Cecilia Aragon Receives NSF Grant

Friday, November 4, 2011

Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) Professor Cecilia Aragon began research earlier this month for a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant through the Office of Cyberinfrastructure (OCI), which coordinates and supports the acquisition, development and provision of state-of-the-art cyberinfrastructure resources, tools and services essential to the conduct of 21st century science and engineering research and education. Her project, Collaborative Games for Bioinformatics Education, aims to create a novel educational game that incorporates bioinformatics and cyberinfrastructure (CI) concepts aimed at early high school students.

Many educational games have been developed in recent years with a social networking component that have reached audiences of varying sizes. However, few of these have been designed specifically to teach CI concepts. Aragon's research approach is novel not only because it will teach bioinformatics and CI, but because the research team will focus on eliciting emotions in a multi-player environment. Emotional responses within the game will be utilized to enhance peer-to-peer learning, and analyze the outcomes of the player experience.

The long-term benefits of this research to society include the uptake of concepts of cyber problem solving specifically among young underrepresented minorities and women, and the production of conceptual models that will help us to better understand the larger relationships between people, educational games, and infrastructural computational technologies more generally.

About the Research Team

The research team for this project includes Professor Cecilia Aragon, Affiliate Professor Suzanne Brainard, Dr. Mette Peters, Jeanne Chowning, Brian Glanz, and Daniel Perry.

Cecilia Aragon (PhD, UC Berkeley, 2004) is an associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering and the eScience Institute at the University of Washington, with adjunct appointments in Computer Science and Engineering and the Information School. Her current research focuses on computer-supported cooperative work, visualization, and creativity for scientific collaborations, including the socio-technical aspects of CI and the role of socio-emotional content in online communication among technical collaborations.

Suzanne Brainard (PhD, Ohio State University) is the Executive Director of the Center for Workforce Development (CWD) at the University of Washington. Brainard is also an Affiliate Professor in both Human Centered Design & Engineering and Women Studies at the University of Washington. CWD will serve as the internal evaluators on this demonstration project. CWD has served as an internal or external evaluator on several NSF-funded projects including LSAMP, STEP, ADVANCE, and a MESA STEP.

Mette A. Peters, PhD, has experience from the pharmaceutical industry and academia in the areas of cell and molecular biology, genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics with respect to discovery, commercial development, and education. She was previously the Director of the Technologies and Resources group at the University of Washington. Peters is currently at Sage Bionetworks, a non-profit biomedical research organization with a mission to coordinate and link academic and commercial biomedical researchers through a Commons that represents a new paradigm for genomics intellectual property, researcher cooperation, and contributor-evolved resources.

Jeanne Chowning is the Director of Education for the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research (NWABR), a non-profit educational organization established in 1988 to promote the public understanding of biomedical research and its ethical conduct. NWABR's work centers on outreach, including supporting excellence in science teaching, building connections between scientists and students, and strengthening the research community. Chowning leads Bio-ITEST, an NSF science education grant focused on bioinformatics. Chowning earned her BA in Biology from Cornell University and an MS in Biology at the University of Washington.

Brian Glanz is a software engineer at NWABR and expert consultant on BuddyPress and WordPress, a social networking and publishing platform customized for science by the Open Science Federation. He will develop software, serve as a technical consultant, and coordinate the social networking aspects of the project.

Daniel Perry is a PhD student in Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington and a researcher in the Scientific Collaboration and Creativity Lab at UW. He has previously worked as a graduate researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in the Computational Research Division and as a researcher at UC Berkeley's Center for Next Generation Teaching and Learning. He holds a BA from Brown University and a Master of Information Management & Systems from UC Berkeley.