Abigail Lomibao on the Undergraduate Research Fellowship

08 Jul, 2022

Abigail Lomibao on the Undergraduate Research Fellowship

Abigail Lomibao was mentored by Haripriya Sathyanaryanan on graduate level research as a BCNM Undergraduate Research Fellow. As part of this project, Akemi worked on Haripriya's project on spatial design in pediatric healthcare spaces. In her own words:

As an undergraduate senior taking on a fellowship with my mentor Haripriya [Priya] Sathyanarayanan, a PhD student in the Architecture & Building Science program, I gained hands-on experience designing and executing the creation of immersive virtual environments (IVE). Priya’s study is a mixed methods study exploring perceptions of hospitalized children from the spatial and environmental design of the patient room in pediatric healthcare facilities. The study design includes methods such as surveys, art based methods, interviews, and an experimental design using virtual reality and biometrics on spatial and environmental design. For the pilot study, my tasks included executing VR capabilities in a photo elicitation project and for the IVE project; in addition to using UNITY plug-ins for gathering data in VR from eye tracking and fEMG (stress/emotion).

Priya’s rigorous approach to scientific design and yet creative and kind heart was invaluable in shaping my perspective about how to approach designing for others. Human-centered design requires someone to not only understand their user profiles but also understand themselves and lean into one's strengths. It is important to recognize how in touch you have to be with yourself in order to design for others. Priya encouraged me to think about how to approach designing environments for children and inject delight while also taking into account simplicity and practicality. When tackling the project of creating a VR photo elicitation study, I not only faced the challenge of working with game design tools and integrating new software into Unity engine, but I also faced the challenge of designing engaging virtual experiences for children to immerse themselves in comfortably. Through this fellowship experience, I practiced actively thinking about and listening to the needs of both researchers and the participants - children and their parents.

My fellowship experience taught me that to empathize is to listen. To listen is to be attentive to the people whose lives are being affected. To listen is to give confidence; to give hope; to create solidarity; to breed radical imagination. This allows us to see the world, our lives, and the social institutions we inhabit not as they are but as they might otherwise be when we choose to see our agency, to shape our world, and share our visions. The world we live in already bears its marks from history, but if we are to work within that system to build something beautiful the first thing we can do is be willing to listen. Having the opportunity to actively listen to these needs and work with Priya and my other fellowship colleague reminded me that what I choose to create and how we create matters. The stories we make move people; they lead to culture shifts. And technology continues to innovate the way we tell stories. VR is especially relevant to this in its ability to create embodied user interfaces and experiences.

Through this experience, my passion for creative technology and design became more tangible and as my self-confidence and competence continues to grow through meaningful experiences like the BCNM Fellowship, I hope to continue to engage in research that moves people to make a meaningful change in another’s world. Because the world is a beautiful place. We have to choose to see it.