Prospective Students

If you are interested in working with me, you must read this information before contacting me via email to ask for a meeting. If you didn’t read this carefully and still contact me, I will know that, in which case you will not get a reply.

So, you are interested in working with me. Thank you for your interest. This could be a beginning of a really great journey for both of us, but before we start, there are several things that you need to know.

1. The fact that you are interested in working with me means that you are interested in doing HCI research. Surprisingly, a large number of students who contact me don’t know that fact. It is problematic if you want to work with me without knowing what HCI is, or what HCI stands for. So you will need to do your homework before meeting with me. If you are an undergraduate student at University of Maryland, you can take INST 362, which is an Intro to HCI course. So if you take this course, you will have a good understanding of the subject matter. If you can’t take this course, there are many online (mooc) classes—for example, Scott Klemmer and Don Norman offer excellent HCI and Design Thinking courses—and books (e.g., Design of Everyday Things). You should at least take these courses and decide whether you like this area of research. Only then it makes sense to come to me and say “I want to do HCI research with you.”

2. If you are already working in a domain outside of Computer Science or Information Studies (e.g., majoring in biobehavioral health, nurse, kinesiology, industrial engineering, design, etc.) and want to leverage technology for whatever research problem that you want to address, it’s okay not to have an HCI background (i.e., taken an HCI course at Maryland). After all, HCI is an interdisciplinary field, and I truly enjoy working with students and colleagues with a diverse background. However, you should still know what HCI stands for and that I do HCI research.

3. After you know what HCI is about, you’ll need to learn a bit more about my research areas before deciding to contact me. Most of my work deals with personal informatics, personal data visualization, health informatics, self tracking, sleep, health behavior change, work productivity, and doctor-patient communication. You can read my project descriptions and published papers at my website. I highly recommend that you read titles of recent papers and read some of the papers that you consider interesting. Doing so should give you a good sense of the types of projects and research approaches that I am involved with. Deciding to work with me means you will be part of producing similar work in terms of project areas and approaches, and of course, writing papers. If these are something you like to do, then go on to #4.

4. Now, if you do contact me, you need to think about what you want to get out of from our meeting. Consider how you want to conduct research with me. For example, are you looking for an advisor? (See #5) Are you looking to gain research experience? (See #6) Are you looking for an RAship? (See #7) Are you looking for a committee member? (See #8)

5. This usually applies to M.S./Ph.D. students. If you are looking for an advisor and think that I could be your potential advisor, it’s good to say that up front when you contact me (e.g., “I am looking for an advisor and I think you could be my potential advisor.”) Then I will suggest working on a small project for a semester under my supervision. At the end of the semester, we will have a debriefing session. If things go well, I will commit to serve as your advisor and help you graduate. If things don’t go well, we will part ways.

6. This usually applies to undergraduate students or M.S./Ph.D. students from departments outside of iSchool. If you are looking for research experience, I require you to sign up for a 3-credit independent study with me. That usually amounts to ~10 hours / week. If things go well, we will have concrete outcomes (e.g., study design, design artifacts, data, written report, etc.) by the end of the semester.

7. If you are looking for a funded RAship, I might be able to provide you one depending on the outcome of #5 or #6. A good approach to get an RAship, therefore, is to do a small project with me and demonstrate that you can do good work. Additionally, I might have an open call for Research Assistants, in which case you should apply as per the instruction. If you are truly amazing, I might be the one who asks you to work with me and I will provide an RAship before you even ask. RAships are usually tied to a particular grant or a project, so you may have to work on a particular and interesting project.

8. If you are looking for a committee member, just say that up front when you contact me and explain why you think I might be a good committee member. Am I your method person? Am I your domain expert? You basically have to convince me that you are working on an exciting research problem and some aspect of your thesis can benefit from my expertise. You also need to share your timeline (e.g., When are you going to propose? When are you going to defend?) and what you need from me.

If you are still reading this and think that it’s a good idea to contact me because you are genuinely interested in working with me, send me an email to ask for a meeting. Use this subject line “[Prospective Student: Your Name]” and attach your CV or Resume, if any. That way, I will know that you read this and that you are serious. We will then meet in person and talk about potential project ideas. You are welcome and encouraged to suggest research ideas. If you don’t have ideas at the moment, that’s fine. I might suggest a research question, or have you join one of my current projects. I am good with providing feedback if you are good about sharing your progress and results (e.g., design, write-up). I will help you do good work, find resources to support your work, and do my best to advise you. That is my commitment.