The mission of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society, established nearly 20 years ago with an endowment by Martha and James Newkirk, is to “improve science’s response to community needs and to increase the effective uses of scientific information for the benefit of society.” In support of that mission, the center offers yearlong Community Based Research (CbRI) Fellowships to UCI graduate students from all disciplines. Recently, informatics Ph.D. student Jazette Johnson learned she had been named a CbRI Fellow for the 2019-2020 year, starting Sept. 15. As a fellow, Johnson will receive $5,000 and will work with a local community partner.
“I was excited and honored to find out that I was one of four people selected for this fellowship,” she says. “I’ve been conducting community-based research since I was an undergrad, but I didn’t actually know the name for what I was doing until recently.” Her current research involves working with the nonprofit organization Alzheimer’s Orange County, designing technologies to support healthy independent living for older adults with dementia.
“This summer, I began building a relationship with Alzheimer’s OC to understand some of the challenges that older adults with dementia deal with throughout the different stages of the disease,” explains Johnson, whose advisor is Gillian Hayes, the Robert A. and Barbara L. Kleist Professor of Informatics. “Through these conversations, we are constructing plans to use technology to keep these individuals engaged socially.”
Johnson similarly aims to keep these individuals engaged throughout her research. “In computer science and engineering, research has commonly focused on developing technologies for the community instead of with the community,” she notes. “It’s important for researchers to value the experiences and perspectives of the community they are interested in working with by including them in research as curators of knowledge during all stage of the project.” This involvement helps ensure the technology actually impacts the intended community in positive ways.
As a CbRI Fellow, Johnson is looking forward to starting a new project as well. “I will be conducting another community-based research project with the other fellows to put what we are learning into action in the community around us.”
— Shani Murray