Why did you choose UC Irvine for your Ph.D. studies?
Because of my advisor: We’re both interested in research topics regarding the long-term sustainability of human civilization.
Which faculty member(s) do you work with and on what projects?
Professor Bill Tomlinson is my advisor, and together we primarily work on my Ph.D. thesis, which explores using IT to alleviate some of the hardships people encounter when transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle. However, we’d like to do this without creating a dependency on the technology itself. I am building an application to help homeowners design a self-sustaining, edible landscape for their yard. To design such a landscape, an intimate knowledge of how plants form mutualistic communities is required. For most homeowners and conventional landscapers, this a difficult task to accomplish. The application is geared to serve as a design aid as well as an educational tool.
I have also assisted professors Tomlinson, Bonnie Nardi and Don Patterson in the development of their new UC-wide online course called Global Disruption and Information Technology. This will go live in Winter 2015!
And I also worked with Dr. Yong Chen (Professor of History and Asian American Studies) and Dr. Nasrin Rahimieh (Professor of Comparative Literature) and a team of undergraduates to organize Edible Education: UCI’s First Conference About Food. It took place May 2014 at the Anteater Recreation Center, and featured topics were food culture, food justice and the history of food.
What is the most enjoyable part of doing research?
The intellectual journey — I have found this to be a wonderful opportunity to refine my understanding of a topic I am deeply passionate about.
Have you done an internship?
What are you most proud of so far?
Significantly contributing to the creation of an NSF proposal oriented around my dissertation and then learning that it has been recommended for funding. It is a confirmation that I’m doing something important — and now we’ve figured out how to explain it to other people!
What has been the best part of your experience?
The many relationships I have formed with people in various departments at UCI. There are many opportunities for interdisciplinary work at UCI, and the informatics department facilitates forming those sorts of partnerships.
What has been the most unexpected part of your experience?
I discovered that the department is very supportive of grad student family life — even if you form a family when you get here.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I want to continue to do research and development of software systems that support people in their transition to sustainable lifestyles.
What would be your advice to incoming Ph.D. students in your program?
First, figure out what matters to you and why. You’ll be working on your Ph.D. for a long time, and it should absolutely be something you’re passionate about. Second, make sure you find an advisor that you really want to work with and like as a human being. They should motivate you, and it helps if you motivate them. Keep in mind that you are gaining a research partner as well as a research mentor.