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UMSI Awards & Honors: March 2024

Recent UMSI awards and honors.

Tuesday, 03/26/2024

University of Michigan School of Information researchers are addressing real-world problems through their work. Each day, UMSI faculty and PhD students are thinking through complex issues like privacy and security, the ethics of artificial intelligence, how best to use technology to leverage better health outcomes and meaningful practices for archiving works from marginalized communities. 

Their accomplishments are recognized both nationally and internationally. See their most recent achievements below. 

University of Michigan School of Information lecturer III and research investigator Elle O’Brien has earned a 2024 research grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s Technology program. 

Over the next three years, O’Brien will investigate how scientists in many areas of research are adapting to newly available generative tools for programming. 

“At a high level, a very serious question facing all of science is ‘how will we ensure that our code — especially code with generated components — is sound enough to draw conclusions from?” she says. “I hope to look at ‘what's happening’ right now for scientists who write code as part of their work, using a variety of methods to get  a full picture of the opportunities and risks.’”

O’Brien teaches in the Master of Applied Data Science program at UMSI. She says she is most excited to research this topic in a critical way. 

“I'm so grateful to have the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the School of Information, and the Michigan Institute for Data Science to carry out this research,” she says. “Getting to work on this right now feels like one of the most interesting topics I could ever hope to research.” 

UMSI alumni Yixin Zou earned a 2024 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI) award under the “Outstanding Dissertation” category. 

During her PhD at UMSI, Zou was advised by UMSI associate professor Florian Schaub. Her research focuses on online privacy protective behaviors. 

“Zou’s research and PhD work have been excellent and it's really, really exciting that her work is getting recognized with the SIGCHI Outstanding Dissertation Award,” Schaub says. “It's a huge acknowledgement of the quality and the value of the work she's been doing, and as her adviser, it's been great to see her grow into this talented researcher.” 

During her time at UMSI, Zou researched data breaches, how consumers react to breaches and how companies can prevent data breaches. After graduating with her PhD in Information from UMSI, Zou moved to Germany, where she is currently a tenure-track faculty member at the Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy. Zou graduated in 2022. 

“When I think about my time at UMSI, I really think about the community,” she says. “Both from the research level and my cohort, who I’m still connected to and offered such great peer support.” 

UMSI clinical assistant professor Mustafa Naseem earned a 2024 Center for Global Health Equity seed grant. Naseem’s project will investigate instances of gender-based violence in digital spaces on college campuses in Pakistan. 

“We’re trying to measure the prevalence of this violence, how often it happens to college students and to try to understand, qualitatively, the impact it has on the victim,” Naseem says. “To our knowledge, no prevalent study has been previously done in a country like Pakistan and the numbers and impact vary compared with the west.” 

Naseem will partner with researchers from UM’s School of Nursing, the School of Public Health and Agha Khan University in Pakistan to get an understanding of the social and physical consequences of this abuse. 

“What is considered abuse in a western context is different in other parts of the world,” Naseem says. “What would be considered taboo in Pakistan may not violate META’s terms and conditions, but may still have an adverse effect on the victim.” 

Naseem says he’s excited about the interdisciplinary nature of the research, its direct policy impact and to research a topic that has not been looked at with this depth before. 

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to be at Michigan and have the ability to partner with brilliant colleagues who are looking at issues from different angles,” he says. “I’m excited to learn from them and research these topics on a global scale.” 

University of Michigan School of Information postdoctoral research fellow Byron M. Lowens and UMSI PhD candidate Jane Im presented at the 2024 Federal Trade Commission PrivacyCon earlier this month. 

The conference brings together a diverse group of researchers, academics, industry representatives, consumer advocates and government regulators to discuss the latest research and trends related to consumer privacy and data security.

Invitations to present at PrivacyCon are highly selective and offer a unique opportunity to share research findings with government regulators and policymakers.

Lowens presented on a panel about consumer attitudes and behaviors. He has a background in computer science and human-computer interaction. His research  investigates privacy issues in a variety of contexts, such as wearable health technologies, people’s reactions to data breaches and how privacy concerns lead to disparate outcomes for marginalized populations.

Im presented on a panel about privacy enhancing technologies and design analysis. As a human-computer interaction researcher, Im designs and builds social computing systems (e.g., social media, workplace software) grounded in consent and the protection of user information. 


— Noor Hindi, UMSI public relations specialist