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ASEE 2015: Paper about the new HCDD major

It feels like I just returned from the annual ASEE meeting. I presented a paper about a topic near and dear to my heart: the new undergraduate major in Human-Centered Design and Development (HCDD) I spearheaded at Purdue.

The paper tells the design story (birth story) of the new program. I took a user-centered approach to curriculum design, since that’s what I know best. I think one of the most valuable tools that came out of it was the vision persona. And, of course, the program itself. 🙂

The paper is available online (you can read it here) and the slides I used are below.

DIA2 is out of beta!

Screenshot of DIA2 showing multiple toolsI am so pleased that we launched the redesign of  DIA2 and the new homepage this weekend! It’s been a long and fun journey!

DIA2 is a Web application for knowledge mining and visualization of the NSF funding portfolio. Anyone can use it to explore where NSF funding goes, how it’s distributed geographically, across NSF divisions, across topics, and institutions. You can explore collaboration networks of researchers who worked together on proposals, identify who’s well connected in a field, and figure out what NSF programs and program managers have funded research similar to yours.

I’m happy to have been involved with DIA2 since the very beginning, as a co-Principal Investigator (co-PI). I led the UX team for the project. We started with user research to understand user needs, and moved through ideation, wireframing, testing, the whole 9 yards. It’s been very rewarding to hear users say, “This thing reads my mind!” and “I feel it was designed for ME!” Perhaps best of all, DIA2 gave me the opportunity to work with and mentor many talented students. All DIA2 “employees” have been students working under a PI’s supervision. I am so proud of them!

If you’d like to, go check DIA2 out for yourself – it’s available for all at DIA2.org.

Or, read some research papers about it:

Using visualization to derive insights from funding portfolios. In IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications, 2015.

DIA2: Web-based cyberinfrastructure for visual analysis of funding portfolios. In IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 2014.

Portfolio mining. In IEEE Computer, 2012.

Research project recipe

I came across this article in HuffPo about a new app some students created that can help you identify your most toxic friends. They call it an art project, but I seem to recognize here a common structure for research projects in HCI. So, if you’re my student looking for thesis ideas, read on. 🙂

The recipe goes like this:

  1. Take a problem or issue from the social world (e.g. toxic friendships, collaboration, long-distance family relationships, etc.)
  2. Create a technology that mediates how people deal with that issue – ideally, the technology should improve the human condition or raise critical questions.
  3. Evaluate the technology.
  4. As a result/consequence of evaluating the technology, illuminate some aspect of and contribute knowledge to #1. And/Or, at the very least, derive design implications for this type of technology.

Some examples of papers following this structure:

Which self?

I recently watched this TED talk by Daniel Kahneman about the experiencing self and the remembering self.

Apparently, they’re quite different. The experiencing self is the one who lives and feels in the moment. The remembering self is the one that engages in retrospective sense-making and decides, post-facto, whether the experience was good, fun, etc. It is the remembering self’s evaluation that informs future decision making.

This has enormous implications for UX evaluation. Even if the experiencing self has a (relatively) bad time, as Kahneman explains in the talk, but the remembering self makes a positive evaluation, the experience is remembered as good. We can measure UX in the moment, and track eye gaze and all that jazz. But ultimately, what really matters for future decisions is what users take away from the experience and how they evaluate it after it’s over. This is good news. It means that users may forget or put up with a few frustrations – and still assess the experience well, especially if it ends well. It also means that the research framework for website experience analysis that I created back in 2004 is valuable, because it focuses on how users make sense of the experience and what they take away.

Undergraduate UX-related courses

I get this question a lot from undergraduate students interested in pursuing careers in user experience (UX):

If I want to pursue a career in UX, what kinds of courses should I take to prepare?

In addition to courses about user centered design (i.e. CGT 256 and possibly other new courses coming up in CGT at Purdue), it would help tremendously if you learn a bit of any combination from the disciplines below:

  1. programming – especially front end (e.g. CGT 141, 353, 356)
  2. human behavior – any courses that help you understand cognitive psychology: how people learn, how they process information, what gets their attention (visual attention), what motivates them, how they make decisions, how they communicate, how to communicate effectively with them, how to research human behavior – aka research methods in social science, especially qualitative, such as interviewing and observation (at Purdue, for example, PSY 121, PSY 200, PSY 240, PSY 285, COM 318, COM 307)
  3. business and marketing – it is important to understand how a digital product, say a company’s website, is related to the company’s business goals. For that, a bit of knowledge in business and marketing or entrepreneurship is very useful.

 

FAQs

Are there jobs out there is UX?

Yes, tons – and thousands remain unfilled.

What exactly is UX?

The resources on this Pinterest board can help you understand UX.

How to I keep up with news about UX courses at Purdue?

Follow @Purdue_UX and @CGT_Purdue on Twitter, and Purdue CGT on Facebook.

If you need more guidance, please contact me, Dr. V.

Guest post: Advice for succeeding in grad school from Geovon

Geovon graduated with an MS in Technology specializing in Innovation. After a couple of great years with Mongo DB, he is starting a new position at a large company whose name may or may not begin with G. Here is his advice:


Find the right advisor

Grad school is a journey, and you’ll need someone to guide you through it. So quickly and carefully seek out an academic advisor who has the following:

  • a stellar reputation among current and former undergraduate and graduate students
  • a personality and work ethic that aligns with yours—or what you hope to become
  • a schedule that’s focused on student interaction

Treat grad school like it’s a training ground for your dream job

Be self-motivated, work hard at everything you do, and aim to succeed—to be the top of your class, field of research, etc. If you don’t do this in grad school, you likely won’t in your post-grad professional career.

Get involved

Join clubs, attend socials, and take electives in different departments or schools. Use your free time as an opportunity to meet your peers, grow your professional network, and increase your chances of landing a job.

Guest post: Advice for succeeding in grad school from Emma

I’ve asked some of my very successful students who graduated recently to sum up some advice for succeeding in graduate school. The first guest post comes from Zhihua “Emma” Dong. Here is her advice:


I am flattered to be invited to write this blog post. Before you go ahead to read whatever advice I give, probably it is better for you to know who I am and the scope of this post so you can decide how much you buy in.:)

I spent 2011 to 2014 in two graduate programs here at Purdue: Industrial Engineering and Computer Graphics Technology. After graduation, I got a job with Microsoft as a program manager (similar to product manager in other companies). When I thought about “advice” I should give, I included both those made my graduate life smooth and relatively successful, and things I could have done better to be more successful. In addition, I decided to list only 5 most important ones from my point of view, to not look like a grandma. So here you go:

1. Make wiser choices

I say “wiser” because I assume you are here because you made wise decisions.:) This is something I didn’t intentionally train myself doing in graduate school, but just realized its importance recently. It applies to both career and graduate life. I hope you come to graduate school with a relatively clear goal to achieve, whether it is finding a job in certain area, or prepare yourself for PhD study. Let your goal(s) serve as a filter when you make decisions. For example, what course should you take? Check out those dream jobs, find the skill gaps you need to fill, find corresponding courses, and talk to course instructors to verify if it is something you need. Another example, who to hangout with? Find someone who shares similar visions and has a plan. I am not suggesting that your party friends are not important, but redistribute your time to connect with those who are in the same camp, and can inspire and motivate you. Never make random decisions because master study is very short, and you don’t have unlimited bandwidth to try out everything.

2. Don’t procrastinate

After you make decisions, execute well – don’t wait until deadlines hit you. This is much easier said than done, as procrastination is very much like gravity, which is difficult if not impossible to escape from. However, still make honest efforts to overcome it as much as possible. I too, suffer from procrastination sometimes, which really hurts. It hurts your performance, your emotional status, and eventually your physical health. Discipline yourself, do your work with friends in the library, find a time-management technique that works for you (e.g., GTD, and Pomodoro), and prepare to be happy and successful.

3. Talk to your advisor

It’s not difficult to reach out to families and peers if you are in trouble, but your advisor might not in the list while he/she should. Your advisor might be hands-on or hands-off type, but you should always be proactive in communicating with him/her. There are several major things you should be constantly communicating with your advisor:

(1) What are the expectations for each other. It’s crucial to clarify and understand each other’s expectations rather than guessing them. Ask you advisor how he/she defines a good student and constantly check if you are progressing towards it. At the same time, let your advisor know if you need from him/her: wether it is more of his/her time, or his/her coach on certain aspect. Make sure your ask for things you need as it is the most efficient way.

(2) Address his/her feedbacks timely. I found this super important because the mentor/mentee relationship can be prosper only if the mentee takes feedback seriously and react on it.

(3) Discuss any confusions or difficulties you have. Your advisor has much more experience since he/she oversaw many graduate students and himself/herself was one before. Don’t be afraid to expose personal vulnerability because school and advisor might be the last resort…

Whatever topic you have in mind, take the action to schedule regular one-on-one meeting with your advisor – even though they are very busy, if you ask, there is always time for you. Be responsible for your own graduate life and career.

4. Find an internship

If you are job-oriented, find an internship. If you are not job-oriented or plan to do a Ph.D., find an internship. You are all familiar with benefits of an internship: resume builder, industry connections, real-world experience, and much more. What I want to add here is: spend your time research different positions, apply those can help you get closer to your dream job. I interned with Siemens UX group one year before my graduation, which is not exactly my dream job but certainly a step towards one. In addition, it serves as a test for your to re-examine your career goal – you might confirm something is exactly what you want to do, or you might find another practice is your true passion. In any case, give it a try before your land a serious full-time job.

When you find the internship, practice 1~3 during your internship.:)

5. Take graduate-level courses seriously

You might think graduate study is more about research rather than taking courses. I would like to remind you that is simply not true. I benefited a lot from graduate-level courses, especially those project-oriented. Courses loaded with projects are essentially resume- or portfolio-builder for you. Keep detailed notes on the process, deliver good results and presentations, and put them up in your personal site – boom, You have a portfolio ready for job hunting! Treat these mini-internship seriously, also apply 1~3 throughout the process.

I hope you find the above helpful in one way or another. Take this journey mindfully, you might be surprised to find your career passion, friends who speak the same language, and life-long mentors coming out of this 2-year study. That happens to me and I am grateful for the experience.

Feel free to reach out if you have any question! My email address: zhihuaemma.dong@gmail.com.

Lastly, wish you all a happy and successful graduate study.