Noopur Raval joins the Baskin School of Engineering as a postdoc with the human computer interaction (HCI) master’s program, under the faculty mentorship of Norman Su, associate professor of computational media and vice chair of the HCI program. She spent the last two years as a postdoctoral fellow studying the human-centric aspects around AI and machine learning at the NYU AI Now Institute. Raval will be researching tech workers, primarily immigrant workers and workers working in the U.S. on visas, within big tech organizations. In fall 2023, she will join UCLA’s Department of Information Science as an assistant professor.
Describe your journey to Baskin Engineering.
I went to UC Irvine for my Ph.D. in informatics. That was my initiation into the world of information science, informatics, and HCI programs. A lot of these disciplines stemmed from older library science programs and their transition to digitization. Before coming to UCSC, I was a postdoc at New York University, which was focused on AI and machine learning and the human-centric aspects of those fields.
During my NYU postdoc, I started to gain more interest around developing ethical, socially responsible AI. It was through my extended network that I learned about UCSC’s Computational Media Department and how it is a prestigious department with many fantastic faculty researchers. HCI is a very human centric program, and I knew that I wanted to move toward that direction with my research and be with individuals who had similar academic focuses. The work I will get to do with Norman this year is truly cutting edge.
What research are you involved in?
During and after grad school, my research focus was primarily on gig economy platforms, such as Uber, Lyft, and different food delivery and care platforms, and how this new wave of tech platforms have transformed the immediate city space and social relations within that city space. There were a host of changes that these platforms brought in for many cities, like Bangalore, India, the city I analyzed a lot, and I’ve seen the pros they have brought, such as their ability to offer jobs to many people of all backgrounds, but also the cons.
The specific research I’m going to be taking on during my postdoc appointment at Baskin Engineering is studying tech workers within big tech organizations. We’re at the precipice of a lot of cultural change within tech. We want to analyze who is making these changes, how these changes are being made, and how they affect the workers and organizations itself, with a focus on the experience of workers who have moved to the U.S. from another country or are working on visas.
What’s the role you’ll be taking on at UCLA in fall 2023?
I’ll be an assistant professor in the Department of Information Sciences at UCLA. It’s more of a traditional library and information science program but there is also a digital study part of the department, which I’ll be a part of. I’ve been a product of the public school system my whole life and seen the social mobility that comes from it. I see how amazing it is that as a faculty member you’re not just doing research, but you’re doing it within a community that needs you to connect the dots and needs you to help make students feel valued, understood, and supported. All of that really excites me about becoming a professor.
What’s an inspirational quote or piece of advice someone from your education has given you?
My undergraduate advisor gave me the following advice: “You have to give people the opportunity to mess things up their way.” Everyone’s path is different. It’s important to learn by doing, take chances, and grow from those individual experiences.
What’s something you’re looking forward to as the academic year starts?
Forming a community with my colleagues, students, and researchers. I’ve already received so much support from my colleagues since starting earlier this month. I’m really looking forward to building academic and professional connections once fall quarter begins.
Visit Noopur Raval’s website.
Interview Date: July 19, 2022