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Undergraduate Researcher Profile: Danaë Metaxa-Kakavouli

by Luke Camery and Chloe Kliman-Silver

Danaë Metaxa-Kakavouli is a second year graduate student at Stanford University in the Human Computer Interaction lab. She graduated Brown University in 2015 with a BA in Computer Science and a BA in Science, Technology, and Society. During her time at Brown, she worked with Jeff Huang in the Brown HCI lab.

She has always been around research; both of her parents are professors at Wellesley College, so she started Brown knowing she wanted to get involved in research. Danaë's first encounter with research was while taking Jeff Huang's grad Human-Computer Interaction course (CS2300). She tells the Meta-URAs that “This was my first experience with research, and I loved it! The collaborative format, opportunity to work with graduate students, and my interest in HCI (the project as well as the research papers we were reading in CS2300) drew my attention and made it clear that research and this particular subfield were a good fit for me.”

During her time doing research at Brown, she worked on several research projects: a crowdsourcing project from her time taking CS2300, SleepCoacher, a personal informatics project, and a summer project as an RA at Stanford. She “worked with all levels of researchers—most closely with PhD students at Brown and with Professor Jeff Huang. I always felt like an integral part of the research team, something I really appreciate about the way Jeff runs his group. In my work at Brown, the grad students I worked with felt like my friends and peers (and still are!) which really encouraged me to apply to PhD programs.”

Jeff Huang feels that his time working with Danaë was valuable; he says that  "Danaë was a fantastic researcher who contributed a ton on our research projects. She’s a co-author on two of our papers, and we’re really proud of her continuing to work on hard problems in HCI."

“My experiences doing research at Brown were absolutely critical in my path after Brown,” said Danaë.  She did a summer of research with Jeff Huang, then emailed HCI faculty at other universities asking for summer RA positions with Jeff as a recommender. Michael Bernstein at Stanford offered her a position, and she really enjoyed her summer work there. Jeff and Michael mentored her through the graduate school application process, and she ended up at Stanford.  She says “I definitely couldn't have gotten myself here with the help of Jeff and Brown CS. I'm thrilled to see the department investing in making getting a PhD more visible to undergraduates as an option for the future. I really feel that this is the best choice for me—one that allows me to be part of an amazing intellectual community, gives me unparalleled self-determination in my work, and will allow me to do this kind of rewarding work for the rest of my life. “

If you are interested in doing HCI research, please refer to Jeff Huang’s page: http://hci.cs.brown.edu. For more information on Danaë's experience, please email her at danae@cs.stanford.edu. For any other questions about getting involved in undergraduate research, please email  the Meta-URAs, Chloe and Luke, at mura@cs.brown.edu.

She wraps up saying that, “I think it's great that efforts like this one are making sure Brown CS students know that research/grad school is a great option after Brown!”