Why did you choose UC Irvine for your Ph.D. studies?
As an undergrad working on social psychology, I found that all of my papers and experiments were aimed at applying social psychology to understanding how people interact on the Internet. When exploring grad schools to apply to, I considered communications programs and social psychology programs, but noticed that my interests were especially well-suited to this field that I hadn’t before heard of: informatics. Irvine became my immediate choice because of my desire to work with the faculty here.
Which faculty member(s) do you work with and on what projects?
I am co-advised by professors Bonnie Nardi and Judy Olson. I work with both on multiple projects related to digital self-presentation; that is, how and what data do people choose to disclose to manage how others see them through their digital trails? These questions have brought me to examine how people compartmentalize their the disclosure of personal data on Reddit, and examining how electronic surveillance influences people’s disclosure habits on social media websites like Twitter. I also work with Judy Olson on multiple projects related to the use of collaborative software, especially within university settings. In particular, with the support of Google, the Hana Research Lab does a great deal of work on understanding how students collaborate using Google Apps.
What is the most enjoyable part of doing research?
For me, the most enjoyable parts of doing research are developing my mastery of a few key methods and learning new skills in the process. I’ve found that I’ve developed qualitative, quantitative and technical knowledge, and there is always more to learn.
Have you done an internship? If so, where and in what role?
I’ve worked at Twitter as a User Experience Research intern, where I conducted studies to improve Twitter’s internal user metrics, developed user-testing panel infrastructure and conducted usability studies for multiple products. Some of the interfaces I worked on are still used the company today. I have also worked at the Pew Research Center on several studies with the Internet and journalism projects. My work largely aimed at analyzing the diffusion of local news through Twitter and Facebook, as well as understanding how the NSA disclosures in mid-2013 influenced how journalists and ordinary people manage their personal data.
What are you most proud of so far?
Conducting research that focuses on self-presentation on the Internet, and how electronic surveillance influences our social behaviors, is very important to me. I’m incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work on research that will help to advance public dialogue about these topics.
What has been the best part of your experience?
I’ve met some of my best friends in informatics. Getting to know the people within the department has been the best part of my experience so far.
What has been the most unexpected part of your experience?
I didn’t realize how much fun user research, as well as public polling at places like Twitter and Pew Research, would be. My time at multiple internships gives me a window into the sort of work I’d like to do down the road.
What are your aspirations for the future?
I intend to do research with companies and organizations that advance the spread of knowledge about electronic policy-related issues. However, the quickly shifting landscape may call for new collectives or unforeseen structures that would help to advance the same causes.
What would be your advice to incoming Ph.D. students in your program?
Everyone has imposter syndrome.