Diane Gromala

Professor & Canada Research Chair (CRC)

Education

  • PhD, Computer Science, Human Computer Interaction, University of Plymouth, UK (2007)
  • MFA, Graduate Studies in Design, Yale University (1990)
  • BFA, Design & Photography, University of Michigan (1982), University Honors

Biography

Diane Gromala, PhD, is Canada Research Chair in Computational Technologies for Transforming Pain, and the Founding Director of the Chronic Pain Research Institute and the Pain Studies Lab at Simon Fraser University. She is a Full Professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT), and formerly developed transdisciplinary technology curricula as a faculty member at Georgia Tech/LCC/GVU, the University of Washington/HITLab and the University of Texas.

Dr. Gromala pioneered the use of immersive virtual reality (VR) for chronic pain and its sequelae, and is investigating the potential roles of VR technology, digital media content and embodiment in discovering the mechanisms of VR’s well-known efficacy in reducing pain. Dr. Gromala emphasizes an evidence-based, biopsychosocial approach to the design of VR systems that includes patients, their health experts and other stakeholders from inception to participatory design and validation in clinical trials. Working closely with a team of pain and other clinical experts, neuroscientists, and computer scientists, she designs VR systems that integrate neuro- and biosensors and captures, tracks, visualizes and displays patients’ data for long-term therapeutic purposes in clinical and home contexts. Dr. Gromala’s industry experience at Apple Computer in the 1980s informs her emphasis on human-centred computing, ease-of-use and clinical turnkey systems.

From 2011–2014, Dr. Gromala was the Director of Health Research in the Canada-wide research network GRAND, a National Centre for Excellence (NCE), and is currently a member of the AGE-WELL NCE. Dr. Gromala’s research is funded by NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) in Canada, and the NSF (National Science Foundation) and the NIH (National Institutes of Health) in the U.S.

With media theorist Jay Bolter, Dr. Gromala authored the book Windows and Mirrors, published by the MITPress in four languages. She is the author of numerous scientific and design publications with real-world impact in clinical and educational environments. The recipient of many awards from national and international organizations, Dr. Gromala’s work has been featured in the media including the Discovery Channel, Discover magazine, The New York Times, the BBC and CNN. The innovative nature of her research was one of the first to be flagged by Google’s Solve for-X.

Recently, with colleagues Dr. Faranak Farzan (Mechatronics) and Dr. Sylvain Moreno (SIAT), Dr. Gromala won the Grand Prize at Stanfords Innovation Lab at the 3rd Annual Innovations in Psychiatry and Behavioral Health: VR and Behavior Change Conference in October, 2017.

Research Interests and Keywords

Chronic Pain, Pain Modulation, Biopsychosocial Methodologies, Immersive VR, Embodiment, Body Image/Body Schema, Interoception, Neuroplasticity, Human Electrophysiology, Personal Visual Analytics, Speculative Design

Courses

In Spring 2018, Dr. Gromala and Dr. Moreno are scheduled to teach IAT481/IAT881, a course on neurotechnologies and digital media.

Dr. Gromala has supervised over 80 PhD, MSc, MArch, MA, and MFA committees ranging from Computer Science and Engineering to Media Studies, Interaction Design and Interactive Art. Before joining SFU, Dr. Gromala was a faculty member at the University of Texas, the University of Washington, Georgia Tech and a semester at Oxford University.