PhD student profile: Sangseok You

Sangseok You

Sangseok You: Finding real world applications for virtual experiences

The philosophy of first-year doctoral student Sangseok You is fully in line with the UMSI mission when he states: “I firmly believe that computers and information can help build a better world by influencing the human mind. I want to change the world by improving the interaction between people using information technology.”

His education prior to entering the PhD program reflects his evolving interest in information study. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees at Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University, where he earned a BA in mass communications, a BBA in business administration, and an MS in interaction science, or human-computer interaction. As a foreign exchange student in Sweden during college, he had his first experience with virtual teams and information behavior, working on project teams with members from multi-national corporations. That sparked an interest in the social aspects of information technology.

His master’s thesis focused on embodied perception in a virtual environment, namely the online virtual world Second Life — where he conducted experiments with 120 subjects to discover how people related to and reflected the characteristics of their avatars.

Sangseok got his first real taste of life in the United States as a visiting researcher at Penn State in 2011, sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. In research he conducted there, he found that Facebook friendships created a sense of community and support that reduced users’ perceptions of stress and threat in the real world.

This experience led to Sangseok’s decision to pursue a doctoral degree in this country. At UMSI he found an ideal match for his research interests with his two advisors. “Soo Young Rieh is an expert in information behavior, and Lionel Robert is an expert on virtual teams and collaborations,” he says. “Since I’m interested in studying people’s information behavior on virtual teams and in virtual environments, these two are an ideal combination to guide my research.”

While information science occupies much of his time, Sangseok has an actual “second life” as an author. A short stint in journalism just after university led to a project that resulted in his first published book, a collection of conversations with 30 highly successful people sharing tips on How to Win an Interview. He’s now writing a series of five books he describes as part novel, part essay — stories based on his own personal history.

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