Karen Tanenbaum receives Dean's Convocation Medal

June 06, 2013

Dr. Karen Tanenbaum's endless curiosity has led her from Celtic Studies to computational linguistics to wearable technology and storytelling to the Maker Movement and being featured in a recent Make magazine Shout Out to the Women of Tech.

In her PhD research, Dr. Karen Tanenbaum tackled the question of how users experience the adaptive components of interactive computing systems. This issue is important as technology increasingly pervades our everyday lives, promising ever more intelligent and natural interactions that often feel like anything but smart or intuitive. Through both design explorations and user research, she studied at how people make sense of novel technology and how design decisions have positive and negative impacts on the user experience. 

During her time in graduate school, she co-authored more than 26 publications, including a recent paper at the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) on the politics of the Maker Movement and a long journal article based on her dissertation, User perceptions of adaptivity in ubiquitous systems: A critical exploration.

As an undergraduate at the University of Redlands, she received the $80k National Merit Scholar award. That was only the start of her long list of academic awards, which now include a number of Dean's Graduate Fellowships, Ebco/Eppich Scholarships in Intelligent Systems and prizes in a number of innovation competitions and design challenges.

Dr. Marek Hatala, her supervisor, says, "Karen Tanenbaum's PhD research and thesis made a significant contribution to her field and hepled to shape the research discourse within the broader research community of interactive systems."

He also celebrated her many contributions to the community, from her own SIAT grad student society to representing all grad students on the university-wide Research IT committee. She also made connections in her field, serving as a program committee member and paper reviewer for ACM CHI, ACM TEI, the Designing Interactive Systems Conference (DIS) and the Digital Games Research Association Conference (DIGRA).

And that's not all: Outside of her SFU service, she worked to promote women in STEM education, speaking and leading workshops in the local community, founding the Vancouver branch of Girl Geek Coffees discussion group, and leading tech workshops for young women in high school.

Along with her husband, she runs a small design studio called Tanenbaum Fabrications, which produces steampunk art and costumes as well as interactive technology.  She is active in the Maker Movement, and recently wrote for Make magazine and exhibited at the Bay Area Maker Faire. 

After completing a year long internship with Intel Labs in Oregon, she recently moved to the San Francisco Bay Area as part of her job search.  She is currently working as an independent contractor for Intel and Maker Media, Inc as she looks for a permanent position doing industry research in interaction design and user research.

On behalf of SFU, we congratulate Dr. Karen Tanenbaum on her outstanding achievements which are being recognized with the award of the Dean of Graduate Studies Convocation Medal as one of SFU's most outstanding graduate students from the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology.

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