Computer Scientist Uses Creativity to Teach Computer Skills

computer scientist Wanda Eugene
Wanda Eugene (Image credit: NSF.)

This ScienceLives article was provided to Live Science in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

As a child, Wanda Eugene's mischievous scientific curiosity might have landed her a few "timeouts." But as an adult her multi-disciplinary scientific interests have helped her earn prestigious degrees — specifically, a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Florida State University, two master's degrees, and a Ph.D. in computer science and software engineering from Auburn University in 2011.

While working towards her doctorate, Eugene conducted research in the Human Centered Computing Lab in the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department at Auburn University — focusing on how cultural, social and personal surroundings affect how people acquire computer skills.

This training has helped Eugene design technology interfaces that can be adapted to a user's knowledge and surroundings. For example, Eugene's dissertation, Culture Based Computing for Adult Learners, incorporated cultural norms into the design of a computing system that was easier for adult learners to understand. "I look at people's everyday needs and the way they interact with things in their lives," she says. "How do we build that into computing so that it meets them where they are?"

In addition, in 2010, Eugene was an NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer Institute Fellow. While abroad, she helped to apply cultural computing to the lifestyles of Australian aborigines. [Computer Scientists Bring Digital World to Bronx Kids ]

Although Eugene now considers herself a "proud, goofy geek," her first love had been the theater. Therefore, Eugene surprised many people who knew her by pursuing a career in computer science. For Eugene, however, being a computer scientist is not much different from working in the theater. "It is a different way to use creativity," she explains.

Wanda believes that being a computer scientist is akin to being a detective chasing down Carmen Sandiego, the popular computer game villain. To find out why she thinks so, watch the accompanying video.

Name: Wanda Eugene Institution: Florida State University Field of Study: computer science

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