Ph.D. Information & Computer Science, 2003
Why did you choose this degree?
I was always interested in the role that technology plays in society. One of the areas that I was particularly interested in was understanding the sociotechnical aspects of health information technologies (HIT). Consequently, I had a number of conversations with Dr. John King who, at that time, was part of the Computing, Organizations, Society, Policy (CORPS) group in ICS about doing a PhD focused on examining the sociotechnical issues surrounding HIT. CORPS was a very unique group that was interested in examining technology from perspectives that was more than just technical. This approach appealed to my particular interests. Based on our mutual interests, John agreed to be my PhD Thesis Advisor.
What has been your career path since graduating with a Ph.D.?
I decided early on in graduate school that I wanted to be an academic faculty member. So, after graduate school, I took a faculty position in the Department of Business & Information Technology at the Missouri University of Science and Technology. After two years there, I left to join the faculty at the College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) at Penn State University. I am currently an Associate Professor in IST.
What do you enjoy most about your current position?
There are actually two things that I enjoy most about my current position. First, I enjoy the freedom that I have to work on research problems that I find interesting. I get to identify the problem and think about how I would like to address it. Second, I enjoy working with students (graduate and undergraduate) in my research projects. I get to work with some very bright students who often teach me something that I didn’t know before.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
My typical day depends on whether or not I’m teaching that day. If I’m teaching, my day usually consists of the teaching my class(es), office hours, as well as grading and other teaching related activities. If I’m not teaching, it is usually research oriented. I’m either in research meetings with my students, working on research papers, or writing grants.
What was the best part of your experience at UCI?
I really appreciated the freedom to explore the research issues that I was interested in as well as the support I received from the faculty. Part of the challenge of doing a PhD is not only identifying a problem that is both worth addressing as part of a PhD thesis but that can also be accomplished in a reasonable amount of time. ICS has some of the top researchers in the field. So, I had the freedom to explore a sociotechnical issues in HIT but also get help in my scoping my PhD thesis from great faculty members.
In what way(s) did your studies prepare you for your career to date?
My career has been very interdisciplinary – my research is at the intersection of two different communities (Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Medical Informatics). This could have been particularly challenging if not for the training that I received at ICS. As a graduate student, I was supported in my efforts to publish in both communities and received help in how to write and communicate my ideas to the two communities. Therefore, it seemed natural for me to continue doing this after I graduated from UCI and started my academic faculty career.
What would be your advice to incoming students who might want to follow a similar career path?
I would encourage students to talk to different faculty members about their research ideas. I think students would be surprised at how their problem may interest a particular faculty member that that they did not think would be interested in the problem. I am also a firm believer in working across disciplines because that is where many major research problems are. So, I would encourage students to think about problems that may cross domains or disciplines. Finally, I would encourage students to enjoy their time in graduate school. I tried to keep a balance between the academic and other aspects of my life so that I would not “burn out”.