Ph.D. Alumnae Profiles
By Ann Beckmann
Sunny Consolvo, Ph.D. 2008
As a researcher for Intel Labs Seattle, Sunny Consolvo designs and assesses how mobile technology can promote changes in behavior, including encouraging physical activity and the use of green transportation.
UbiFit and UbiGreen, as they’re called, are just two of Consolvo’s projects that offer subtle positive reinforcement and feedback to non-technical, voluntary users of mobile phones.
Although she had worked in the area of ubiquitous computing at Intel before she completed her doctorate at the iSchool, she says her interdisciplinary studies for her Ph.D. — particularly in psychology and epidemiology — broadened her awareness for her design efforts.
The strong, supportive relationship between Intel and the UW has been a big plus, according to Consolvo. Another advantage is the diverse mix of academicians and students at the iSchool, she notes, especially those with backgrounds in other disciplines. When people would use the same words to describe totally different concepts, she was able to learn the differences and improve her ability to communicate.
"I design for individuals. There are very different success criteria for me than for someone who designs for the population at large. Just by understanding that I’ve learned to talk better to people," Consolvo says. "I’ve started to understand how to make my research accessible to more people."
Along with research colleagues at Intel and Predrag Klasnja, a current iSchool Ph.D. student, Consolvo recently contributed to a study of how the general public understands and deals with privacy associated with wireless network use. Their work explores users’ concerns and outlines tools and improvements that show promise for addressing Wi-Fi privacy and security. At an open house in late September at Intel Labs Seattle, Consolvo and others involved in the project displayed what people actually reveal about themselves when they use Wi-Fi.
Melanie Feinberg, Ph.D. 2009
Now in her second semester as an assistant professor at the University of Texas in Austin, Melanie Feinberg is teaching classes and producing scholarly knowledge at the Information School there.
She’s teaching a core class (similar to LIS 530 at the UW) in organizing and providing access to information and a seminar on description and metadata.
The design of systems for organizing information is her primary research interest. She recently presented a paper titled "The Use of Genre as a Design Element in Information Systems" at the American Society for Information Science and Technology conference in Vancouver, B.C.
When she reflects on her experience in the Ph.D. program at the UW iSchool, Feinberg describes what a good environment it was for transitioning from student to scholar.
"During my time in the program, it was a very supportive environment. I was nurtured, given the confidence that my ideas were worthwhile and I could be a researcher because I was in fact already a researcher," she says.
"One of the nice things about the iSchool Ph.D. program is that students embody such a diverse range of interests and backgrounds. Just hanging around the office, wandering the cubicles or going out for happy hour, we’d have informal interactions where someone might challenge your preconceptions or spot holes in your thinking."
Feinberg came to the UW after completing her master’s of information management and systems at the University of California at Berkeley. She had been working as a content strategist during the dotcom frenzy and realized the need for a better content management process.
"Information is everywhere and it’s snowballing every day. I realized things change so quickly, I could spend my life thinking about these things. And so I am," she says.
Her web page: www.ischool.utexas.edu/~feinberg/.