Research

Research Areas

Faculty, research associates, and students in the department of Human Centered Design & Engineering advance the study and practice of design to improve cognition, behavior, engagement, or participation among individuals, groups, organizations, and communities of people.

Our approaches are fundamentally interdisciplinary and sociotechnical: we draw on a wide range of disciplinary traditions as we investigate the interaction of people's practices and meanings with technology.

Our department's research and teaching focus on six interrelated areas of study:

Faculty and students work collaboratively across many of the areas listed above. Students do not formally identify themselves as belonging to a particular research area and all graduating students receive engineering degrees in Human Centered Design & Engineering, not a particular area of study. While the HCDE researchers listed in each area below emphasize certain areas of study in their teaching and research, all faculty have additional areas of expertise not listed here.


Influencing Behavior, Thinking, and Awareness

As designers, we have the ability to create interventions that support or prompt changes in people's everyday lives, ideally for the better. We study how interventions affect people's behavior, thinking, or awareness. In addition, we design and assess new tools for making these changes. Focus areas include health and wellness, leisure, education, civic engagement, politics, social influence, persuasive technology, behavior change, reflection and mindfulness, awareness, incentives, and motivation.

 

Principal Researchers

Participatory Faculty

Design for Emergent Collaborations and Organizations

We study and build digital technologies that people use to coordinate, collaborate, and interact in other ways. Our work typically focuses on emerging uses, practices, capacities, and organizational arrangements associated with collaborative technologies. We understand, influence, design, implement, and assess sociotechnical systems. Our research spans multiple contexts such as decision making, leisure, work, volunteerism, creativity, and innovation and domains such as crisis informatics, maritime operations, collaborative text production, and infrastructure studies.

 

Principal Researchers

Participatory Faculty

Low Resource and Underserved Populations

We design and evaluate technologies for resource-constrained environments and deploy those technologies to support vulnerable populations. Our work is motivated by a commitment to ensuring the world enjoys the benefits of diverse technological solutions that can serve multiple populations. Areas of research include low-resource environments, high-risk and safety-critical environments, complex systems, crisis informatics, disaster and humanitarian response, humanitarian relief, information and communication technologies for development, and human-computer interaction for development.

 

Principal Researchers

Participatory Faculty

Material and Embodied Technologies

We conduct research on the material and embodied technologies that shape emerging sites and process of daily life, from home energy monitoring to 3D printing and technology repair. We are interested in the overlap and collision of atoms and bits, looking at how the merging of craft and digital fabrication technologies condition our social worlds. We look at a range of platforms and form factors, and we are especially interested in how computing extends, resists, and  transforms other technologies as well as social relationships, institutions, and communities. Areas of research include cultures of making, craft and repair, physical computing, open source hardware, digital fabrication, infrastructure studies, and science and technology studies.

 

Principal Researchers

Participatory Faculty

Data Science and Data Visualization

We focus on the design, implementation, and evaluation of human-centered systems and techniques, such as visual analytics, in support of collaborative activities in environments that generate and require very large and complex data sets.

 

Principal Researchers

Participatory Faculty

Learning in Professional and Technical Environments

We focus on learning, with an emphasis on professional and technical activities. This work occurs across areas such as professional development and identity, translation of knowledge into action, expertise in problem framing, representation of design contexts, digital interfaces, reflection, engineering learning, design learning, language learning, and learning from text.

 

Principal Researchers

Participatory Faculty