A multi-million dollar gift for human-computer interaction research

New 5 million USD gift from Patricia Bao ’13 Ph.D. will continue research at Northwestern University on the future of technology and its ability to improve people’s lives around the world. Bao’s gift will support collaboration between the Northwest Center for Human-Computer Interaction and Design (HCI + D), McCormick University School of Engineering and the School of Communication (SoC).

Founded in 2020 In September, HCI + D brings together researchers and practitioners from across the Northwest to explore, create and develop the future of human-computer interaction at home, work and games. The gift will expand the center and strengthen its capacity for innovative technology research leading to a more collaborative, sustainable and equitable society.

“This generous gift from alumni Patti Bao – the greatest gift ever from the Center for Human-Computer Interaction and Design – allows us to explore the true potential of technology,” said Patrick Johnson, dean of SoC and professor at Annenberg University. “I want to thank Patti for her extraordinary philanthropy, which will allow her to do this important research for many years to come.

Specifically, the gift will give the Bao family human-computer interaction profession SoC, and the funds will be allocated to an exclusive faculty member. The grant will also cover the Centre’s administrative costs and a fund will be set up to support the Center as a whole, including but not limited to areas such as staff, student recruitment and retention, travel grants and cutting-edge research initiatives.

“Patti’s inspiring gift strengthens Northwestern’s position as a world leader in monumental research,” said Darren Gergle, professor of communication studies and one of HCI + D’s directors. “The centre’s work identifies the university as a place where government, technology and business leaders from around the world – not to mention prospective undergraduate and graduate students – come first to find answers to the growing challenges in this area.

Gergle, who runs the center along with fellow directors Elizabeth Gerber and Bryan Pardo, worked as an advisor to Bao when she attended Northwestern High School. Bao’s philanthropy was inspired by her connection to Gergle and trust in his leadership, as well as her belief in the work of the center and her desire to devote herself to her alma mater.

“Darren has taken advantage of many new graduates to create a space where we can explore any idea, make lifelong connections, and help improve human-computer interaction,” Bao said. “Finding such a mentor is invaluable, and I can’t imagine better hands to help guide the future of the Center for Human-Computer Interaction and Design.

A former UX researcher at Google Bao holds a Ph.D. in Technology and Social Behavior from Northwestern and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research included the development of tools to help people interact more effectively with visual information, with a particular focus on multilingual applications and visual analysis. She currently lives in the Bay Area with her family.

Godfrey Kemp

"Bacon fanatic. Social media enthusiast. Music practitioner. Internet scholar. Incurable travel advocate. Wannabe web junkie. Coffeeaholic. Alcohol fanatic."

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