"I create user interfaces that help people sketch in VR more accurately. To do this, I study the perceptual and cognitive limitations of humans when working in virtual environments."

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Student Profile: Mayra Donaji Barerra Machuca

Interactive Arts & Technology PhD Student in the Faculty of Communication, Art & Technology

June 01, 2020
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My name is Mayra, I'm originally from Mexico, but I have also lived in Germany, Australia, USA and Canada. I hold a BA in Animation and Digital Art from the TEC of Monterrey, and a Masters in Creative Media Technologies from the HIT Lab Australia. At SFU, I obtained a Ph.D. in human-computer interaction (HCI), a sub-area of computer science.

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?

During my master's degree, I was constantly referencing the work of my supervisor Dr. Wolfgang Stuerzlinger, and when it was time to do my Ph.D., I decided to join his lab. Also, the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) is one of the best places for HCI research in the world.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR RESEARCH AND/OR PROGRAM.

I design user interfaces that help people design things. Joke aside, I create user interfaces that help people sketch in VR more accurately. To do this, I study the perceptual and cognitive limitations of humans when working in virtual environments.

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?

I like having a really good relationship with my supervisor, who has been supportive and helpful. I have also made good friends during my time here, which is great.

HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR FUNDED AWARDS?

At the beginning of my PhD, I got a national scholarship from Mexico, and I also got an SFU Presidential PhD Scholarship. These awards have allowed me to focus on my research as they provided me with enough financial support to live during my studies. I have also gotten several SIAT Travel Awards, which allow me to travel to other countries to present my work.

DESCRIBE YOUR PROGRAM FOR THOSE SEARCHING.

HCI research is about mixing technical skills with a lot of user studies to understand how people use the technology and to see if your user interface is helpful. So future students need to see if they feel comfortable working in both areas.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR STUDENTS?

It is really important to find a supervisor that matches your personality and understands your goals because you will be working together for at least four years.

Contact Mayra: mbarrera@sfu.ca

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