About Briana

Hey there! I’m an assistant professor of Computer Science and Cognitive and Learning Sciences at Michigan Technological University.

I study ways humans interact with computing technologies, and explore methods to optimize those interactions using user experience, human factors, and design based approaches.

My journey with computer science first began with “the box with the dragon on it” – seeing Pokemon Red Version in a store display case.

After becoming enamored with pixelated monsters, I became entranced in the world of Neopets, and wanted to learn to express myself through my user profile. I wrote out HTML code for my profile by hand before typing it in, and that little habit helped me start to recognize “how stuff works”.

I took the two programming classes our high school offered to learn even more about code and games, passionate about the idea of being able to be able to express myself through crafted digital worlds.

Image of Briana in a dress and blazer outside of a storefront display, which shows an artistic rendering of a brain above her head and a dialogue bubble shaped like a heart to her side.
“She’s got brains, she’s got heart”. – Exploring the fashion district in London during ITiCSE ’19 travel.
Image of Briana in a blazer smiling from a cardboard cutout she is holding up. The cutout is designed to look like a Buzzfeed article, with a title that says "1 Photo from Grace Hopper That Will Make You Say OMG!"
Photo ops at my second ever GHC (’17), where I attended as a Google Scholar!

When I was in university (the same university I work at now!), I became unsure if computer science was “right” for me.
My small town had given me no real stereotypes of programming. Though I was considered a bit of a nerd and a tomboy, programming was never indicated as something I “shouldn’t” do. At university, my artistic, bubbly, and expressive nature clashed with the stereotypes some of my peers had brought. The barrage of “why are you in this major?” started to wear on me – and I wasn’t sure if I was where I was meant to be.

Thankfully, an amazing mentor helped me carve my path and supported my interdisciplinary interests. I became inspired by and invested in the field of user experience. I developed my own “Application Area” in my Computer Science degree surrounding the topic, and went on to work in industry as a UX consultant. I championed UX and its processes, both with my clients and in mentoring and workshops during my time in industry.

When it came time for a change, I asked myself what I loved about my job: the research and design, public speaking, and teaching all came to mind.
I realized then what many of my university mentors had seemed to know from the start: academia was the fit for me.

I returned to the same university I had carved my own path in to pursue my PhD.
Once again, I was “outside the box” and interdisciplinary in my approach.

As my PhD neared completion, the application I was most hopeful about was the one to my own university. I loved the area, I loved what I had accomplished and the colleagues I had made, and I loved the idea of what I could give back and grow in this place that had become my home.
And? I loved the idea of being the person someone who was like me could look up to and get support from, just like I had all those years ago.

My hopes were answered.
I’m currently on my tenure-track here, with all of my fingers and toes crossed that I’ll succeed and make positive impacts along the way.

My research blends all of the interdisciplinary loves I have woven together through the years.

I am just as passionate as my young self was about expressing myself in digital worlds – but now I am dedicated to helping others find themselves in those worlds and to find the drive to create their own worlds as well.

The work I do is human-centered, targeting aspects on and off the screen that can affect perceptions of and use of technology. I explore the ways people think and feel about technology, computing, and programming, and apply my user experience design background to these discoveries.

Image of Briana seated in a garden gazebo with hanging and floor set planters surrounding her. Over the railing, a view of the city nestled into the Troodos Mountains.
Overlooking the Troodos Mountains outside of a candying shop in Cyprus during ITiCSE ’18.

My goal is to empower humans to understand and interact with computing technologies, and to make computing relevant, accessible, and engaging in our increasingly digital and data-driven world.