Monica Zaczynski“My thesis was on video games! How awesome is that!?” exclaims Monica Zaczynski, a member of the first cohort to graduate in November with a master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).

The HCI program is unique, allowing students to specialize in one of three programs.

After working for a few years as a graphic designer, Zaczynski chose to pursue a Master’s of Applied Science in HCI that focuses on new media technology and design. “I wanted to contribute positively to society/community/people particularly with assistive devices.”

She notes that it was her supervisor, Dr. Anthony Whitehead, who pointed her in the direction of interactive gaming (Wii, Kinect, Playstation Move) for physiotherapy. Whitehead is known for his expertise on interactive gaming, particularly SNAP (sensor networks for active play).

Zaczynski’s thesis explores different ways to demonstrate and provide feedback for at-home physiotherapy exercise through video games. “Basically, if I hurt my knee and my physiotherapist wanted me to do exercises at home, I could use my Xbox Kinect to demonstrate, monitor accuracy, provide feedback and track my progress while making it fun!” explains Zaczynski.

Leah Zhang-KennedyAnother graduating student, Leah Zhang-Kennedy, also chose to pursue a Master of Applied Science in HCI.

Zhang-Kennedy says she was drawn to HCI because: “The program gives researchers and students, with a wide range of backgrounds, the opportunity to collaborate and conduct research. Everyone is able to bring their own expertise to the table, and together, it is possible to create something that is truly remarkable.”

Zhang-Kennedy was co-supervised by two leading researchers in usable security from the School of Computer Science, Dr. Robert Biddle and Dr. Sonia Chiasson, Canada Research Chair in Human-Oriented Computer Security. “Students from Dr. Biddle’s Hotsoft Lab and Dr. Chiasson’s CHORUS Lab closely collaborate on projects,” says Zhang-Kennedy.

Her research focuses on understanding computer security by altering user perceptions and improving user behaviours. Using her previous industry experience as an interaction designer for a marketing agency, she was able to design and build high quality interactive, web-based prototypes.

Adds Zhang-Kennedy: “The outcome of our research not only advances knowledge in the area of mental models of privacy and security, but produces tangible educational material that can be distributed to the public ( to help them protect their identity and resources in an online environment. This research is funded through NSERC ISSNet and OPC (Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada).

Zhang-Kennedy is now a PhD candidate in the School of Computer Science.

Zaczynski has already landed work in User Experience at a studio called Akendi. “With so many tech companies calling Ottawa and Kanata home, it’s no surprise a fantastic HCI/User Experience community sprouted here,” shares the grad student. “Carleton is lucky to have the opportunity to integrate and be at the core of such a community – something that sets it apart from other schools.”

More information about the HCI program, including two other areas of focus – a Master of Arts (MA) in HCI that emphasizes human factors and a Master of Computer Science in HCI can be found on the HCI website.

Both students graduated at Carleton’s fall convocation on Nov. 9.

You can read a story about other HCI grads on the Carleton Now e-magazine website.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 in , , ,
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