Selin Ovali joined the inaugural class of the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) professional master’s degree program after completing her studies in computer science at Purdue University. Ovali is assisting the UC Santa Cruz Social Emotional Technology Lab (SETLab), directed by Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Katherine Isbister, on a project that involves middle school students developing wearable technology for live action role play.
Tell me about what you were doing prior to joining the HCI program and why you chose the Baskin School of Engineering?
I was in an undergraduate computer science program at Purdue University on a software development track. During my undergrad, I did a lot of cross-platform application design and virtual reality game development and wanted to find a way to blend those together to develop technology with an educational and social focus. I specifically chose this program because I really liked the people involved and the research currently being done at Baskin Engineering in the HCI field.
Tell me about the research you’re working on right now.
I’m nearing the end of a project with my classmate Nathan Stern. We created a location-based book exchange game, born out of our mutual interest for the game Pokemon Go and wanting to apply the virtual aspects of that game to our book exchange.
I’m a member of the Social Emotional Technology Lab (SETLab), which is directed by Professor Kathrine Isbister. I’m working on a project, developed by computational media Ph.D. student James Fey, that hosts a camp for middle school students from the greater Santa Cruz area. Students will be building their own wearable technologies in a live action role play setting. They will each customize their technologies following a storyline, while in character. I’ll be closely watching events and taking notes for our SETLab research.
There’s a lot of research happening at SETLab on how technology impacts humans socially and emotionally, and I’d like to continue working in the lab throughout my program.
What’s been your most memorable experience with your cohort?
Just in general, one of my favorite experiences is having lunch with my classmates. Whether we bring lunch or go and get lunch together, it’s always nice to have a chance to check in with each other and socialize. Outside of the program, everyone at the Silicon Valley campus has been very welcoming, and overall, it’s a nice community to be a part of.
What are you hoping to take away from the program as you graduate and embark on your professional career?
Becoming a well-rounded designer to create technologies which produce a net-positive effect, where aesthetics, usability, and social context are all paid attention to. I want to continue gaining skills around hardware prototyping, social and emotional technologies, and virtual communications.
What kind of career are you looking to pursue after the program ends?
It’s hard to know exactly what I want to do with three quarters left in the program. I like the gaming industry, but at the same time, I don’t know if I want to mix something that I really enjoy doing in my free time with work. I am debating whether to join industry or academia and keeping both options open.
What are a few of your hobbies?
I’m a PC gamer. I enjoy playing all kinds of games, but my favorite kind of games fall into the simulation, action, and narrative categories. I also really enjoy biking and cooking.
Interview Date: 2/07/2022