PhD profile: Stanley Chang

Stanley Chang: Helping newcomer navigate in urban environments.

Stanley Chang: Helping newcomers navigate in urban environments.

As a junior studying computer science and information engineering at the National Chiao Tung University in his native country of Taiwan, Yung-Ju “Stanley” Chang experienced an epiphany that set him on the path to a PhD in information at the University of Michigan. He became more interested in how information technology could be used to solve human problems than in the actual “nuts and bolts” of how computers work.

“Understanding computer programming is certainly important for the study of information science,” he says, “so I’m glad I have that foundation. But I became fascinated with how people behave when they’re seeking information and how they interact with technology.”

After graduating from university in 2005, he spent two years of mandatory military service at a military academy as an information and system officer and teaching assistant. “I was really lucky,” he says, “because at the school, we had computers with Internet access. A lot of people were serving in areas where there was no access.” As a result, he was able to research universities where he could continue the study of information science.

Back in 2007, departments of information science were rare in Taiwan, he says, so Stanley extended his online research to U.S. iSchools — and there weren’t all that many, even here. The University of Michigan was one of the few offering a specialization in human-computer interaction, so Stanley applied to the master’s program. He received his MSI in 2009 with specializations in HCI and incentive-centered design.

He decided to continue into the doctoral program, he says, “because I felt there was so much knowledge yet to gain in this area. The more I study, the more I realize that I need and want to know more.” He is finished with his doctoral coursework and just completed his preliminary defense of his dissertation, which will focus on how people seek information in urban spaces, and particularly in unknown urban areas. Which information channels do people choose? When do they rely on mobile applications? When do they choose human interaction — and why? How can we design technology to support their information needs on-the-go? These questions involve three distinct areas of research: HCI, environmental cognition, and information science. Utilizing another area of his research into context-aware design toolkits, his goal is to develop, and help interaction designers develop, context-aware systems to support people’s information-related tasks in urban spaces.

He will have the opportunity to observe his own information-seeking behavior this month during his first visit to Paris as a participant in CHI, the premier international human-computer interaction conference. In addition to being a member of the only UMSI student team to be chosen as semi-finalists in the Student Design Competition for their project Xpress, Stanley is presenting two of his own papers, co-authored with his advisor Mark Newman and two fellow doctoral students, Manchul Han and Pei-Yao Hung. The papers are part of the first Chinese CHI symposium, designed to facilitate networking among Chinese and others with interests in all areas of HCI research.

Though he has managed to get home each summer since 2007, Stanley is excited to be staying in the States this summer. He is participating in his first U.S.-based internship at Microsoft Research in Mountain View, California, where he expects to be working on a research tool that can be used to capture contexts during videoconferences. After graduation and a few years of practical field experience, his goal is to return to Taiwan and secure a research-oriented teaching position in one of his country’s leading universities.

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