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My name is Natalie Russell, and I’m a junior from Nashville, Tennessee studying Psychology and Computer Science.  At UNC, I am heavily involved in emotion research with the Carolina Affective Sciences Lab led by Dr. Kristen Lindquist.  Our lab investigates many of the aspects of emotional experiences, including biofeedback, language, emotional intelligence, and culture.  My involvement has centered around the linguistic underpinnings of learning and experiencing emotion in children and young adults.  I am also an undergraduate teaching assistant with the UNC Computer Science Department and with Girls Who Code, which is an organization that encourages middle and high school girls to pursue their interest in programming and other STEM fields.  Overall, my interests lie at the intersection of psychology and technology: it is hard to understand each other as humans without considering the technological environment in which we find ourselves today.  Creating technology based on the mechanisms of the human mind is a fast-growing and incredibly important field, and I hope that the work I do this semester as a Gil Intern will give me a greater understanding of it.

As a Gil Intern, I am working on a User Experience team at Lenovo, which is a computer manufacturer based in Morrisville, North Carolina.  As a computer manufacturing company, one of Lenovo’s essential tasks is understanding the people they make technology for—not only who they are, but also how they work—and this is the basis of user experience research.  In general, a user experience team has two main functions.  First, they are responsible for evaluating the company’s current line of products based on data from user reports and interviews.  As part of this research, users come into the research office and interact with a product, giving both quantitative and qualitative data regarding the device’s usability, accessibility, and other aspects of the design.  Secondly, the team is involved in imagining solutions to the problems of the future.  This research looks different than the research on user perception of existing products because the product does not exist yet!  Participants come into the office for workshops in which they discuss the problems they face in their daily lives and what types of technology might benefit them or solve their problems.

Last week was my first week on the job, but I have already learned so much about the industry and the research process in a business setting.  For the rest of the semester, I will be helping researchers and designers with planning products and collecting user data.  I hope to use my knowledge of Psychology and Computer Science to provide educated and insightful solutions to the concerns of the User Experience team.  Megan Frankosky, my mentor, is also encouraging me to take on a research project of my own!  I look forward to taking full advantage of this opportunity and many others during my semester with Lenovo.

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