have the temperament to become successful assistance animals. However, it is very difficult to determine if a dog has a temperament suitable for a service animal early on in life. That is where my research comes in. In my work, I investigate how aspects of canine temperament can be detected from interactions with sensors, often placed inside of dog toys that I design and build. After running tests where dogs interact with these sensors, I develop models that use sensor data to predict the success of assistance dogs in advanced training.
Azra Ismail, Human-Centered Computing (advisor Neha Kumar)
I am the co-founder of MakerGhat, a non-profit based in Mumbai that creates safe and open makerspaces to support communities in realizing their ideas for local social, economic, and political change. Broadly, my work at Georgia Tech examines and targets social justice issues around healthcare and digital technology in the Global South. My experiences at Georgia Tech and MakerGhat have repeatedly shown me that the best people to address challenges for communities are the ones who are from these communities. I see my role as a facilitator who can foster conversations, resources, and connections, to challenge and reconfigure power structures that determine who has access and voice in the health and technology spaces (typically less for women, rural, and historically marginalized groups). As part of my research, I collaborate closely with communities to identify places for design and technology to support their existing efforts to address local challenges. I have found prior research by faculty and students at GVU to be illuminating in this regard. Their engagement with communities in Atlanta and beyond serves as an inspiration, and I am similarly fostering community ties in Delhi (India), where my research is situated.
Koustuv Saha, Computer Science (advisor Munmun De Choudhury)
My research leverages social media data that reflect online analog of offline (physically co-located) situated communities. Human behavior and wellbeing dynamics are influenced by several intrinsic and extrinsic factors in both normalcy and crisis. To make conclusive research claims from social media data, I adopt causal-inference and computational approaches drawing on machine learning, natural language analysis, and statistical modeling. Causal methods minimize the confounding factors and lead to stronger claims about cause-and-effect relationships regarding people’s reactions to certain events or environments. For example, to understand the effects of campus gun-violence events on student stress, I minimized confounds, such as stress attributable to academic, personal, relationship, environmental, and other factors in college students’ lives. Also, I propose methodologies to address some of the major challenges of social media data, such as the lack of ground-truth and the lack of social media presence altogether. For this purpose, I augment social media with multimodal data such as EMAs and passive sensing streams.
FOLEY SCHOLAR FINALISTS 2020
Sindhu Kiranmai Ernala, Computer Science (advisor Munmun De Choudhury)
One current research project that exemplifies my research vision is the analysis of mental health status transitions as exhibited on social media. Both social relationships and clinical care are required to improve the overall well-being of those with mental illnesses. However, current delivery of care and computational approaches to study mental health are focused either on treatment of the illness (viewing the human as a patient) or support and management of the condition (viewing the human as a support seeker). The goal of this project is to computationally study the intersection of clinical and social pathways of care for mental health.
Duri Long, Human-Centered Computing (advisor Brian Magerko)
My ongoing dissertation work aims to broaden AI literacy by exploring how to design exhibits where family groups can learn about AI in informal learning spaces. I draw on design features that have been shown to aid in quickly engaging museum visitors in active learning experiences—including embodied interaction, creative engagement, and collaboration—that I have explored and tested in my prior research on designing and evaluating public-facing installations. I also draw on a deep understanding of AI technologies that I have developed in my prior research on co-creative AI systems.
Mehrab Bin Morshed, Computer Science (advisors Gregory Abowd and Thomas Ploetz)
My research lies in the intersection of human-computer interaction, ubiquitous computing, and applied machine learning. My research goal is to leverage and expand the sensing capabilities of widely used technologies to assess well-being. One of my current research that aligns with my agenda is related to food insecurities of college students. Food insecurity refers to the idea of not being able to afford food (or healthy food) for mainly monetary reasons. I have designed a study that looks into the severity of food insecurity on a weekly level. I will also investigate how it affects the wellbeing (e.g., mental, physical, and academic) of college students. In addition, I will develop computational methods to measure levels of food insecurity passively in college students.
Daniel Schiff, Public Policy (advisor Ellen Zegura)
My research focuses on the social and policy implications of artificial intelligence. I am generally interested in social policy issues (education, health, labor), the ethics of AI, governance of AI, and science and technology policy. My work is mixed methods in nature and draws on literature in the social sciences and computing. My recent research involves an empirical study of more than 100 public sector, private sector, and non-governmental organizations that have published normative AI ethics documents (i.e., codes, frameworks, guidelines, policy strategies). Our ongoing study addresses the ethics and policy issues in these emerging documents through coding of approximately 25 ethics topics and 17 policy sectors, resulting in an original data set.
GVU DISTINGUISHED MASTER'S STUDENT 2020
Georgianna Lin, Computer Science (advisor Thad Starner)
My current research is in head-worn displays (HWD) and how to improve their experiences in everyday life from alternating tasks like order picking to aiding those who are deaf/Deaf or hard-of-hearing. Specifically, I have studied the most optimal positioning of HWD interfaces and compared different industrial HWD for order picking, compared HWD vs mobile captioning preferences, and examined name-awareness on HWD during real-time captioning. I led two teams from project idea inception to paper submission for both order picking projects and offered guidance and ran experiments for the first captioning project before co-leading the second captioning project.
GVU DISTINGUISHED MASTER'S STUDENT FINALISTS 2020
Nandita Gupta, Human-Computer Interaction (advisor Carrie Bruce)
My Master's Research project is focused on investigating accessibility and inclusion practices followed by Software Developers, UX Researchers, Designers, and Product Managers in different organizations. It intends to bring together different voices of people who work on accessibility initiatives in varied roles and will incorporate storytelling to highlight their work in different areas to inspire others to get involved within accessibility. I have worked on the Zoo Atlanta Project as a UX Researcher to enhance the zoo experience for people with vision impairments. Also, through the Aware Home and in conjunction with Tools for Life, I was part of a participatory design workshop to introduce design thinking and inclusive design at the Assistive Technology Industry Association Conference 2020.
Varnit Jain, Human-Computer Interaction (advisor Rosa Arriaga)
I have been a part of the Ubicomp Group at GVU Since my first week at Georgia Tech about 10 months ago. I have been working with Dr. Rosa Arriaga to augment Post Traumatic Stress Disorder therapy using data-driven approaches. We will apply our data-driven approach with U.S. military veterans with PTSD. My research consists of user Experience and Development. During the first phase of research, my focus was on creating a context-aware sensing platform to help PTSD patients perform homework tasks while engaged in Prolonged Exposure (PE) therapy.
Ruth Petit-Bois, Computer Science (advisor Ashok Goel)
I am a member of the Design and Intelligence Lab (DILab) and have worked with the group since the Spring of 2019. The specific project I contributed to was the Intelligent Biologically Inspired Design (IBID) project. IBID is an interactive AI research assistant that helps scientists locate and compare articles relevant to their queries. The application makes use of several ontologies (a way to represent concepts and their relationships) that are specific to the structure, behavior, and function (actions) of biological processes or organisms. This project exemplifies my personal research vision because I have always wanted to work on software that simplifies difficult tasks for users.
Shelby Reilly, Human-Computer Interaction (advisor Bruce Walker)
A recent 2019 Report by PERF (Police Executive Research Foundation) showed that more officers died last year by suicide than in the line of duty. This statistic and similar findings drove my research with my partner on the crisis concerning Law Enforcement Officer’s Mental Health. As HCI students interested in mental health, we hoped to uncover the human components involved in this issue and to create a technical system that would combat this crisis. Our first research goal was to focus on uncovering more information about our user group (Law Enforcement Officers) including their day to day tasks, stressors, social network, and environment. During this phase, I scoured online forums, videos, and officer stories and
took notes on all information that was relevant to our research questions. Then we began to research existing systems on preventing mental health problems in order to gain an understanding of the problem space and current options available.
Foley Scholars 2019
Matthew Hong, Ph.D. student in human-centered computing and co-advised by Lauren Wilcox and Rosa Arriaga, has helped to bridge HCI and medical informatics through his work. He has developed extensive field studies to understand family management of adolescents’ chronic conditions and created and tested novel co-design approaches to engaging patients, family members, and clinicians in groundbreaking participatory design studies. Hong has drawn from design insights gathered through formative studies to create and deploy technology to help families track and manage aspects of their care in the clinic (e.g., through tools that provide lay-friendly, interactive explanations of patients’ radiology reports) at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. He led the first study on adolescent engagement with electronic health record data through log analyses of an actual health record system at CHOA, combining log analyses with surveys and interviews to contextualize the behavior from usage logs. Hong has recently drawn from his command of design and research methods to inform the development of a novel mobile health (mHealth) system for adolescents with chronic conditions and their family members.
Lara Martin, Ph.D. student in human-centered computing and advised by Mark Riedl, researches interactive storytelling, the question of how computers can be made to understand, generate, and tell stories in a real-time interactive setting. Her thesis argues that computers will be better partners if they can understand and engage with people in narrative terms. Martin’s 2018 AAAI paper is the first neural network based story generation paper to appear in a top tier conference. This paper preceded a growing interest in the research community in using deep neural networks and is considered the canonical baseline for newer research on neural story generation. Her second notable paper, published in IJCAI 2019, focuses on controllability of neural generation systems. The problem with neural networks is that they generate stories word by word without any clear sense of where they are going or how the story will unfold. Martin led a team of Master’s students that developed an algorithm that teaches a neural story generator how to achieve a given target goal. It is now possible to tell a neural network to generate a story that ends in a particular way. This is the first time a neural story generation has been able to produce a sequence that ends in a pre-specified goal, and the research lays the groundwork for another step forward in neural text generation.
Emily Wall, Ph.D. student in computer science and advised by Alex Endert, conducts fundamental research in mitigating cognitive biases in visual analytics. The motivation for this research came from the realization that while many data-driven decisions rely on human expertise and reasoning to make sense of the data, analysts have the potential to introduce cognitive biases during interactive analysis. This is especially critical for mixed-initiative visual analytic systems that adapt analytic models based on user feedback. When such models learn from user interaction stemming from biased user behavior, they have the potential to cause ill-informed decisions in many domains of societal importance, national security, and science. In response, Wall is designing computational models of user interaction sequences and system parameters that correspond to specific biases. Further, her work explores what systems can do to help people make less biased decisions from data analysis. This research includes fundamental advances in visual analytic techniques that balance human and computation responsibilities for data analysis.
FOLEY SCHOLAR FINALISTS 2019
Ceara Byrne, Ph.D. student in computer science and co-advised by Melody Jackson and Thad Starner, has been a key contributor to the FIDO (Facilitating Interactions for Dogs with Occupations) project – a research effort focused on providing technology to enable working dogs to communicate. Byrne designed affordances for wearable dog vests that allowed the dogs to summon help in a medical emergency, to support Search and Rescue, and other service dog roles. She also developed a system for handlers to communicate remotely to working dogs via vibrating motors on their vests. Byrne has been researching whether augmented dog toys, such as a ball with IMU and barometric sensors, can be used to predict whether young dogs will be successful in advanced service training. Her machine learning system predicted which dogs would fail advanced training with 88 percent accuracy. Releasing the “fail” dogs early can save $5 million a year for the team’s partner, Canine Companions for Independence, a charity that raises service dogs to give to individuals in need for no-cost.
Eshwar Chandrasekharan, Ph.D. student in computer science and advised by Eric Gilbert, is applying machine learning methods to combat abusive behavior in online communities. He has applied this machinery to both building models that will be used in production systems, as well as to study the effects of specific interventions on platforms. In recent work, he shows that building models trained on other communities’ data could make better predictions about what should be removed off-site in a separate community. The intuition was that if a post on a particular website looks a lot like content seen on 4chan’s /b/ (where almost anything is permissible), then perhaps moderators shouldn’t have such content on their sites. Chandrasekharan also led a study to understand the impact of a 2015 ban of various hate communities by Reddit. Working largely on his own with an expert in causal inference methods, Chandrasekharan was able to blend his expertise in NLP with these new methods to determine that the ban mitigated the spread of objectionable behavior to other parts of the platform. Reddit has cited the study as one reason for its various closures of other highly toxic subreddits.
Eric Corbett, Ph.D. student in digital media and advised by Christopher Le Dantec, is involved in computing research for digital civics— the intersection of approaches by smart cities to sensing and data analytics, and digital democracy’s efforts to broaden sustainable and accessible civic participation via computing and networked technologies. Using Atlanta as a testbed for deploying experimental systems, Corbett has begun to layout a framework for thinking about how trust—in technology and in institutions—can be an impediment or resource for design. His insights have resulted from fieldwork with the City of Atlanta, understanding the daily practices, expectations, and limits of how officials reach and work with city residents on everything from long-term planning and policy generation to the daily challenges of service delivery. From this fieldwork, Eric has developed a theoretically and empirically grounded understanding of how trust is developed, maintained, and used in order to do the work of governance. His findings, in turn, have established a foundation for experimental design work he is completing now and which is anchoring the work of scholars in other contexts wrestling with the same problems of how to build civic technology such that it is useful and usable for municipal officials as well as urban residents.
Ari Schlesinger, Ph.D. student in human-centered computing and co-advised by Beki Grinter and Keith Edwards, researches understanding the barriers to diversity in computing, with a focus on open-source software development. Her work addresses a timely issue as companies face increasing scrutiny about their lack of diverse workforces—and the products that this produces that often exclude various groups. While much work has focused on understanding how to increase the workforce pipeline, Schlesinger’s focus is on retention—a problem given more visibility recently—but about which open questions still remain, such as why women and minorities quit trying to contribute or participate in computing. She has also taken a look at some very sensitive topics in HCI research. One example: she undertook a major review of the CHI Conference publications to examine how the research community formulates and operationalizes constructs of race, gender, and ethnicity. Schlesinger argued that the HCI community at CHI, a major ACM conference, has some way to go in how it operationalizes people’s identity in ways that are inclusive to all the constituencies that technology can serve. In short, if HCI researchers are the advocates for building technologies that are inclusive, then they need to be very thoughtful to ensure that they include people in ways that reflect individual identities.
Brianna Tomlinson, a Ph.D. student in human-centered computing and advised by Bruce Walker, uses sound as an alternative presentation method to convey information in engaging, interactive learning experiences. Recently, she has been studying how to design auditory interfaces and created a rigorous means to evaluate those interfaces. With no existing standard approach or tools to assess auditory interfaces, Tomlinson led an effort to develop and validate a quick and effective tool (“BUZZ”) to measure performance and effectiveness, preferences, and aesthetic aspects of an auditory interface. This tool is now being used and further validated by researchers around the world. This drive for rigor has led to a new important tool with lasting impact on the entire field of auditory display design. The BUZZ scale complements Tomlinson’s large body of research, which has included helping blind students in Kenya learn math and studying how to make accessible STEM tools for U.S. schools.
GVU DISTINGUISHED MASTER'S STUDENT 2019
GVU DISTINGUISHED MASTER'S STUDENT FINALISTS 2019
Foley Scholars 2018
Battling opioid addiction through computation and community
Chancellor, advised by Munmun De Choudhury, researches computational methods to understand irregular behaviors in online communities with a focus on mental health challenges like pro-eating disorder, opioid addiction, and suicidal ideation. She is currently analyzing behaviors around “deviant” recovery from opioid addiction on Reddit. As opioid abuse continues to worsen, some addicts turn to clinically unverified recovery methods to ameliorate the symptoms of withdrawal. Her team is blending computational techniques and conducting interviews to identify opioid recovery behaviors across a large group of drug subreddits and then pinpoint substances that are used for deviant recovery behaviors.
Developing an offline Internet in low-resource environments
A pervasive assumption says that Internet access is determined by wires or wireless signals that deliver information from a computer network and onto your hard drive in a matter of seconds. The Cuban “Offline Internet” defies this convention with its robust, human-driven, media-distribution network powered often times by simple USB drives. Dye, advised by Amy Bruckman and Neha Kumar, outlines how this network, El Paquete Semanal, is shaping the Cuban media culture and what it may mean for other low-resource environments in being able to gain Internet access.
Helping stroke victims gain a new path to mobility
Potentially life-altering improvements in mobility for stroke victims could be around the corner thanks to research by Foley Scholar Caitlyn Seim. Pioneering work from Thad Starner’s lab in passive haptic learning allows users to wear a motorized glove and learn new skills, like piano music or Braille, as the glove taps out vibration sequences on each finger, all while the user is occupied with other tasks such as email or driving. Seim is currently developing the tech for stroke patients to help them regain a measure of mobility in their affected limbs. Learn more about her approach and view a heart-warming video of real-life patients she is helping.
FOLEY SCHOLAR FINALISTS 2018
Aishwarya Agrawal, advised by Dhruv Batra
Making AIs 'see' better for image content recognition
Batra is developing the foundation for artificial intelligence systems that can ‘see’ or understand the contents of an image and communicate that information to humans in free-form natural language. It’s simple for humans to describe what’s in a photo, but computer systems have a much harder time. Agrawal and a research team have developed the Grounded Visual Question-Answering model to advance AI capabilities in describing image scenes. Applications in society are wide-ranging and could benefit households and workplaces in the near future by leveraging current voice-assisted AI technologies.
Matthew Guzdial, advised by Mark Riedl
AIs can now create games on their own
Guzdial's journey in game development and research has spanned almost a decade and two degree programs at Georgia Tech. He's now reinventing how artificially intelligent agents approach creating video games. Guzdial, advised by Mark Riedl, has developed machine-learning methods that can create Atari-era looking games and play like your classic platformers (Mario, Mega Man, etc). These are the first machine-learning algorithms capable of developing a full gaming experience without human input according to the researchers.
Miranda Parker, advised by Mark Guzdial
In the pursuit of 'CS for All,' a possible new pathway
Parker explores questions of access to computer science and researches the influences on and barriers to computing education to better inform future policy and outreach. In order to create ""Computer Science for All,"" she is seeking to understand what works and what doesn't for a multitude of groups, particularly those at schools that are characterized by high levels of low-socioeconomic, minority, or under-achieving students. Her recent research suggests an important new finding in this space: Students with higher socioeconomic status (SES) may not necessarily perform better than lower-SES students in computer science because of more CS access, but rather because of better spatial ability skills, those skills used for common tasks such as navigation, measuring distances, or for technical aptitude. Spatial abilities can be taught in the classroom at lower costs, thereby marking a possible opportunity for improved CS achievement for lower-SES students and minorities.
Ari Schlesinger, advised by Beki Grinter and Keith Edwards
Developing a mindset for building unbiased software
Software has been shown to discriminate against certain groups, Schlesinger is researching ways enterprises can operationalize strategies to support software development with fairness in mind. Her work focuses on how complex social problems become embedded in technical systems—like AI algorithms and frameworks—and what steps people can take to design computing technologies that do better. Schlesinger’s recent work shows how AI chatbots have a hard time discussing race and how they might handle race in new and improved ways.
Emily Wall, advisor Alex Endert
Visual analytics technique gives users more control over data
Wall is using visual analytics to help users make the most out of the information they have available. She and a team of researchers propose that cognitive biases influence user exploration of data in ways that are measurable through user interactions. The team, including advisor Alex Endert, developed metrics to systematically detect and quantify bias from user interactions and make users aware of bias processes throughout their analyses. One real-world application: car or home buyers may dismiss certain options based on, for example, fuel economy for cars or location for homes, but Wall's visual analytics approach can measure users' preferences based on their interactions with the data, direct users to new data points, and make that next big purchase that much easier.
GVU Distinguished Master's Student Award Recipient 2018
Visualizing a world of wearable tech
GVU Distinguished Master’s Student Award recipient Amy Lambeth, advised by Maribeth Gandy Coleman, plays a central role in Georgia Tech’s Wearable Computing Center, developing visual representations to translate research ideas and concepts of future wearable technology in real-world contexts. Her illustrations show scenarios of wearable technology and how its role in the workplace will evolve over time, with technology enhancing human performance and health, and people facilitating computing entities with on-the-job learning and effective teamwork. Examples include "soft tech" such as smart clothing, "hard tech" such as head-mounted displays and exoskeletons, and software solutions such as augmented reality that enable workers to perform tasks with higher proficiency while maximizing safety alongside computer-driven collaborators like drones.
GVU Distinguished Master's Student Award Finalists
Designing tech for long-flight space travel
GVU Distinguished Master’s Student Finalist Melissa Baltrusaitis, advised by Karen Feigh, is part of a multi-stage effort to develop new communication systems for human space flight well beyond the moon where real-time communication with Earth will be limited. Her focus is the design of the display and interface for a new computing framework that allows astronauts to assess their planning options during deep space missions. The “plan display and interface” is a responsive web-app that integrates the proposed plans and allows astronauts to modify or select among a number of plans. Baltrusaitis is developing multiple interactions for the interface and considering the cognitive, social, and physical demands on astronauts while on missions.
Maria Fernanda Wong Sala
Equipping healthcare workers with better safety protocols for highly infectious diseases
GVU Distinguished Master’s Student Finalist Maria Fernanda Wong Sala, advised by Carrie Bruce, recently led a study (as part of a larger CDC project) to identify the best tools to be used as a stabilization aid for maintaining physical balance while removing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) used by healthcare workers who are treating Ebola patients and to compare different layouts of the doffing area, where equipment is removed. Wong Sala compiled the “ideal” doffing area designs to be tested in the larger CDC study with the goal to reduce cognitive and physical load for healthcare workers and risk of accidental exposure.
Looking into how the Internet is shaping beliefs
GVU Distinguished Master’s Student Finalist Sijia Xiao, advised by Amy Bruckman, is conducting research on how the Internet changes people’s beliefs. Each day online, people are confronted with a complicated mix of true and false information—how do people tell the difference? Starting on Reddit, Xiao is conducting an interview study to understand the role of online social platforms in shaping people’s beliefs. Her research interests lie in understanding the impact of technology on modern society. Previously, Xiao built ConsensUs, an app that facilitates group discussion by visualizing points of disagreement. She's also worked on CEPT, a tool to help non-native English Speakers with collaborative writing.
Foley Scholars 2017
Kayla DesPortes, HCC Ph.D. student (adviser Betsy DiSalvo);
Tesca Fitzgerald, CS Ph.D. student (advisers Ashok Goel and Andrea Thomaz);
Tom Jenkins, DM Ph.D. student (adviser Carl DiSalvo);
Morgan Orangi, HCI MS student (adviser Carl DiSalvo).
Foley Scholar Finalists 2017
Dar-Wei Chen is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Psychology and is advised by Richard Catrambone. In the Problem Solving and Educational Technology laboratory, Chen focuses his research on designing instructional materials in ways that enable students to learn in durable and generalizable ways, especially in environments where a teacher might not be available. Rapidly-improving technologies have given many people the ability to summon any facts to their electronic devices from anywhere and at any time. Chen studies the unique pedagogical challenges this presents and how it will affect learning for the next generation of students. His dissertation examines “productive failure,” the hypothesis that students will learn more effectively when allowed to struggle and fail while problem-solving on their own before receiving canonical instruction. Studying PF instructional methods, Chen is examining how students perform relative to traditional “direct instruction” methods (those in which students receive canonical instructions first before completing practice problems). Chen will carry out a study in the domain of cryptarithmetic, a STEM-like domain that students might not have pre-existing familiarity with, and then replicate the study in the Rubik's Cube domain to find out whether the effectiveness of PF might change when students are engaging with material that is not as academic in nature. Chen hypothesizes that using PF methods will necessarily activate long-term and pre-existing knowledge when students are initially thrown “into the fire” of problem-solving without instruction first. The resulting connections between the old information and the learned material will help students retain the learned material for longer periods of time.
Kayla DesPortes is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Betsy DiSalvo. DesPortes' research is designed to change student apathy of computer science into deep-rooted engagement in the subject. She seeks to change how computing is regarded, so that students can understand and experience its interdisciplinary capabilities and feel confident that they can be producers rather than just consumers of the technology. She is also providing opportunities for a diversity of students to experience technology through enabling them to create with computing in ways they find personally valuable. Based upon the idea that personal values have a lasting impact on life choices, DesPortes' research introduces a new approach to the field of the learning sciences called “Value-driven Learning”. This approach focuses on creating a framework that engages students in iterative design, while scaffolding the students in reflecting on and integrating their values into the educational experience. Right now she has deployed two iterations of Value-driven Learning: the MoveLab in a one-week workshop and the Day of the Dead Interactive Puppets in five learning environments ranging from middle school to graduate school. The MoveLab involved middle and high school girls creating technology enhanced dance performances with dancers and engineers. The Day of the Dead project involved participants reflecting on someone that has passed away or something they have lost, and creating a computational object to represent that person or thing. An analysis has identified the promise of Value-driven Learning for creating inclusive and equitable learning environments in computing, across demographics.
Michaelanne Dye is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Amy Bruckman and Neha Kumar. Dye's research aims to inform the responsible design of information-focused interventions for sustainable development. She does this by conducting work that incorporates the values of individuals at each step of the research process in order to contribute to a critical understanding of the ways users experience, appropriate, and alter information communication technologies (ICTs). This vision is at the core of Dye's dissertation research, which is focused on developing a holistic picture of internet access and use in Havana, Cuba. Up until recently, internet access in Cuba was limited to five percent of the population. In the absence of access to global networks of information, individuals have developed their own community-based, information networks. At the same time, policy in Cuba is changing and access to the internet is becoming more prevalent. Dye's work seeks to understand the particularity of each of these parts, and the bigger whole as it emerges during this time of transition. Through ethnographic research in Havana, she is exploring the ways diverse stakeholders actively and creatively stitch together multiple infrastructural commitments to co-create the “internet” in Cuba. Her work has examined how new internet access initiatives (like WiFi hotspots) and the use of social computing technologies (like Facebook) are impacting individuals in Havana and the local innovations that have emerged as a result. Building on previous and ongoing work, Dye's aim is to inform policy changes and future technological advancements in Cuba.
Tesca Fitzgerald is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science and is advised by Ashok Goel and Andrea Thomaz. Fitzgerald is preparing now for a future where interactive robots are a part of everyday living, and she is doing so by designing robots to adapt to unpredictable environments in a similar manner as humans. Robot-learning algorithms do not exhibit the same type of creative problem-solving abilities as human learners. Even when an unfamiliar problem is related to one that it has previously encountered, a robot learner is unable to adapt the previous solutions to address the current scenario. Fitzgerald is researching how humans reason and acquire skills in order to transfer that knowledge to robot learners. Her research vision includes the goal of enabling robots to adapt to uncertainty in human environments and interact more closely with humans. By evaluating current theories of human cognition on a robotic platform that is capable of real-world action, perception, and interaction, Fitzgerald's research contributes to the communities of both cognitive science and human-robot interaction. Using the human cognition trait of adaptability, Fitzgerald is enabling a robot to (1) learn from a single demonstration of a task, and (2) seek assistance from a human teacher in order to repeat the task in a new environment. Fitzgerald has proposed a method that allows a robot to store demonstrations of tasks as individual experiences in memory, later recalling and adapting the most relevant experience to address a new problem. The goal is to use a case-based approach to enable task learning and adaptation using interactions across a range of scenarios.
Matthew Guzdial is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science and is advised by Mark Riedl. Guzdial's research focuses on creative machine learning (ML) and stems in part from his perception of the failings in modern ML systems, which are able to replicate existing tasks, but are unable to generate classes that haven't been seen before. He seeks to discover creative solutions via machine learning, what he considers as one of the most pressing problems in the field and one that has great potential for broader impact. Guzdial's current research project focuses on automatic game generation trained on gameplay video. A video game represents a simplified version of reality with a consistent structure and an underlying physics system. The nature of physics-based games allows people to anticipate techniques developed in this research project that can be adapted or expanded to more and more complex domains such as scientific ideation and art generation. Guzdial makes use of novel machine learning techniques to model spatial and design elements and gameplay actions from gameplay video. Inspired by research in the graphics field, he developed a process based on automatic categorization to learn a model of level design. He's also tackled automated game understanding, which represents a new artificial intelligence challenge. This work resulted in Guzdial's AI being able to essentially “clone” a game engine from gameplay video and also use an AI agent to play through the game using the cloned engine. Guzdial is currently combining these various breakthroughs to achieve full automatic game generation.
Tom Jenkins is a Ph.D. student in Digital Media and is advised by Carl DiSalvo. For his dissertation, Jenkins is creating a design research project that uses an ecological approach to develop speculative Internet of Things devices for domestic outliers. This is an example of using research through design to explore designing for alternative social configurations and to understand the role technology might play in sustaining those arrangements. In particular, Jenkins is interested in how Internet of Things might operate as a technical practice and a system of objects inside of cohousing communities. Cohousing is an intentional community designed to operate like a village in an urban environment. Residents know their neighbors, own their own homes, and share ownership of a larger common house as well as the property that the community sits on. A “smart home” for cohousing provides a way to think about domestic IoT in a new way: it operates across multiple residences, but only one home. Jenkins' project explores what a social covenant might look like for IoT objects, platforms, or APIs in this environment. This research activity in cohousing offers a vantage point to critique contemporary IoT practices as well as provide a venue to design and build Internet of Things technologies from an ecological perspective. Design valences unique to cohousing, such as ideas of where the boundaries of “home” are, or what counts as public and private space, or how groups of more than 40 people could share technologies in their homes begin to reframe what future IoT systems might be like.
Miranda Parker is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Mark Guzdial. Parker's dissertation work explores the “intervening” variables between socioeconomic status (SES) and Computer Science (CS) achievement. Understanding more about the relationships among these variables could lead to a better understanding of the state of equity or inequity in computer science classrooms. Parker posits that SES could affect certain variables that in turn affect CS achievement. These intervening variables could be access to computing opportunities, perceptions of computer science, encouragement to pursue computer science, availability of toys that develop spatial reasoning skills, or a myriad of other variables that then give a student a better chance at achieving success in computer science. Parker is researching what the primary intervening variables are so that interventions can be made that improve those variables in order to give students a better opportunity to learn computer science. In a pilot study, she administered surveys to undergraduate students at Georgia Tech in their first computing course. Preliminary results show relationships between certain variables, but the impact of SES on CS achievement is hard to determine since students at Georgia Tech are fairly privileged, coming from medium- to high- SES, according to the study. Due to the lack of variance in the data set, Parker is expanding the study population to more institutions. The next steps focus on growing the results from the pilot study through qualitative methods, followed by a large-scale deployment of revised surveys to better quantify the relationship between the intervening variables, SES, and CS achievement.
Umashanthi Pavalanathan is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science and is advised by Jacob Eisenstein. Pavalanathan's research includes studying factors that are shaping contemporary online writing, which is becoming increasingly distinct from other forms of written language. Such factors include the need to convey varied social meanings in online interpersonal interactions and the affordances made possible by technology-mediated channels. Pavalanathan's thesis project investigates this interplay through a series of large-scale studies of linguistic style variation in online writing using computational techniques from machine learning, natural language processing, and statistics, and theoretical constructs from sociolinguistics. Understanding the social dimensions of linguistic style variation in online writing has important consequences for the design of language technology and social computing systems, and beyond. Pavalanathan's thesis work broadly fits in the emerging research discipline called computational sociolinguistics, which integrates aspects of sociolinguistics and computer science in studying the relation between language and society from a computational perspective. The project focuses on five broad research questions related to the social aspects of linguistic style variation in online writing and is designed to advance the understanding of how individuals utilize the affordances in online social platforms and shift style to achieve varied social goals. Broadly, this type of computational sociolinguistics work will be a key towards creating socio-culturally aware artificial intelligence and socio-technical systems. Although this area is still new compared to other computational social science areas, there is an escalating interest in computational sociolinguistics and it puts Pavalanathan in a unique position to contribute to challenging work in an emerging interdisciplinary research area.
GVU Distinguished Master's Student Finalists 2017
Vedant Das Swain is a MS-HCI student and is advised by Gregory Abowd. Das Swain is part of the CampusLife Project, a large scale multi-university project that started as the StudentLife Project in Dartmouth. The motivation behind the effort is to determine if mental health and academic performance could be correlated, or even predicted, through a student's digital footprint. Contextual data from students was captured through their interactions with mobile and wearable technology, social media and the environment itself in a month-long study. Das Swain is responsible for exploring, analyzing and testing the methods of acquiring the relevant type of experiential and contextual data specifically for large scale in-situ studies that are conducted remotely. His focus is on designing and validating methods that reliably and accurately obtain (and quantify) the markers that help identify the mental/emotional state of an individual; this includes mood, stress, self-esteem, etc. During the initial phase of his work, Das Swain navigated through the intricacies of polling various sensor data from a regular smartphone, ensuring the optimal use of smartphone resources to enable researchers to get the data they want without disrupting the daily phone usage of participants. He also is looking at the fundamental issue of how a participant's self-reported data translates to his or her mental state. Das Swain is focused on learning how to harness present day computing capabilities and everyday interactions to quantify the mental health of an individual better and affect positive behavior change.
Kantwon Lamount Rogers is a MS-HCI student and is advised by Mark Guzdial. With computing a constant in daily life, Lamount Rogers sees an opportunity and need for people to be creators, not just consumers, of computing tech. Equipping people to learn computer science has had middling results, with low completion rates for massively open online courses (MOOCs) in the subject and little financial incentive for people who know computer science to teach it. Lamount Rogers' current research project, interactive electronic books (eBooks), aims to change this trend by producing higher completion rates than MOOCs and facilitating improved learning. The eBooks are designed to educate instructors who have no prior computer science knowledge and equip them with the content and pedagogical understanding needed to teach other students. Lamount Rogers' role in the project is analyzing log files of users to gain insight on how people are currently using the eBook and how it can be improved in the future. Most recently, teacher and student versions of an eBook were created for the College Board's Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles exam. A log file analysis by Lamount Rogers made design recommendations for creating different AP CS exam eBooks for novice (students) and expert (teachers) learners based on his findings that the two populations use the books and learn information differently. His personal research vision is to improve the participation and success of minority students in computer science and STEM. Teachers who work in school districts that cater to black and hispanic students often lack computer science knowledge and he hopes this project can offer opportunities to affect change in these districts.
Morgan Orangi is a MS-HCI student and is advised by Carl DiSalvo. Orangi's personal research vision is one that encompasses community-building through technology. She desires to empower unique communities by introducing and integrating technology that enhances their sense of identity and methods of communication while also bringing awareness of these communities to an external audience. One project with Atlanta's Proctor Creek Stewardship Council resulted in a simulation that showed how stream pollution negatively affects Atlanta residents in low-income neighborhoods along urban streams. Another of her projects aims to enhance communication within and outside of Native American reservations through white space-enabled technologies. One goal is to expand internet access and optimize internet use in remote Native American communities, as well as understand how Native Americans produce content. As with many minority groups, Native Americans are under-represented and mis-represented in the media. With internet access, they have the opportunity to replace the current narrative with authentic depictions. Orangi's is seeking to determine what type of information the reservation residents consume, how they do so and their preference for sharing. These findings can then inform the design of a system or platform for their use. Orangi hopes to add to the research literature through surveys, interviews, diary studies, and participatory design activities with reservation residents. Existing research on reservations and new media has revealed the power of and gravitation towards social networking sites for community building and also revealed the importance of connecting physical and digital environments.
Anandghan Waghmare is a MS-HCI student and is advised by Gregory Abowd. Waghmare envisions researching and designing new techniques for computer interaction that would better connect the physical world to the digital world and augment human abilities. By designing these systems to be always available, listening and analyzing the user's environment, they are more aware of the user's actions, and the interactions become serendipitous. Waghmare's work on SoundTrak and FingerSound are examples of this concept. SoundTrak augments any object to create a 3D interaction space around it with the use of microphones and a speaker. By wearing a ring mounted with a tiny speaker, the user can interact with any surface augmented with microphones which makes the interaction space larger and allows for more novel interactions. Another project, FingerSound, is a ring which tracks the user's finger while using the palm as a touch pad. FingerSound uses a ring on the thumb to detect unistroke gestures made against the palm. Input can be started virtually at any time and in any position without requiring the visual attention of the user to select each letter. Similarly, command gestures can be made without the need to look at the device or causing the user to feel around the physical environment blindly searching for an interface device. FingerSound allows all 26 letters and digits to be written by grazing the thumb across the fingers. Putting these technologies around or on the body allows for intuitive interaction between the body and the digital world and advances Waghmare's research vision of omnipresent computing.
Foley Scholars 2016
Mariam Asad is a Ph.D. student in Digital Media and is advised by Chris Le Dantec. Her work poses the question: “What would digital tools look like if they were designed for the values and goals of social justice communities?” Digitally supported advocacy, in its current form, might use a tool like Facebook to identify online spaces relevant to community residents (e.g. a neighborhood Facebook group), then promote a particular issue, like inviting them to an event (e.g. a canvassing training session) or asking them to 'like' a page (e.g. of an advocacy group). These mechanisms ask advocates to adjust their existing practices such that they can only be done while simultaneously supporting the goals of the corporation. The digital advocacy toolkit will include multiple levels of interactions to accommodate different kinds of social relationships, rather than basing online interactions on a single social relationship (i.e. a friendship). In addition to impacting local communities, Asad's project is also directly informed by them: she have conducted four years of ethnographic work with local Atlanta communities who do work on systemic social issues. This work spans multiple issues: Occupy Our Homes Atlanta is a housing justice group concerned with more equitable and sustainable housing and lending practices; Rise Up Georgia is a racial and economic justice group committed to empowering communities to be more politically engaged; and Sopo Bikes is a bike cooperative that encourages cyclists to learn to fix their own bikes.
Maia Jacobs is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Beth Mynatt. Maia Jacobs explores how cancer affects many aspects of patients' daily lives and she is developing computational tools to help better manage the chronic illness. Cancer patients must manage a vast number of responsibilities placed on them after a cancer diagnosis, such as finding information about their diagnosis and treatment options, making treatment decisions, managing the additional financial burden, and coping with physical and emotional impacts of the disease. Without proper management, health outcomes and survival rates for cancer patients is impacted negatively. Jacobs is developing and assessing MyPath, a mobile application that offers personal assistance to breast cancer patients, recognizing that each journey is unique and constantly changing. The application provides patients with resources that are tailored to their specific needs. The application continuously adapts, updating the resource recommendations as patients' progress through treatment and their needs and goals change. This work is motivated by the fact that an overwhelming number of resources exist for cancer patients, yet finding trusted tools to support one's specific needs can be a difficult task that further compounds the responsibilities placed on individuals.
Clint Zeagler is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Melody Jackson. He is a designer and researcher of wearable technology and interested in how to create wearable technology that is both usable and useful. Making wearable technology usable involves empirical usability studies to show how a person might interact with technology on the body. Zeagler's previous work in textile based on-body interfaces is an example of the types of usability studies he has overseen. “Is it Gropable” was one such study about how well a person could interact with capacitive sensitive raised embroidered interfaces without visual attention. Other usability and technical material studies followed developing new textile interactions and testing the limitations of manufacturing materials and process. Building on the “Is it Gropable” study, Zeagler is currently developing a user study to test the combination of haptic stimulation with capacitive sensitive embroidery in the hopes of creating interfaces that use the body's proprioception more effectively, thus enabling easier use of wearable technology without visual attention.
Foley Scholar Finalists 2016
Stevie Chancellor is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Munmun De Choudhury. Chancellor studies mental wellness communities on social media platforms, where contentious interactions characterize some of the online discourse. Users in these communities are often seeking support and help; however, others promote dangerous lifestyle choices to cope with mental wellness challenges, like deliberate self-injury or disordered eating behaviors. As a doctoral student, Chancellor's research goal is to better understand these signals of mental wellness and develop automated computational approaches to understanding behavioral cues of risky communities from social media data. Her current project explores a small segment of this goal: to build a system to detect these behavioral cues on Tumblr data. Since starting at Georgia Tech, her research has focused on assessing the health and wellbeing of proeating disorder (proED) communities, a group that believes that eating disorders are an acceptable alternative lifestyle rather than a dangerous mental illness. Her projects and papers have examined community wellness after content moderation, trajectories of recovery after proED participation, and measuring mental illness severity.
Michealanne Dye is a Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Amy Bruckman and Neha Kumar. Dye's research vision is one that aims to work alongside individuals in order to conduct work that incorporates their values and perspectives at each step of the process and illuminates issues that others have left unexplored. Currently, she is conducting a longitudinal study with Cuban nationals, exploring how increased access to online social networks affects the culture, perspectives, and relationships of this highly educated, yet historically isolated population. She has conducted in-depth interviews and online observations with participants from Cuba to explore access limitations, the activities they do online, and what Internet access means to them. Findings suggest that access limitations and slow network speeds greatly restrict Cubans' Internet use. Based on these findings and through a humancentered design process, Dye has built a crowdsourced information retrieval system (“Cuba Intercambio”) to help meet the information needs of her participants. She is continuing to work alongside participants in order to shape research around their values and assist in impacting positive results for the island population, either through design implications or informing the practices of companies that are hoping to engage more directly with Cuba.
Tesca Fitzgerald is a Ph.D. student in Computer Science and is advised by Ashok Goel and Andrea Thomaz. Her research interests lie at the intersection of cognitive science and human-robot interaction. Fitzgerald is drawn to the complexity of human cognition and human decision-making, and how they can inspire new research developments in artificial intelligence. One such application of cognitively-inspired systems is in robotics; as robots become more commonplace, it will be necessary for robots to process their environment and solve problems with human-level ability. Fitzgerald is inspired by imitation learning in human cognition and seeks to enable imitation for a robotic agent such that, when provided with a single demonstration for completing a task, it can reuse the demonstration to address a related environment that differs in features such as the location, size, or appearance of objects. This is an example of “case-based” reasoning, which takes an existing, cognitively-inspired account for storing and reusing experiences individually in memory before addressing a new, unfamiliar problem. Fitzgerald adapts this method for use in imitation learning by having the robot store demonstrations of tasks as individual experiences in memory, the most relevant of which can be recalled to address a new problem.
Tom Jenkins is a Ph.D. student in Digital Media and is advised by Carl DiSalvo. Jenkins applies research through design with a focus on electronic artifacts. Digital media technologies afford the creation of electronic prototypes that can materialize rhetoric, creating functionality that emphasize un- and under-scrutinized issues of practice by producing alternative systems that question assumptions around what values can should be built into devices. Jenkins is currently working on speculative design projects that probe the Internet of Things as it relates to alternative living situations, and in particular to cohousing communities. His thesis work provides a theoretical foundation for ecological design in order to create novel and useful design objects. It describes and classifies the contemporary Internet of Things in order to provide a springboard for design prototyping.
Matthew Miller is a Ph.D. student in Aerospace Engineering and is advised by Karen Feigh. Miller's primary research goal is to develop and build a decision-support system (DSS) for use by astronauts who are working in environments where real-time communication is not possible, such as future missions to Mars. As NASA extends human presence into deep space, the time delay associated with communication relays between the flight crew and support crew will cause a shift from a real-time to an asynchronous communication environment. Asynchronous communication has been identified as an operational issue that must be addressed to ensure success for future space missions. Miller is identifying constraints in contemporary extravehicular activity (EVA) systems and defining the necessary requirements for a DSS to support an asynchronous EVA environment. This will allow him to build and test a DSS prototype and demonstrate his approach to a design framework that includes a human-system perspective for EVA missions.
GVU Distinguished Master's Student 2016
Samyukta Sherugar is a master's student in Human-Computer Interaction and is advised by Neha Kumar. Sherugar's research focuses on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD), and one of her projects involved working with an NGO in the Indian state of Gujarat to build community support for people with HIV/AIDS. While overseas, Sherugar helped the NGO design methods to increase the number of HIV people it could help. Shereugar explored the knowledge-sharing and technology practices of the outreach workers in order to quickly prototype possible design solutions and get feedback on what worked best. The experience in ethnographic research has made Sherugar a better researcher, she says, and also given her first-hand exposure to challenges and best practices in ICTD work.
GVU Distinguished Master's Student Award Finalists 2016
Yunnuo Cheng is a master's student in Human-Computer Interaction and is advised by Gregory Abowd. Cheng worked with Ph.D. student Caleb Southern on a project for driving behavior change, which aims to inform people about real driving cost by connecting an app built in the Georgia Tech Ubicomp Lab to the car's sensors. The project gauges how people might change their perception about their driving cost beyond fuel, such as ownership, insurance, and maintenance. The first round of the study focused on mindset-changing, and the next will study behavior change and its social impact. Cheng contributed on the user research part of the project, including literature review, experiment design, survey and interview design, data analysis plan design, and the pilot study
Aditi Dhar is a master's student in Human-Computer Interaction and is advised by Beth Mynatt. For Dhar, it is essential to do work that has the potential to impact communities in meaningful ways. In one project, she is involved in exploring the space of personal safety across borders and genders and ascertaining whether the proposed design intervention (a wearable device) is a probable solution. In other work, she is designing a tool that will make a significant difference for breast cancer patients and improve their quality of life. The project helps make the patients' treatment less overwhelming by building on their self- efficacy and empowering them with resources they need. Dhar is the UX designer on the project, which envisions aiding the entire journey of a breast cancer patient – from the very day of diagnosis up to survivorship.
Sarthak Ghosh is a master's student in Human-Computer Interaction and is advised by Gregory Abowd. His research looks into the assistive nature of wearable computing, its unique attribute of being “always on,” and how to design wearables for social acceptance. Ghosh is investigating how accessible design can be integrated into the ways in which we interact with wearable devices. His current work is the development of new interaction techniques for smartwatches. “Whoosh” interaction tackles both the problems of touch and speech input, by allowing users to interact with non-speech acoustic cues. It supports touchless interactions on the smartwatch that are quick, ecological and unobtrusive. Non-speech vocal cues are also incorporated and are useful for people with speech impairment and for people with low hand-dexterity and coordination. The “Whoosh” techniques are a step toward Universal Interaction Design for wearables and one that Ghosh hopes will make the technology move toward the mainstream.
Foley Scholars 2015
Barbara Ericson is a Ph.D. Candidate in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Jim Foley. Ericson is helping to solve the challenge of how to prepare teachers to teach Advanced Placement Computer Science in order to increase computing proficiency among high schoolers. She is exploring using ebooks with reading groups to improve completion rates for those instructors teaching introductory computer science. Her work also explores applying findings from educational psychology to create interactive features that should improve learning outcomes. Ericson's focus is on Parsons problems, which are a type of low cognitive load practice problem and provide code segments that must be arranged in the correct order with the correct indention. Research on Parsons problems suggests that they might be a more effective and efficient learning approach than writing the equivalent code. She is seeking to develop adaptive Parsons problems, where the level of difficulty is adjusted based on user performance. Parsons problems are popular among users and creating new adaptive Parsons problems could have a substantial impact in teaching coding.
Tanushree Mitra is a Ph.D. Candidate in Computer Science and is advised by Eric Gilbert. Mitra's research agenda seeks to understand social media credibility, its implications in everyday life and the potential damaging effects of misinformation on these channels. Her most recent work is in building an iterative framework for tracking the credibility of social media information as it spreads. Prior work in this domain has primarily studied historically reported cases of rumors and lacks an understanding of how credibility evolves in real time. Her project goes beyond the “post-hoc analysis of popular rumors” and combines machine and human computation in an efficient way to track both less well-known and widespread instances of newsworthy content in real time. This is followed by crowd-sourcing credibility assessments of the information. Running the computing framework on Twitter, it has generated a corpus (CREDBANK) with newsworthy topics, their associated tweets and corresponding credibility scores. The next goal is to design prediction algorithms - an algorithm which can reasonably assess the credibility of an event. Mitra envisions her findings being able to inform the design of innovative tools that can tackle the economic and social risks associated with misinformation in social media.
Jessica Pater is a Ph.D. Student in Human-Centered Computing advised by Beth Mynatt. Pater is examining the role and impact social media plays on self-injury behaviors, specifically eating disorders. Over a period of seven years, she has worked with adolescents and teens, developing an understanding of how and why they use technology and then translating that knowledge back into educational outreach for educators and parents. During this extended contact with teens and adolescents from the metro Atlanta area, she began uncovering harmful and powerful ways that teens use social media platforms to facilitate risky and questionable behavior. The current instantiation of diagnostic and screening tools for eating disorders and self-injury behaviors do not take into consideration the activities of an individual online, where negative reinforcements can be found. Pater's goal is to work with leading eating disorder clinicians to help inform the development of tools that better capture and incorporate these critical connections in online activity and eating disorders. Establishing this clinical connection has already begun with discussions with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta as well as the Renfrew Center's Atlanta clinic, a national leader in eating disorder treatment and recovery.
New for 2015-16, the GVU Distinguished Master's Student award is given to an MS student actively involved in a GVU-related research project.
Monet Spells, the first recipient of the award, is a MS student in Human-Computer Interaction and is advised by Betsy DiSalvo. Her personal research vision is to create pathways for other women of color to feel validated in the tech and computing space. She found an opportunity to extend this passion through an educational technology project called the MoveLab with Ph.D. HCC student Kayla DesPortes and DiSalvo in the Culture and Technology Lab. Spells planned the workshop activities, identified the qualitative research evaluation protocols, executed the workshop, and evaluated the workshop data. The MoveLab was a five-day STEAM workshop investigating a community of learners as they embarked on a STEAM endeavor to create a technology-enhanced dance performance. The workshop participants included African American and Hispanic teenage girls in middle-school and high-school, dancers, choreographers, computer scientists, and engineers collaborating to develop the performance. Participants were introduced to a dance and engineering curriculum, microcontrollers, sensors, dance concepts, and choreography tools. Spells noticed during the workshop fundamental changes in the girls' interest and development with respect to technology. For example, after successfully assembling circuits and soldering boards, one student expressed an interest in taking a computer science course at her high school. Her successes in the space validated her curiosity to explore computer science in a formal environment.
Foley Scholar Finalists 2015
Mariam Asad is a Ph.D. Student in Digital Media and is advised by Christopher Le Dantec. Asad's current work is in the design and development of a digital advocacy toolkit. This work focuses on developing digital tools to address systemic social issues- like housing, transportation, or food access- using integrated, hybrid approaches to address a community's specific, contextual needs. Any one social issue is multi-faceted and complex with unique histories and contingencies, and solutions to these issues are similarly complex and cannot be found in any one domain.. Asad focuses on how to design digital interventions- tools, platforms, applications- to address various needs and influence political change and civic work. Her research draws on three years of ethnographic work with a local housing justice activist group working towards more equitable housing practices. The group used online tools to complement their offline civic work: e-conference call tools supported training sessions; mailing lists broadcasted fundraising efforts; and social media coordinated protect actions, like marches, vigils, or sit-ins. Asad is continuing to work with this group to design and implement tools to help support future civic work and empower local communities.
Laura Barg-Walkow is a Ph.D. Student in Engineering Psychology and is advised by Wendy Rogers. Barg-Walkow's primary research focus is on applications of engineering psychology for improving healthcare systems. She was worked on many projects in this area, ranging from understanding medical device use errors to researching health and wellness in an aging population. One such project was developing the System for Tracking and Managing Pain (STAMP), designed to improve pain management and shared medical decision-making through visualizing patterns of pain levels as they relate to factors affecting pain (e.g., exercise, mood). STAMP was tested with two user groups - older adults and health care providers - and was a multi-year collaboration between academia, industry, and a healthcare professional group. Barg-Walkow devised and conducted usability studies, conducted heuristic evaluations of the interface, and provided design recommendations for improving the software prototype of STAMP. She was involved in all aspects of this iterative process, from designing the method to user testing to demonstrating the system's potential efficacy.
Maia Jacobs is a Ph.D student in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Beth Mynatt. Jacobs is examining the real world benefits of personalized health tools for cancer patients by developing technology that reflects information about individual patients and provides customized support and resources to users. The aim of the research project is to study how to design appealing and usable personalized user experiences that help patients better manage chronic diseases. Developing personalized health tools presents significant challenges. The technology must possess the flexibility and robustness to cater to the full range of an individual patient's needs in order to make an overwhelming experience like being diagnosed with cancer manageable on a day-to-day basis. The technology must be able to adapt along with the patient, while maintaining an easy-to-use and engaging interface. Targeted help in the home could make a significant difference in supporting patients' individual needs and ultimately impacting health outcomes. For her study, Jacobs is designing tablets that will utilize an adaptive interface to present personalized support to breast cancer patients. The tablets will highlight new resources and make recommendations to patients based on data from health systems and patients themselves.
Lauren Margulieux is a Ph.D. Student in Engineering Psychology and is advised by Richard Catrambone. Margulieux's research interests center on supporting students in unsupervised learning environments through educational technology, especially in online courses in which students rely more on self-taught skills to be successful. In a recent study, she compared teaching methods used in face-to-face learning to those used in online learning to identify the teaching methods that are most effective in each environment. Then she analyzed learning outcomes from courses that mixed face-to-face and online learning together. These courses - typically called flipped, hybrid, or blended learning - have been defined by practitioners in different ways, preventing researchers and educators from aggregating research results in a meaningful way. Margulieux developed a taxonomy to better define and differentiate types of courses that mix face-to-face and online learning together. Using the taxonomy, she discovered trends in learning outcomes resulting from online learning. She found that providing feedback to students was crucial for improving learning outcomes when those students attempt to apply their knowledge and practice new skills. More specifically, when instructors provided this feedback, learning almost always improved, and when technology provided feedback, learning improved in half of the cases.
Briana Morrison is a Ph.D. Candidate in Human-Centered Computing and is advised by Mark Guzdial. Morrison is currently researching findings that indicate learning computer science is significantly different than other problem solving domains where certain educational psychology principles apply. Her work has shown that the overall cognitive load of learning programming is significantly higher than learning other STEM disciplines due to the nature of the material itself. Using a cognitive measurement tool that she developed, she can measure the intrinsic load component of learning to program. Establishing the fact of a high intrinsic cognitive load can positively impact other aspects of teaching programming – even how explanations of code are delivered to minimize the transience effect. The research would aid in furthering the development of instructional material specifically aimed at reducing the amount of intrinsic cognitive load imposed at one time on the learner. It can also decompose programming into simpler elements and develop specific practice style problems to aid all learners.