Monthly Archives: March 2019

Grants for New Informatics Professors Support Health and Children’s Literacy

March 27, 2019

Two of the newest faculty members in the Department of Informatics were recently awarded grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF’s Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) aims to help beginning investigators establish their research programs. Daniel Epstein and Stacy Branham, both of whom joined the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) as assistant professors in Fall 2018, each received $175,000 to fund their proposed research. Epstein’s work supports food journaling, while Branham’s focuses on improving children’s literacy skills. Both awards fall under the NSF’s Cyber-Human Systems (CHS) program, demonstrating ICS’s continued excellence in human-computer interaction research.

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Ph.D. Student Samantha McDonald Helps Us Better Connect with Congress

March 22, 2019

For the past two summers, Informatics Ph.D. student Samantha McDonald has been going to Washington, D.C., to work with different congressional nonprofits, learning what role technology can play in improving communication with constituents. “From my studies, I’ve found that the primary technology inside Congress right now is databases called CRMs, or constituent relations management systems,” says McDonald. CRMs can monitor the number of people calling and the issues discussed, but they don’t create substantive engagement. “They’re taking the temperature of the district, seeing if people are getting heated up about certain topics,” she explains, “so it’s more of a way to track emotions than to engage constituents [and] recognize them as legitimate actors in policymaking.”

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UCI News Applied Innovation: “AVIAA Spreads Wings into Irvine and Beyond” (Gillian Hayes quoted)

March 19, 2019

Gillian Hayes experienced a migratory life growing up, as her parents would move the family from state to state pursuing careers in academia at universities. After landing in Athens, Georgia, she discovered her talent for the Science-Technology-Engineering-Math (STEM) field. And, as her own academic career began to unfold, Hayes eventually found herself with a fateful internship at the National Institutes of Health’s AIDS laboratory that helped define her future when her cultures grew mold and didn’t yield the results they needed.

Read the full story on the UCI News Applied Innovation website.

UCI Esports: “Esports Lab Spotlight: Maria J. Anderson-Coto” (Informatics graduate student)

March 6, 2019

Despite the field’s rapid growth in the past few years, academic research on the subject of esports is rare. The UCI Esports Lab’s aim, according to their website, is to “understand and enrich esports” through their student research. The faculty and graduate students there focus their study on methods to optimize esports teams, and they apply their findings to educational spaces like the North America Scholastic Esports Federation (NASEF). Such research often involves how players function in teams, particularly when they need to communicate and work together.

This article focuses on Maria J. Anderson-Coto, a first-year doctorate student at the Esports Lab. Her research topics include player performance, retirement in esports, and gender inclusion. More information, including contacts, can be found at

Read the full story at the UCI Esports website.

Academics and Activists Unite to Tackle Digital Discrimination

March 5, 2019

On Friday, March 8, at 9:30 a.m. in Donald Bren Hall 2011, Yeshimabet Milner, founder of Data for Black Lives, will be giving a talk, “Abolish Big Data.” The talk, which is open to the public, kicks off a two-day workshop, “Datafication and Community Activism: Redrawing the Boundaries of Research,” hosted by Informatics Professor Roderic Crooks in collaboration with Milner. The rest of the workshop, by invitation only, will bring together a diverse group of activists and academics.

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Alumni Spotlight: Erin Bradner Designs Technology to Amplify Our Creativity

March 4, 2019

When Erin Bradner ’01 was first introduced to human-computer interaction and artificial intelligence as an undergrad at UC San Diego, she was intrigued by the concept of neural networks. “Why wouldn’t we mimic the circuitry of the human mind to make software smarter?” This intrigue followed her into the workforce and ultimately led her to UCI, where she earned her M.S. and Ph.D. in Information & Computer Science (ICS). Now, as director of robotics at Autodesk, where she co-founded the Generative Design initiative, she is constantly exploring how technology can “amplify human creativity.” Here, she talks about everything from digital design tools and robots in the workplace to her need to “reverse-engineer” her induction into the ICS Hall of Fame.

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