Informatics Professor Gillian Hayes Receives Social Impact Award

February 14, 2019

Winners of the 2019 SIGCHI Awards have been announced, and the Social Impact Award went to Gillian Hayes, the Robert A. and Barbara L. Kleist Professor in Informatics in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). The award, which comes with an honorarium of $5,000, recognizes those “who promote the application of human-computer interaction research to pressing social needs.”

Focusing much of her HCI research on vulnerable populations, including children and under-represented groups, Hayes excels in this area. Working with postdoc and Ph.D. students in UCI’s Social & Technological Action Research Group (STAR), she collaborates with researchers from around the world on projects like the CoolCraig app that supports families living with ADHD and the Tangible Desktop that allows blind computer users to get many of the same benefits of a graphical user interface through tangible interactions.

“I was so pleased when I found out I had won the award,” says Hayes. “To me, this award is a recognition of my entire research group and the community in which we work.”

Her leadership role in a variety of organizations further extends the impact of research. For example, as director of technology research for the Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and as chief science officer for Tiwahe Technology, she studies autism and technology and helps transforms the knowledge gained into real-world products and tools. She is also on the board for Team Kids, an Orange County-based nonprofit that “empowers children to change the world” through philanthropic projects, and is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Orange County, which works to create a “community of compassionate kids.”

Her work is inspiring, yet she is quick to highlight the accomplishments of prior award recipients as well. “I am also just really flattered to be included in the group of researchers, all of whom I admire, who won this award in the years before me.”

The Social Impact Award was first awarded to Gregg Vanderheiden in 2005 for his pioneering work in providing access to technology for people with disabilities. Hayes is the 19th member to join this distinguished group of researchers leading the way in using HCI for social good.

— Shani Murray