research statement

At a time of unprecedented challenges facing society, we need to develop strategies for collective innovation where we engage many diverse stakeholders to generate ideas, provide feedback, and co-create better, more inclusive outcomes. Design can no longer be seen as a solitary endeavor where a designer, through pure force of talent, improves a product or service, and then hands it off to a community of use.

Our work combines research in design thinking, crowdsourcing, and decision making to create novel social technologies that motivate participation and organize people around complex problems in civics, healthcare, climate change, and education. Our research investigates the underlying social and cognitive mechanisms that impact how different groups — from local communities, to classrooms of students, to online crowds — tackle complex problems creatively and collaboratively.

Technology has not only transformed how we share information, but how we collaborate to solve complex problems. As part of our research process in our lab, we observe how groups appropriate technology to serve their goals, we conceptually model collaborative processes, and we design and test novel systems that explore opportunities for how people can work together. Ultimately, our research seeks to deepen our understanding of how the creative process works, to improve design practice for teams, and to teach design more effectively to larger audiences.

I currently seek PhD applicants with diverse backgrounds in cognitive science, computing, design, or related disciplines to join our effort here in beautiful San Diego. Apply if you're interested in creating and empirically investigating socio-computational systems that engage large groups of people in collective innovation.

For prospective PhD students who might want to work with me in sunny San Diego:
  • Please reach out to me and let me know your interests!
  • Students with Computer Science backgrounds should apply to CSE.
  • Students with more diverse backgrounds should apply through Cognitive Science.
  • Make sure to list my name as a prospective advisor in your application and research statement. Both programs mentioned above allow for research rotations so you can explore different potential advisors after you arrive.
For all others, we currently have research opportunities available in the ProtoLab. If any of these projects interest you, get in touch with the project leader or contact me by email (spdow at ucsd dot edu).