Archives for the month of: July, 2012

1. Name Pejman Mirza-Babaei

Pejman

2. Role
PhD candidate

3. Mac or PC?
Mac. I shutdown my PC in Sep 2009, and never turned it on again, yay! ūüôā

4. What is your favourite book?
I know it is strange but I don’t have favourite book.

5. How did you get here?
I did my Master in IT for E-Commerce (at the Sussex University, 2007) and had HCI course as one of my electives, I felt in love with the subject and knew that is what I want to do next.

6. What are you working on right now?
At the moment I am a visiting researcher at UOIT HCI + Game Science group, where I am conducting the final study for my PhD thesis as well as writing up the whole thing.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?
My family, in particularly my dad. I think when little boys growing up they always want to be the same as their fathers. That was the case for me and I am still trying to become a doctor ūüôā

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
I am aiming to submit my thesis by March 2013, doable but challenging.

9. What else do you like to do?
I am a professional scuba diver but haven’t dived since I started the PhD. I want to go to a proper holiday (sun, beach, no technology with awesome diving sites). After I finish writing my thesis of course.

10. What’s next for you?
Most of my previous works were in collaboration with industry. Ideally I want to have this mix in future. If I stay in research I will make sure I can continue working with industry. If I get an industry position I will keep contact with academia, I enjoy writing research papers.

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Liz Thackray

1. Name
Liz Thackray

2. Role
DPhil student – I’m now based in Sociology, but started off in Informatics

3. Mac or PC?
Mac, though I do find I get asked to fix PCs owned by other members of my¬†household ūüė¶

4. What is your favourite book?
That varies according to mood. Probably the books I go back to are Jean¬†Auel’s Earths Children series, but I also like William Horwood’s Duncton¬†Wood novels.

5. How did you get here?
By accident. I met Judith Good through some work I was doing with the¬†Sussex Learning Network and acted as consultant on a course she led using¬†a virtual world environment (Second Life). One day, I asked the foolish¬†question of whether there might be a PhD in the work we were doing, and¬†the rest is history. I might add that doing a research degree was never on¬†my agenda. I spent many years working in voluntary and statutory social¬†service organisations, lived in Germany for a few years being a ‘hausfrau’¬†and did a Masters conversion degree in information systems when I was¬†fifty. I have been surprised by how much I have enjoyed the learning¬†opportunity the last four years have presented – just wish I’d realised¬†that when I was much younger!

6. What are you working on right now?
My original research ideas didn’t work out due to circumstances beyond my¬†control. I have ended up moving some way away from virtual worlds and am¬†exploring the real life problem of the struggle/fight metaphor in relation¬†to special needs. Hence my current location in Sociology, but I have¬†retained my links with the HCT group and have been playing with some ideas¬†that might link the two areas.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?
The people I work with.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
I see myself as a practitioner and find it difficult to identify as an academic, having always had a healthy scepticism as to the value of scholarship as against life experience and practice. The challenge for me is embracing both camps and valuing them equally.

9. What else do you like to do?
When I have time, I enjoy doing things with thread, mainly lace of one¬†sort or another. I am actively involved in my local church and run a support group for parents of children with special needs. When I want to¬†switch off, I watch TV (Grey’s Anatomy is a favourite) or read trashy¬†novels.

10. What’s next for you?
I sometimes half-jest that my DPhil is retirement preparation. Next on the¬†agenda is actually getting the thesis written. After that, I would like to¬†write up some of what I have learned that hasn’t made its way into my¬†thesis. I suspect, I’m not quite ready to retire yet, so I’m interested in¬†doing things that allow me to use the different areas of knowledge and¬†experience gained if different domains over more years than I care to¬†count.

On Friday we had the School of Engineering and Informatics Postgraduate Poster Presentation. This is an annual event, where Masters and PhD students present an A1 poster of their work. Second year PhD students are required to present as part of their annual review, so this year that meant Edgar and Ellie were up.

Edgar talking someone through his poster

Ellie discussing her poster

It was much busier than expected! The room was pretty packed out, and rather warm.

Many people attended

There were a pretty wide range of subjects covered, with a variety of Master’s courses represented as well as a number of research groups with PhD students present. It’s a great way to get an overview of what’s happening in the school, and one of the few events that gives that kind of ‘whole school view’. It’s also a useful exercise for many of the participants, as posters are a great way to start getting published at conferences and this is a good chance to learn. There were a good number of faculty members there, making it a good opportunity to meet people you don’t often talk to.

Sadly, neither Edgar nor Ellie won the prize for best PGR poster. That went to Andrew Robertson¬†from the Text Analytics Group, with his poster entitled “Extracting syntactic structure from microblogs”. Nice work, Andy!

1. Name
Eleanor (Ellie) Martin

Ellie running the Cambridge Half2. Role
DPhil candidate

3. Mac or PC?
Mac, which surprises me no end.

4. What is your favourite book?
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg.

5. How did you get here?
I was working on some really nasty desktop software, which made me come and do the HCCS Masters. Then I went back out into industry as a web developer for a bit until I saw an advert for the Green Revolution project and attached DPhil.

6. What are you working on right now?
The Green Revolution project (a multiplayer online game)! I’m writing a lot of code, mostly. Struggling to define my objects, and what should go where and how it all fits together. Oh, and trying to write some conference papers. And process some study results. I’m researching how the rules of a game affect the players’ interactions, and whether it’s possible to predict the differences that arise using theories from sociology (specifically social identity theory).

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?
This is going to sound really sappy, but honestly without my partner I wouldn’t achieve nearly as much as I do. I am inspired to greater heights to repay that support in full. I am also inspired by intelligent conversations/blog posts that head in interesting directions, and people who look at things and think of crazy things to add to them, or ways to make them better.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Too little time! There are too many interesting things to do, all of which would quite happily suck up all the hours I could give them.

9. What else do you like to do?
Probably too many things! I run, knit, cycle, sew, garden… I also occasionally like to play music. I can play clarinet, sax, flute and ukulele, but at the moment I only play at home. If anyone needs a slightly rusty woodwind player let me know!

10. What’s next for you?
Ideally I’d like to stay in research. I’m interested in positive psychology and how we could use technology to make us happier. I’m also quite interested in how people manage and understand things like multi-author documents and versioning. It’s a common problem that doesn’t seem to have a really good solution yet.

1. Name
Chris

2. Role
Visiting Research Fellow

3. Mac or PC?
Mac

4. What is your favourite book?
The one I read (and intend to finish)

5. How did you get here?
It was my first post-doctoral position and I was hired to work on the ECHOES II project. I was a PhD student at QMUL before and what I found intriguing about this position was that it would allow me to enter the world of participatory design. I also always was interested in working with people with disabilities, so this fitted the bill.

6. What are you working on right now?
I am writing grant proposals to implement my research ideas which are about researching a different approach to developing assistive technology for children.

7. Where do you take your inspiration from?
Broad mix, mainly from people I hear talk or have the chance to talk to. The immediate research environment is very important, but also conferences and meetings. I am also regularly getting lost in browsing the internet – where one interesting thing leads to the next so easily.

8. What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
At the moment, getting research funded. Many of my topics are seemingly “soft”, i.e., deal with underspecified, wicked problems that do not fit in well with a positivistic epistemology which is easier for funding bodies and reviewers to trust in. So, articulating that research through design produces theory & knowledge that is worthwhile and scientific in a different way, is a major challenge.

9. What else do you like to do?
Family, Climbing & the Outdoors

10. What’s next for you?
Partly answered above, I suppose. I am working on grant proposals with Geraldine, and my next destination is hopefully Vienna.