Chillin' with Julie Kientz

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Julie Kientz and studentsA background in computer science and an interest in the broader societal impact of Health and Education led Professor Julie Kientz to create the Computing for Healthy Living and Learning (CHiLL) Laboratory. The CHiLL Lab is a collaboration between HCDE, the Information School, Computer Science & Engineering, and the Design, Build, and Use Group. Researchers from all perspectives, abilities, and disciplines work together using User-Centered Design processes like data gathering, focus groups, iterative design, prototyping, and evaluation to determine if technology performs as expected in a real-world environment.

Kientz draws research topics, identifying problems to be addressed, from personal experience and consultations with experts in Health and Education. Laboratory findings benefit not only the patients and students involved, but also their doctors and teachers. Current CHiLL projects include working with pre-school children with special needs through the Experimental Education Unit at UW and coordinating with the Seattle Children’s Hospital to bring developmental record-keeping technology to lower-income families.

One of the goals of the CHiLL lab is to motivate record keepers by improving efficiency, accuracy, and ease-of-use...and also, if possible, to make record-keeping fun. Because records in the health field are predominantly stored on paper, Kientz feels technology can improve the process, giving doctors more time with their patients and parents more time with their children. One project involves researching the effects of automated record-keeping to find out if it makes people less conscious of the actual process, and to identify the optimum balance between efficiency and data awareness. Kientz hopes this study will make health-based technology more empathic toward patients by conveying accurate health information with an appropriate “bedside” manner.

Although most studies take place in the field, there is also a physical lab on the third floor of Sieg Hall. This lab consists of two offices: a student workspace and a general research space. Kientz points out that two things help when starting a lab: a sense of humor and enthusiastic students. Students can assist the CHiLL Lab as part of a directed research group or through independent study. These could lead to a research assistantship and more in-depth research on projects that can make a difference to society. --by Devor Barton