Why did you choose UC Irvine for your graduate studies?
UC Irvine has many faculty members who are highly respected in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI), and I was interested in the work being done here to combine social and political concerns with technological investigations and solutions.
What has been your favorite class so far?
My favorite class has definitely been “Technology, Sexuality, and Gender,” taught by Bonnie Ruberg (one of the offerings for IN4MATX 295, Special Topics in Informatics). In class, we explored how technology exists in a gendered and sexualized world. We combined queer theory, gender studies and technology studies to discuss the realities of living in the digital age and the potential for liberation or oppression and empathy or assimilation within technology.
Can you tell us about your research?
As an undergraduate, I held several summer research positions in which I collected and analyzed social media data and studied machine learning. I worked with Kate Starbird and Emma Spiro at the University of Washington on their project concerning how rumors grow and spread on social media during times of crisis. I’ve also worked with Jason Hong at Carnegie Mellon University on predicting happiness in urban neighborhoods using social media sentiment analysis and machine learning.
What has been the best part of your experience so far?
I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone in the program — the faculty, administrators and my fellow students. Everyone is so passionate about their work and supportive of one another’s research interests.
What has been the most unexpected part of your experience?
I didn’t expect such a great support system in terms of academic advice, scholarly camaraderie, and social and emotional support. Everyone at UCI is open and welcoming, and the Informatics department in particular is extremely supportive.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I’m keeping my options open. I’d love to work in industry doing social media research, but I keep getting drawn back to academia, so I think that will be where I (happily) end up. I’m not sure what kind of department I will eventually settle in after graduate school, because my work is quite interdisciplinary, but I’m passionate about social issues and identities and how they intersect with technology use and design.
Any advice for prospective graduate students interested in the program?
Look at the many fascinating classes that the Informatics department offers each quarter, and if you see something that sounds interesting, reach out to the professor. Don’t be shy! Although professors and students can be pretty busy, everyone has at least a little time to chat with prospective students, because they want to help people who might become their future colleagues.