Convocation Spotlight: Naghmi Shireen

June 10, 2020
About Naghmi

Where to begin! Those who know me also know that it took eight years for me to finish my PhD studies at SFU. A lot happened during this time, including the birth of our two beautiful girls, launch of a fashion-tech Startup, a painful year through sickness and several other forays. When I look back, it seems I grew, aged, unraveled mysteries of life (I mean really! NOT), fell and got back up and completed my PhD. Yet the impressions left on me by these memorable experiences that I gathered and the astounding relationships I developed over the years have made me what I am today. Proud and humbled, thankful and awed.

Something that is worth mentioning about my time at SIAT and honestly kept me going was the positive and encouraging environment. At SIAT, particularly at Computational Design Lab, I always found support and encouragement to explore, and produce original and authentic research ideas. I am quite fortunate to have worked with Dr. Halil Erhan and Dr. Robert Woodbury—my supervisors and mentors—who provided me with tremendous opportunities to grow and gave me confidence to present my work at prestigious academic venues. 

About Naghmi's research

When I came to SIAT, I had but a notion of what my research would be and yet the school and its esteemed faculty groomed me to be a disciplined researcher and be able to contribute substantively to the overall knowledge domain.

My PhD work involves studying designers working through wicked design problems using the technological support and tools available today. More specifically, my research explores designers' search behaviour while navigating through a large number of design alternatives. Although increased computing capabilities and availability of large screen displays has afforded opportunity to generate multiple designs, current digital design tools still only allow designers to work with single state models. My research work at Computational Design Lab at SIAT presents an observational study to understand the implications of designers working with a large gallery of design alternatives. Based on the results from the experiment, I present spatial metaphors for gallery-like interfaces with thousands of designs.

I have also explored few interface implementations as part of my PhD work and in collaboration with researchers from other institutes. 

Why did you choose SIAT?

I chose SIAT because of the excellence of its faculty, the interdisciplinary nature of the school, and its position as avant-garde in its research. When I started looking for grad schools, SIAT was one of the few schools I found where every lab and its research intrigued me. I wanted to be part of them all. 

The school is full of opportunities, ingenuity, and a mix of remarkably inspiring people and environment. It makes you push yourself to do better and to be your best. 

How did your studies in SIAT fit into your future goals?

I have always imagined myself to be an academician, yet, I also want to defy norms and challenge myself. I want to explore my passion for educational empowerment through innovation and community engagement. I don’t know exactly where my next quest will lead me, but I am positive that what I have learned from my time at SIAT will enable me to push boundaries and make a difference.

What was the highlight of your graduate experience?

One of the top highlights for me was when I was asked to lead an undergraduate course the very first time. This was a huge thing for me, since the course was previously taught by veteran professors who are at the pinnacle of their fields. I am still awed and flattered thinking of the moment when I was asked to lead this course. I had such fun redesigning, reorganizing, researching and teaching that course, and got the opportunity to do it multiple times after that.

Any advice for prospective students considering pursuing a graduate degree in SIAT?

Find your passion in things you do. Life will demand your time on many things but if you are passionate about something, you WILL find time and focus for it and still rock other things.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience in SIAT?

SIAT is a great place to explore and learn more from all the different disciplines that shape the school. We have variety of technologies, different equipment in the library to experiment with, great researchers and faculty members in SIAT each with vey interesting perspectives. The grad study program is a unique opportunity for grad students to learn from and grow.