Informatics Ph.D. Graduate Clara Caldeira Named 2020 Computing Innovation Fellow

September 23, 2020

Informatics Ph.D. candidate Clara Caldeira defended her dissertation in February 2020 and, soon after, the Brazilian native was offered a postdoc position at the Federal University of Pará. In March, however, funding for the position was put on hold. Caldeira later leaned the money had been reallocated to emergency grants focused on the fight against COVID-19.

Recognizing the needs of Ph.D. candidates and recent graduates like Caldeira, in May, the Computing Research Association (CRA) and its Computing Community Consortium (CCC), with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), launched a Computing Innovation Fellows program. The new CIFellows 2020 program aims to provide a “bridge experience” to “combat hiring disruptions due to COVID.”

“I heard about the CI Fellowship when I was starting to apply to other positions,” says Caldeira. “It came at the right moment for me.”

Caldeira’s application was one of 550 submitted, and this month, she learned she was one of 59 researchers invited to join the 2020 Class of CIFellows. “I’m humbled to be part of such a brilliant cohort,” she says. “At the same time, I will be joining a research group that I’ve been a fan of since my very first year at UCI.” The program involves fellows coming from 46 unique institutions who will be starting their fellowships at 43 different universities.

Caldeira joined UCI’s Department of Informatics after earning her degree in computer science from the Universidade de Brasília. “I realized that [my] fascination with technology was not just about enjoying coding [but] fundamentally about seeing how much it evolved throughout my life, how much it impacted people’s lives, and wanting to be part of this phenomenon,” she explains. “Going to grad school in an informatics department was a wonderful opportunity that allowed me to work precisely on how technology impacts users and society.”

During her first year at UCI, Caldeira came across an article by Professor Katherine Connelly of Indiana University, Bloomington and was fascinated by the work. Now, as a CIFellow, Caldeira will be collaborating with Connelly on a project titled, “Technology-Mediated Caregiving for Older Adults in Different Cultural Contexts.” They will conduct a study of smart home technology for aging in place in the U.S. and Latin America. “I plan to follow up on my past research to understand the attitudes and relationships of older adults in different communities toward aging-in-place technologies,” says Caldeira. “This work should help us to understand how to design technology for older adults with different cultural backgrounds.”

The work will be conducted remotely at first because of the pandemic, but Caldeira hopes to join Connelly at Bloomington by 2022. Her long-term goal is to “continue working toward a career where I can contribute to research, technology and innovation, while still focusing on health and social justice.”

While Caldeira is working with Connelly, Chancellor’s Professor of Informatics Paul Dourish will be mentoring Szu-Yu Liu from Indiana University, Bloomington, working on a project titled, “From Data to Knowledge: Environmental Sensing and Data Narration.” The goal is to “investigate embodied and (multi-)sensory data narration models to increase environmental awareness, public participation, and to turn data into actionable knowledge.” Caldeira and Lui have conversed over Slack and plan to stay in touch to share notes about their respective campuses.

Furthermore, two informatics alumni of UCI will also serve as CIFellow mentors. Lilly Irani (Ph.D. ’13), now an associate professor at UC San Diego, will mentor Vera Khovanskaya of Cornell University. Their work will focus on understanding “the role of data-intensive methods in worker advocacy efforts.” Meanwhile, Jed Brubaker (Ph.D. ’15), now an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, will mentor Michael Ann DeVito of Northwestern University. Their work will focus on “how perceptions of content moderation systems impact moderator decision making and how this, in turn, impacts user behavior, [accounting] for the role of folk theories in the emerging space of human-AI collaboration.”

If all goes as planned, these projects will lead to promising discoveries while helping Ph.D. candidates and recent Ph.D. graduates thrive in an otherwise tough economic environment. A similar program was launched by CRA and CCC, with NSF funding, following the 2008 recession to support cohorts in 2009, 2010 and 2011.

Caldeira is full of gratitude and excitement for the new program. “I’m so very happy to have this opportunity,” she says. “I can’t wait to get started.”

Shani Murray