NE-ASIS&T Travel Award – Student, 2018

I’m very excited to receive NE-ASIS&T Annual Travel Award for the Student category.  Here is the essay I wrote in order to receive the award:

Throughout my professional practice, ASIS&T has been an integral part of my research and my central source for networking opportunities. At the 2018 Annual Meeting, I plan on attending multiple panels, presentations, and networking events. Additionally, as past chair of SIG-DL and a member of the Publications Committee and SIG-SM, I plan on participating in leadership opportunities while at the Annual Meeting. I also will be assisting in presenting a panel while at the meeting. In addition, I will be meeting the next group of New Leaders, as I am completing my two years as an ASIS&T New Leader; I look forward to helping other professionals become further involved in ASIS&T through this program. All of these experiences are integral to my current and professional practice as they help me develop necessary skills, collaborate with others in the field, and meaningfully contribute to the information science community.

As new medical devices, software, and other tools emerge in the midst of expanding biomedical knowledge, there is a need for understanding how these tools impact users. Without knowing how people utilize information in medical environments, already under-served populations will continue to receive inadequate treatment and waste will continue in the medical industry as unsustainable and costly products are produced, but then not used to their full potential.

As a doctoral student working in bioinformatics and user experience, it is my hope that my research and practice will ultimately lead to improved usability of medical devices and, thereby, to better treatment of all patients regardless of income, age, or other factors. Currently, there is a dearth of research in the area of medical usability and user experience. It is my hope that my contributions will help expand the knowledge base for this subject. By better understanding the information needs of people who use medical software and other devices, improvements can be made that save people’s lives and help to address healthcare issues throughout the world.

My research and work thus far has indicated that, like most information science problems, bioinformatics issues can be addressed by usability testing. Explosive growth in the bioinformatics field has created interesting challenges; for example, system integrations are not just a technological issues, but ones that span sociopolitical factors. Information behavior research can also help address these challenges by addressing what information users need, how they seek it, and how they use it. Focusing on a specific group and describing the tasks and behavior of these individuals could have long-range benefits for designing improved tools for these subjects, as well as application to users in other disciplines. In the next year, I hope to complete my doctoral coursework and begin my dissertation, focusing on a series of usability and user-experience studies on a variety of medical devices. These will include my current project working with a piece of software being produced to assist a team of prescribers at a research hospital. This tool is intended to reduce cognitive overload, thereby leading to a decrease in improperly prescribed medications. My goal as a researcher is to continue contributing positively to the emergence of new medical technology as a member of other research teams. I am interested in working in a variety of environments throughout my career and hope that my work in these organizations positively impacts the wider community.

In his book Letters to a Young Scientist, entomologist Edward O. Wilson advises students, “The subject for you, as in any true love, is one in which you are interested and that stirs passion and promises pleasure from a lifetime of devotion” (52). This is what information science has been for me: a fertile environment for new explorations and engaging collaborations. In five years, after completing the Simmons doctoral program in Library and Information Science, I hope to resume the role of scholar-practitioner while continuing to address knowledge gaps in the biomedical informatics field through usability research and user testing.

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