I can’t believe this may be one of my final grad school blog posts.
The last time I talked about my graduate project, I had announced that I had changed my project because the website was (and is) still not done yet. The website not being finished caused me to have to stay an extra semester, so when my project advisor saw a new usability study become available to do, she asked if I wanted to switch.
My new usability study project involved going in-person to my university’s usability lab to conduct a study on how people interpret charts and graphs. Participants used eye trackers for future analysis to see how their gaze affected interpretation, which we determined interpretation by having the students summarize the charts they saw. Did you know that eye trackers get calibrated before each use and wearing glasses may affect calibration? We had some technical difficulties with the eye tracker, so I couldn’t collect as much data. A professor I was working with tried data collection later and still had the same technical issue. It could be the age of the eye tracker, though. It’s not the latest version and I think this one was bought in 2013, before I graduated from my undergraduate program at another school.
This was the first time I conducted a usability study. I was supposed to do that as a group project in my Human-Computer Interaction class, but that class happened in the Spring 2020 semester. Yeah. I would be a big dream for that professor to raise my grade in that old class due to me doing this usability study. A girl can hope, can she? I just want that grade to be higher than a C since that was my only C in grad school.
My final step in the graduation project was the presentation. Whether you chose the thesis option, the project option, or the internship option, you still have to present what you did. Of course, people who did a thesis did what is called a thesis defense. A lot of people who do the project option are doing something on their own without collaborating with a professor. At my university, graduate project presentations involve three people in your presentation panel: your project advisor and two other people. For my panel, my other two panelists were the professor who directly worked with me (who was also my Human-Computer Interaction professor two years ago) and another professor whom I never met, but still does research on Human-Computer Interaction.
I had a time block of 30 minutes, with about 20 minutes to present and the rest of the time for questions and discussion. I was so nervous about the presentation because unlike class presentations when you present to the class and the teacher grades you, the presentation panel was made up of professors who do relevant research when they are not teaching. They know A LOT more about Human-Computer Interaction (sometimes initialized as HCI) than I ever will. It went better than I thought, and my advisor talked to me privately afterwards telling me that she could tell I am committed, write well, and have an obvious interest in the Human-Computer Interaction field. She told me that if I want to pursue a Doctorate degree, she will be more than happy to be my mentor.
Being told that I have what it takes to get a Doctorate is such a big deal to me. I struggled academically in undergrad due to not being diagnosed with autism yet. In retrospect, I could have put in more effort at times, so I can’t 100% blame my academic struggles on my autism. Just 90%. When we did our class presentations in my Human-Computer Interaction class, only a few people were encouraged to apply to the Doctorate program and I was not one of them. Honestly, at the time, I was thinking “I’m done after a Master’s”. I had (and still don’t have) an interest in being a professor and an undergraduate professor said it’s not worth it unless you only want to write scholarly articles. However, there is someone at my job with a Doctorate, my husband’s dad’s cousin just retired from being a director of a gifted program, and not everyone with a Doctorate becomes a professor. Besides, with me being autistic, I can bring new perspectives to the field of Human-Computer Interaction.
This has solidified my decision to eventually go back for a Doctorate. I kept going back and forth about whether I want to or not for the past year and I still sometimes worry about my husband not being okay with me being more educated than he is since he has a Master’s degree. There was a woman in one of my religion classes in undergrad who broke up with her fiancé because he didn’t want her to go back to school to get a Bachelor’s degree and she wanted to. Honestly, all I need is someone to believe in me, and my graduate project advisor is that person, just like I feel like I was able to finish undergrad because my advisor when I changed majors believed in me.
Next step: graduation.