School of IC Assistant Professor Lauren Wilcox Earns Funding from NSF CAREER Award

Georgia Institute of Technology’s Lauren Wilcox, an assistant professor in the School of Interactive Computing, recently received a National Science Foundation CAREER award for her research investigating how computational tools can be designed and developed to support collaborative generation and management of everyday, health-related data.

The award, which provides $553,000 for her research, will help Wilcox build on previous studies that investigated how adolescents with chronic illnesses use personal data management tools. Wilcox said the overall goal for the upcoming research is to advance the current state of the art in mobile health sensing.

“We have a technical goal of investigating how to collect and handle collaboratively-contributed observations,” she said. “We will develop techniques that fuse the data that we’re getting from several different types of sensing approaches, and present that data through novel user interfaces.”

This will mean, in part, allowing for the reconciliation of system-generated observations, contributed through physiological sensing, and human-contributed observations, like self-reported pain levels.

A challenge is that both adolescents and parents have observations on the adolescent’s health, and they don’t always agree.

“Who is an expert on what’s really happening?” she asked. “They kind of both are. Teens tend to under-report symptoms, which is a problem because if we don’t know what they’re dealing with, we can’t tailor treatment plans. At the same time, parents can over-report. This creates a problem for physicians, but it can also create tensions in the home.

“When it’s a chronic illness, it’s important that the whole family is working together. We see the need for advancement in multi-modal mobile sensing and user interfaces, but we also need to get there through an understanding of family dynamics and user-centered design.”

The plan for her research has a few phases:

First, she plans to do some formative studies, examining different automated strategies for eliciting symptom data.

“What kinds of data are teens comfortable contributing and comfortable with their parents contributing, and in what ways” she said.

Next, she will prototype and pilot test different strategies for eliciting the data. From there, she plans to develop new collaborative data interaction techniques that leverage the mobile sensing technologies and contribute some user interface software for tracking and managing adolescents’ personal health data. And in a longer-term study, she wants to examine the effectiveness of the tools.

“We want to validate that it’s usable and examine whether they accept the technology, looking at things like user burden, confidence in carrying out self-management tasks, and impact on communication with clinical caregivers,” she said.

Wilcox’s integrated education plan will have significant impacts on graduate and undergraduate students. It will encourage young women and minorities to engage in careers in computing and engineering through two outreach programs, and foster mentoring skills at the undergraduate and graduate levels through outreach activities with high school students.

From a personal standpoint, Wilcox said she was thrilled to receive the award and funding from the NSF.

“It contributes to my long-term goals to design, develop, and evaluate automated tools for personalizing interventions that help teenage adolescents better understand their personal health data and engage in self-care tasks,” she said.


David Mitchell

Communications Officer