Introducing our Spring 2018 Research Assistants

25 Jan, 2018

Introducing our Spring 2018 Research Assistants

We're thrilled to announce this year's undergraduate research fellows! Each year, the BCNM selects four graduate student projects that we believe will both interest and prove engaging to undergraduates. Undergraduates apply to be a research fellow for these projects. Once selected, they have the opportunity to work on high-level research in concert with our graduates, who mentor them on research methods and tools. Congratulations all!

Marisa Ahmed is working with Ritwik Banerji on Music, Improvisation, & Ethnography. Marisa a fourth year Cognitive Science major who is interested in the effects of music on the brain, particularly with regards to musical therapy for people with developmental disabilities. In the past, Marisa has worked with music therapists to stage a concert designed for children with such disabilities. She's also worked heavily in the designer/content strategist field and has a background in user testing. Her work with Ritwik will include transcribing field recordings of conversations between him and ehtnographic subjects, collected during fieldwork. Given that the recordings are conversations that occur in the context of the Ritwik asking musicians to play with an interactive music system designed to listen, respond, and play like a human musician, the transcription allows Marisa to become familiar with research in human-computer, musical, and social interaction research.

Claudia Ruslim will be mentored by Will Payne, who is researching Gourmet Gentrification? Restaurant Reviews and Neighborhood Change in New York and San Francisco (1987-2017). Claudia has been working on a Sponsored Project for Undergraduate Research to construct an accessible web map aimed to assist small-scal farmers in Central California in purchasing agricultural land. Through this project, she has become experienced in working with spatial data through ArcGIS and CartoDB. She will therefore be well equipped to assist Will with data collection, cleaning, analysis, and online visualization through interactive web maps. Will's research considers the development of digital location-based services (LBS) like Yelp, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor, and their role in shaping urban consumption spaces and neighborhood trajectories over time. Theorists of gentrification and other urban scholars have long considered the spread of upscale amenities like cafes and bars to be important visual indicators of gentrification. Will examines evolving informational networks, from paper guidebooks to mobile applications, and their interaction with broader trends in urban development and sociospatial segmentation.

Wenny Miao will be teaming up with Noura Howell on Exploring Alternative Ways of Knowing the Body through Data-Responsive Wearable Displays. Wenny is only a freshman at Berkeley, with an intended double major in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, but already making an impact. Fascinated by biotechnology, Wenny has already completed an internship at a biomedical engineering lab at Stony Brook University, where she was involved in making a controller, complete with gyroscopes, electromyograms, and pressure sensors, for a game for physical therapy patients. She has also worked on an automated medication distribution and alert system and has been heavily involved with her high school robotics team Cal SMV. With Noura, she will be prototyping the implementation of werables by programming a microcontroller, designing and building circuits, and integrating technology with clothing. Noura designs and prototypes data-responsive werables and studies the experience and interpretations of participants who wear these prototypes throughout daily life. The designs seek to unsettle and challenge normative assumptions of self-improvement and emotional wellness. In particular, Noura explores how shirts with patterns that change color in response to skin conductance data, which is associated with various kinds of emotional excitement, can support emotional reflection for some or aggravate emotional insecurities for others.

Joyce Lee is joining Michelle Carney for her work on Auditory Representations of Data. Joyce is actually a BCNM Masters Student in the School of Information. She's worked with chronic disease patients at the digital health startup Mango Health, where she gained experience with the logistics of user research, ranging from scheduling to synthesis. Through interviews with their users, she also became interested in accessibility. She's now enrolled in a class on information visualization and hopes to contribute her new data representation skills to the project. With Michelle, she will be working on user research, facilitating user interviews, and analyzing results. Michelle's project explores how to represent complex data in intuitive ways. She asks, how could an auditory dashboard work? Could we make auditory representations of data that are akin to the New York Times interactive infographics? With the rise of virtual assistants in our daily lives, like Siri and Alexa, she seeks to develop a framework for best practices in data sonification for these smart speakers.