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Communication Studies Senior Conducts Research with Carnegie Mellon University

Communication studies senior Allie Blaising was one of 20 students in the U.S. selected as research intern in the Human Computer Interaction lab at Carnegie Mellon University last summer. She worked alongside a doctoral student and a faculty advisor to conduct qualitative research on the intersection between psychology and human computer interaction.

Blaising had been looking for an opportunity to conduct research to prepare her for graduate school, and communication studies professor David Askay suggested she apply for the program.

“I’m interested in where technology intersects with the social sciences,” said Blaising. “It felt like a perfect fit.”

Communication studies student Allie Blaising
Allie Blaising 

As the only liberal arts major in the program, surrounded by STEM researchers, Blaising felt out of place. At first, the difference between her communications background and her colleagues’ STEM background seemed daunting. She soon learned, however, that this difference made her an asset to the lab.

“The internship taught me the importance of embracing the ambiguity of my liberal arts classes. I used to be constantly searching for a right or wrong answer in my work. But over the summer, I found that one of my greatest assets according to my research advisor was that I was able to navigate the ambiguity of a complex problem on my own,” said Blaising.

As the only communications major in the internship program, graduate students often called on Blaising for advice on ways to move forward with a project from a liberal arts perspective. Her understanding of how groups function and how organizations work was valuable to the research team.

Askay wasn’t surprised to hear this. “Elite institutions in computer science and engineering value liberal arts. Carnegie Mellon selected her because of that,” said Askay. “Carnegie Mellon is in the forefront of engineering and computer science, and they understand that there’s a meshing of liberal arts and communication psychology that is a part of technological systems.”

Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Mellon University

According to Askay, the interdisciplinary collaboration allowed for research that was useful across many fields in human computer interaction. “They found some great insights that benefitted both disciplines. I see that model as something that should be emulated and praised. Some of the greatest research and innovations come through these diverse collaborations,” he said.

For Blaising, the experience gave her a better idea of how her education will apply to her future research and career endeavors.

“It’s interesting now to see how what I’m learning in my courses applies to my future. It’s easier now to study and solidify what I’m learning, because I understand how it’s going to be applied in the real world,” said Blaising. “Understanding the purpose has given me a big picture perspective and purpose in my work. It’s taught me that the skills we learn here really are going to apply to the future.”

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