Shirley Shabnam is a 4th-year Computer Science major studying human-computer interaction with Dr. Andrea Parker and Dr. Sonia Chernova.


A photo of Shirley


How long have you been an undergraduate researcher at Georgia Tech?

I started in my second year at Tech. It has a little over two years, spanning two labs and 4+ projects.

How did you get involved with undergraduate research?

The College of Computing piloted a program titled Helen Fellows in the Spring of 2022 for gender non-conforming people and women in computing. There was a competitive application process, and I was honored to be a part of the first cohort of Helen Fellows. The program is in collaboration with NCWIT and funded by the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. I was paired with Dr. Andrea Parker who paved the way for my introduction to computing research. Dr. Parker’s lab, The Wellness Technology Lab, was a perfect fit for me. I got to work on health equity projects that centered Black women’s maternal wellbeing in Georgia using community-based mobile health interventions.

What are you working on?

Currently, I am working on my undergraduate thesis for the Junior Design Research Option. (You should consider it!) My thesis focuses on indigeneity, social justice and decolonizing trauma-informed design for computing that centers healing. I happen to be recruiting Tech students of color right now for my Participatory Design workshop. The workshop will entail speculating just utopian futures in our technological world with a goal of centering trauma-healing for people of the Global Majority. I know this all sounds confusing and maybe a little fake, but I promise it’s a step in my scheme to indigenize HCI research.

This year, I am also continuing as a Helen Fellow with Dr. Sonia Chernova to provide unique perspectives in developing care for people at high risk for dementia. At Undergraduate Research Ambassadors, I am in the Events Committee. We are working diligently to put together the Fall Research Fair for you. Make sure to RSVP! For the Spring, I am preparing to run for VP of Events so I can curate more cool events for students.


Planning for Shirley's project, including note taking.


What is your favorite thing about research/researching?

A major deciding factor of my attending Georgia Tech was the undergraduate research scene. I have to say my research community in the School of Interactive Computing has not only lived up to, but exceeded my expectations. The intersectionality and interdisciplinary approaches to computing research takes the top spot in my list of favorite things about research. From Decolonial HCI to Afrofuturistic Speculative Design, I feel that I’ve found my place at Tech. Research has given me a platform for activism and advocacy within academia, as well as giving me purpose and meaning in my Computer Science education. My research gives me so much to look forward to specifically with the impact I could make in my communities.

What are your future plans and how has research influenced them?

Having the opportunity to work as a Helen Fellow has shaped the trajectory of my career plans. Dr. Parker and my PhD mentors Adrian and Sherilyn have been amazing influences in my research journey. My immediate future plan is to complete my current research project for my thesis, and submit to the ACM CSCW Conference for a publication. (I should be writing.)

Next year, I will be applying to PhD programs in Human-Centered Computing and Social Computing. My goals is to continue staying, learning and growing in academia. Ideally, I would be working in a full-time research position with some teaching components. Can’t wait to make it happen, wish me luck!