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The CHI 97 Doctoral Consortium

Brian H. Philips, La Tondra A. Murray, Jason E. Stewart

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Every year, SIGCHI sponsors the Doctoral Consortium (DC) as a preconference event to the annual CHI conference. The DC provides a forum in which doctoral candidates present their dissertation research to a group of their peers and to a panel of knowledgeable advisors from the CHI community. If you are a doctoral student, a graduate advisor, or someone simply interested in exciting new avenues of research, you will want to learn more about the DC. This year, the Consortium consisted of four faculty advisors (from academia and industry), and 12 doctoral students who were invited to participate based on their applications. The event not only allows doctoral students to obtain feedback about their research, but it also provides a mechanism for establishing valuable contacts with other members of the field.

In this article, we present the CHI 97 DC experience from the perspective of the participants, based on our personal experiences as well as responses to an informal email survey. Our discussion of the Doctoral Consortium focuses on the format of the DC, some benefits of the program, activities which took place during the main portion of the conference, and suggestions for the future. We also provide information about how we can be contacted as well as how electronic versions of our DC papers can be accessed via the web.

Consortium Format

This year the DC took place during the three days immediately preceding the conference, overlapping the Tutorial and Workshop sessions. The Consortium consisted of two major parts: formal research presentations and a closing discussion. During the first day, we met informally at a restaurant to have dinner, and to get to know one another. During the next two days, we took turns presenting and listening to each others' 12 research presentations, and finished with the closing discussion session.

Formal Research Presentations

The research presentations were the core of the DC. These presentations spanned a wide range of research areas, from topics such as creating auditory interfaces to spatial data, to more organizationally oriented research focusing on groupware adoption and adaptation. The sessions were broken up into a 20 minute presentation of each student's research program followed by a 25 minute discussion and feedback session. During the feedback period, doctoral students and advisors provided input and guidance about the research ideas presented. While everyone did a good job presenting their work, the emphasis was on the ideas and methodology inherent in the research, not on how polished the presentations were. The group discussions were friendly, relaxed, and even humorous. The atmosphere was such that we were able to get a lot of work done, while at the same time laugh and have a good time.

Closing Discussion

The closing discussion allowed the faculty advisors to summarize their views of the DC and gave us an opportunity to make recommendations for future changes to the DC. It also served as an open forum for us to ask questions of the advisory panel and discuss more global issues of common interest. For instance, one of the topics discussed at length was the advisors' experiences doing research in a corporate setting versus at a university.

Benefits of the DC

This section describes our thoughts on the benefits of the Doctoral Consortium, based on the opinions of the authors, and the responses from the email survey (overall, this represents 7 out of 12 DC participants). Overall, we felt that the DC was an enlightening, productive, and enriching experience. While we have chosen diverse research areas, the Consortium illustrated the powerful nature of our collective contribution to the CHI community.

A Review

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits we experienced was getting feedback from a wider audience then just from our own advisors or thesis committees. Students felt that they received high quality feedback from the DC advisors. While this feedback usually did not radically change our approaches, it often made us think about some new issues, or revisit old issues from a different perspective. Advisors and participating students often let DC presenters know about new and relevant research literature that the presenter had not considered.

Many of us felt the Consortium fostered a sense of community among a diverse set of researchers. While we came from many different parts of the world (including Sweden, Germany, and Italy to name a few), we seemed to bond over common interests in human computer interaction, and by virtue of being doctoral students at similar points in our academic careers.

Another well received benefit was the fellowship. This financial assistance covered travel and other conference-related expenses, and for many of us, made attending the CHI Conference possible.

Other Conference Events

The main conference presented us with additional opportunities to form connections with others during the interactive poster sessions and the "Students at CHI" SIG. The interactive poster presentations enabled us to discuss our work with a multitude of people who offered useful advice and suggestions. We generally felt that the Interactive Posters were very worthwhile because they facilitated feedback from the larger CHI community, and allowed us to make connections with key researchers in our areas of interest. Furthermore, we felt the posters motivated us to bring our work to a higher level of quality.

The "Students at CHI" SIG was organized by CHI 96 DC alumni Michael Byrne and Stacie Hibino. La Tondra Murray, Brian Ehret, and Anna Watson (CHI 97 DC) made brief presentations and served as panelists during a discussion about graduate education. Both of these events helped to identify these students as participants in the DC and actively involved us in the broader context of the conference.

Thoughts for the Future

While we feel it is important to make the DC available to as many students as possible, we also feel it is important to keep the number of participants around 12-15, and to keep the number of advisors to around 4. If, however, more advisors could be found, perhaps another parallel DC could take place. The current ratio of students to faculty allows for a good variety of feedback while keeping the overall length of the program manageable. While we were each given a partner who recorded notes, questions, and comments during our individual presentations, the use of a tape recorder could be beneficial to next year's attendees.

While most DC participants liked both the variety and depth of topics covered in the closing discussion session, several students made suggestions about having more in-depth topics about certain topics; these topics included strategies for career development, publishing strategies, and strategies for gaining postdoctoral experience.

How to Find Us

If you are interested in learning more about our individual research topics, our two-page dissertation summaries were published in the CHI 97 Extended Abstracts ( You can also find these summaries, as well as our email addresses, home pages, and any updates to our work at:

If you are a potential candidate for the 1998 DC, don't hesitate to contact us for additional information about the application process or about our experiences as participants. If you, or someone you know, have a position to fill in industry or academia, a number of us will soon be completing our dissertations and will be ready to take a job. In either case, we would love to hear from you.

Concluding Remarks

As participants in the CHI 97 DC, we felt that it was an invaluable experience. The Doctoral Consortium is a great opportunity for students to present their research in a friendly, supportive forum, and get high quality feedback about their dissertation efforts. It also provides a rare opportunity to establish connections with peers and faculty members from all over the world. The DC also provides students with an opportunity to present their work to the larger CHI community by participating in the Interactive Poster Session. The stipend provided to DC participants is generous, and usually covers the majority of expenses incurred by DC participants traveling to the CHI conference. This year's Doctoral Consortium had all of these qualities and we feel fortunate to have been a part of it. In light of this, we strongly encourage doctoral students to apply to the Doctoral Consortium! Application details for next year can be found in the CHI 98: Call for Participation (which can be found on the web at We would also like to thank the DC advisors for their feedback and support during the conference, and to SIGCHI for sponsoring this truly worthwhile event.

CHI 97 Doctoral Consortium Participants and Topics

Displayless Interface Access to Spatial Data: Effects on Speaker Prosodics; Julie Baca, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station

Enhancement of Communicative Presence in Desktop Video Conferencing Systems; Alessandro Barabesi, South Bank University

Representation without taxation: What makes GUI good; Brian D. Ehret, George Mason University

Accounting for Individual Differences through GAMES: Guided Adaptive Multimedia Editing System; Bernd Gutkauf, University of Paderborn

Learning For Usability: An Explorative Study Of Qualities In Use; Stefan Holmlid, Linkoping University

Computer aided creativity and multicriteria optimization in design; Denis Lalanne, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

The Multimodal GUI: Developing Auditory Cues as Tools for Performance and Usability; La Tondra A. Murray, North Carolina State University

Graphical Encoding in Information Visualization; Lucy Terry Nowell, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University

Groupware Adoption and Adaptation; Leysia Ann Palen, University of California, Irvine

The Use of Declarative and Procedural Knowledge in Intelligent Navigation Displays; Brian H. Philips, George Mason University

Multi-User, Single-Display Groupware: A new dimension in local collaboration; Jason E. Stewart, University of New Mexico

Evaluating Real-time Multimedia Audio and Video Quality; Anna Watson, University College London

CHI 97 Doctoral Consortium Advisors (Faculty)

Allan MacLean, Chair, Rank Xerox Research Centre, England
Brad A. Myers, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
Judith S. Olson, University of Michigan, USA
Yvonne Rogers, Sussex University, England


Special thanks to Judy Olson and Stacie Hibino (DC Class of '96) for their editorial comments and the DC Class of '97 for their thorough and candid responses to the email survey.

About the Authors

Brian Philips is a doctoral candidate studying Human Factors in the Psychology Department at George Mason University, and plans to complete his degree this fall.

La Tondra Murray is a doctoral candidate studying Human-Computer Interaction as related to Human Performance, and plans to complete her degree in spring of 1998.

Jason Stewart is a doctoral candidate studying Human Computer Interaction at the Computer Science Department at the University of New Mexico.

Authors' Addresses

Brian H. Philips
Psychology Department
George Mason University
4400 University Drive, M/S 3F5 Fairfax, VA 22030-4444, USA

Tel: +1-703-285-2156

La Tondra A. Murray
Industrial Engineering Department
North Carolina State University
Box 7906
Raleigh, NC 27695-7906, USA

Tel: +1-919-515-7198

Jason E. Stewart
Computer Science Department
University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87108, USA

Tel: +1-505-277-8767

Same topic in earlier issue
Previous article
SIGCHI Bulletin
Vol.29 No.4, October 1997
Next article
Same topic in later issue


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