Questions about how people make sense of and engage with their personal genomic information, and how comfortable they feel about sharing it in order to advance scientific and biomedical research, are not only of paramount importance for society and policy makers, but also a pressing issue for HCI researchers. This summer, in collaboration with the Personal Genomics Project out of the Harvard Medical School, the Wellesley Human Computer Interaction Lab is researching how to design effective interaction techniques for non-experts with personal genomic information. The Wellesley PGP team is also exploring whether user interface design interventions impact users’ willingness to share their personal genomic data.
The Wellesley PGP team consists of four students, Laura Ascher, Joanna Bi, Claire Schlenker, and Elizabeth Stowell, under the direction of Dr. Orit Shaer. Wellesley PGP has also been collaborating with Claire Cerda, a rising senior, sociology major, and student researcher for Dr. Darakhshan Mir, to brainstorm about privacy concerns related to the sharing of genomic data. In addition, we have also collaborated with Dr. Oded Nov and his team from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University to brainstorm about the direction of our project and to launch the initial phases of our research. They have been a great resource as we have pushed towards deploying our first Amazon Mechanical Turk study, exploring how different visualizations of PGP data affect user’s understanding of their results. This wide-reaching and interdisciplinary team has really enjoyed collaborating together and coming up with unique routes of exploration for this project. Having a diverse group of students and professors has allowed this team to expand the scope of their study while focusing on one of the most central questions in Human Computer Interactions: how to make information accessible and interactive.