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Alex Ahmed is a PhD student in the Personal Health Informatics program at Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science, advised by Professor Matthew Goodwin. Alex studied cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, biology, and programming at the University of California, San Diego. While there, Alex worked with Gedeon Deak studying cognitive development and joint attention sharing in infants and young toddlers, and with Gentry Patrick studying the regulation of the ubiquitin-proteasome system. After graduating, Alex was awarded the Yale Computational Neuroscience Fellowship and moved to New Haven to work with Brent Vander Wyk at the Child Study Center where she used fMRI techniques to measure brain activations to social stimuli in children with autism. She then joined the Machine Perception Lab at the University of California, San Diego as a Research Associate. There, Alex worked under the mentorship of Marian Bartlett on a project that used computer face recognition and machine learning to categorize instances of post-operative pain in children. She also worked with Leanne Chukoskie on gathering behavioral and physiological data from video games.
So far at Northeastern, Alex has been involved in on-site research using robotic teddy bears at Boston Children’s Hospital and worked with Rick Palumbo on developing window analysis algorithms for skin conductance data. In 2015, she was awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to support her current doctoral work. In 2017, Ahmed was a featured speaker at the Diversity and Inclusion lunch at CHI 2017. Her long-term research interests involve the development and distribution of patient-facing health technology to marginalized and under-served communities.
- BS in Cognitive Science and Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego
- Hometown: Fremont, California
- Field of Study: Personal Health Informatics
- PhD Advisor: Matthew Goodwin
What are the specifics of your graduate education (thus far)?
I have taken courses in research methods, mobile application development, affective computing, health behavior theory, human-computer interaction, and interface design.
What are your research interests?
I cannot imagine working on a project unless it has clear connections to and implications for real-world problems. My research path, and my life in general, changed completely after I came out as transgender. It became so obvious that the vast majority of the academic and tech world ignores the needs and experiences of women, ethnic minorities, and trans individuals.
What’s one problem you’d like to solve with your research/work?
I would like to create something useful for an under-served minority group, with the active participation of that group. My thesis project will involve the development and creation of a voice coaching mobile app for trans individuals.
What aspect of what you do is most interesting?
I am interested in the prospect of meeting and building relationships with trans people, and translating their varied experiences into a design for an app that will cater to our needs.
What are your research or career goals, going forward?
My goal is to contribute to a growing, but still small, field of human-computer interaction research that is primarily motivated by social justice issues.
Where did you grow up or spend your most defining years?
I grew up in Northern California.
Where did you study for your undergraduate degree?
I chose to study in San Diego, in part because of the amazing burritos.