Mynatt Selected as New ACM Fellow

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Beth Mynatt

Mynatt Selected as New ACM Fellow

Alyson Powell
December 15, 2015
The world's leading computing society has named IPaT Executive Director Beth Mynatt a new Fellow for her significant contribution to the development and application of computing. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) selected Mynatt for her work in human-centered computing and the development of health information technologies.

"It is a distinct honor to be included as part of such as distinguished cohort of computing researchers, including many ACM Fellows here in the College of Computing," she said.

In a news release, ACM President Alexander L. Wolf said, “Whether they work in leading universities, corporations, or research laboratories, these newly minted ACM Fellows are responsible for the breakthroughs and industrial innovations that are transforming society at every level. At times, the contributions of a Fellow may include enhancements to a device that immediately impacts our daily lives. At other times, new research discoveries lead to theoretical advances that, while perhaps not immediately perceptible, have substantial long-term impacts.”

Mynatt established her Everyday Computing Lab at Georgia Tech in 1999. Her lab investigates emerging interaction techniques, research methods, and applications that are compelling and effective in a world where computing technologies are ubiquitously available yet integrated into the social fabric of everyday life. Mynatt’s focus on everyday computing requires understanding people in the context of their everyday lives, so she often assembles multidisciplinary teams with psychologists, designers, and healthcare workers.

Her early work was with the everyday use of computing in the home, emphasizing new forms of social and cognitive support for families grappling with stresses of everyday life. Mynatt teamed with other Georgia Tech faculty to create the Aware Home research initiative, including charting its Aging in Place research agenda. This work led to her Digital Family Portrait project, which became the Aging in Place focal point and brought international attention to the Aware Home efforts. The Aware Home informed considerable subsequent academic and industrial research and is still frequently cited. Recently, Mynatt chaired a multi-agency workshop charting a renewed research agenda for aging in place. She is also a member of the PCAST working group writing a report, due later this year, detailing national actions needed to support successful aging.

In the past decade, Mynatt has turned her attention to the role of ubiquitous computing in health. She worked with a number of partners including Columbia Medical and CDC to understand the design and adoption of socio-technical computer-based systems that enable people to alter their behavior as a means to improve their health. Behavior change is the topmost goal in chronic disease management and prevention; medical treatments are severely limited in their efficacy if not accompanied with significant lifestyle changes. A multi-year, NSF-funded effort culminated in a mobile diabetes management system whose users were found to be more likely to proactively manage their diabetes and were more likely to create personalized diet plans that met clinical standards. Subsequent work, now funded by the NIH, continues to make strides in creating web and mobile systems that successfully increase patient engagement in tasks such as user-driven problem solving, effective goal setting, and sustainable behavior change.

Mynatt now leads the MyJourney Compass project to create personalized and adaptive support for breast cancer patients delivered through personal tablet computers. Work from the first two years of this project has already been widely published at CHI, CSCW and Pervasive Health. It continues with a recently $1.7 million grant from NIH’s National Cancer Institute as part of the NSF/NIH Smart and Connected Health Program.

In addition to her HCC-focused research program, Mynatt has created interdisciplinary research centers that connect computing research across many multidisciplinary boundaries with a human-centered computing framework. Mynatt very successfully revitalized Georgia Tech’s GVU Center during her 2005-2010 directorship. During those five years, she transformed GVU’s research agenda with a mission to “unlock human potential through technical innovation”; invigorated multi-disciplinary partnerships, more than doubling the number of faculty in the center; and aggressively pursued industry partnerships given lagging federal funds.

Mynatt currenly serves as the Executive Director of the Institute for People and Technology (IPaT). In her role, she leads a portfolio of human-centered computing research activities focused on industry sectors in health and humanitarian systems, consumer media and education. IPaT is now one of the largest of the ten campus Interdisciplinary Research Institutes (IRIs), working with over 30 industry, federal and nonprofit partners, and supporting over $25 million in annual research activity. Mynatt’s human-centered computing agenda has attracted over 100 academic and applied faculty to work with IPaT and its growing list of partners.

Overall, Mynatt has demonstrated consistent leadership in expanding computing research to meet the evolving needs and potential of people across a wide range of settings and outstanding leadership service activities to ACM and to the computing community.

In 2007, Mynatt joined the Computing Community Consortium (CCC), the CCC executive council in 2013, and became vice-chair in 2014. Mynatt will chair the CCC through June 2018.

Mynatt served as general chair of the 2010 ACM CHI conference, with 2300 participants from more than 40 countries. Earlier she chaired ACM UIST’98 and ICAD’97 (International Conference on Auditory Displays).

She has served on industry advisory boards, including Microsoft Research’s TAB, as a leader in HCI, human-centered computing and ubiquitous computing.

Shortly after joining Georgia Tech, Mynatt assumed leadership of the HCI MS program. Already a unique program combining computing, psychology and design, she worked to make it the best in the nation by emphasizing practical yet cutting edge research experience. Graduates of this program lead in HCI across many companies and industries.

Mynatt played an active role in creating and directing a new Human-Centered Computing (HCC) PhD program, with roots in psychology, cognitive science, sociology, anthropology and computing. She co-led the first and last faculty committees during the process of designing the degree program; led the process of getting the degree approved; then coordinated the degree for several years. With two colleagues, she designed and taught two of the three required HCC “core” courses. This “young” degree program garnered national attention by peer universities and has recruited and produced an extremely strong group of Georgia Tech graduates now in faculty positions at CMU, Columbia, Michigan, Colorado, Northeastern, Minnesota, Drexel, Maryland, Georgetown, and West Point.

Both the HCI MS and HCC PhD programs have continued to influence and inform similar programs nationally and internationally.

ACM will formally recognize the 2015 Fellows at an awards banquet to be held in June in San Francisco, which Mynatt will attend with her family. Additional information about the 2015 ACM Fellows, the awards event, as well as previous ACM Fellows and award winners is available on the ACM website.

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