Professorin für Gestaltungs- und Wirkungsforschung an der Fakultät für Informatik

Geburtsjahr und -ort

Brisbane, Australia


Computer Science as a Bachelor of Information Technology (Honours) Jetzt hauptsächlich spezialisiert auf "Human Computer Interaction"

Professorin Fitzpatrick im Kurzinterview

Mein Schwerpunkt in der Forschung liegt im Bereich der theoretischen, methodologischen und technischen Unterstützung sozialer Interaktion und Kooperation. Mein Zugang zur Forschung ist über weite Strecken interdisziplinär. Dahinter steht der Anspruch, dass Technologien den Bedürfnissen der Menschen entsprechen, die Lebensqualität steigern und die dafür notwendigen Ergebnisse bereitstellen müssen. Im speziellen interessiert mich, wie diese Anforderungen mit den neuen Computer-Technologien, den so genannten Ubiquitous Computing Technologies, umgesetzt werden können. Wir untersuchen das in unterschiedlichen Bereichen wie dem Gesundheitswesen oder der häuslichen Umgebung sowie mit verschiedenen Nutzergruppen wie etwa älteren oder behinderten Menschen oder Kindern. Das heißt mich interessiert der Einsatz und die Gestaltung von Ubiquitous Computing Technologies überall dort, wo soziale Interaktion eine Rolle spielt. Zwei Beispiele für aktuelle Forschungsprojekte sind die Unterstützung von Gehirnschlagpatienten durch interaktive sensor-basierte Anwendungen zu Hause oder die Analyse von sozialen Netzwerkanwendungen wie YouTube und Twitter und deren Integration in ein Ubiquitous Computing Umfeld.

I came into computer science by accident really. While I was working as a midwife, I was doing a part-time Science degree out of general interest, majoring in Psychology. When I decided to study full time and change my career, the Dean persuaded me to enrol in the new Information Technology course that was starting that year. I enjoyed the challenge of doing something totally different but my passion remained working with people. When I heard about areas of research called ‚computer supported cooperative work’ and ‚human computer interaction’ I knew that I could find a niche in computer science that combined both my technical skills and my desire to work with people and to ‚make a difference’ . This is the area where I did my PhD and I have continued working in it ever since, both in industry and in academia.

There are aspects to do with who I am and there are aspects of the system. As a person, who happens to be a woman, I have the interests and personality profile that more women than men tend to have. So my choosing to go into nursing fitted the profile of someone interested in caring professions. Also my main research area of Human Computer Interaction, and social interaction and collaboration, reflects the interest in people; this research are in general has a much higher percentage of women than other areas of computer science. In looking back I perhaps should have done medicine instead of nursing but I do not think that was a gendered issue so much as an issue of not having any professional role models of either gender in my family. As for the system, influences play out in both direct and subtle ways. Obviously in computer science, there is a much higher percentage of men than women. A negative aspect is that women get called into service roles far more often than men to meet externally set targets around gender participation. While some of this is just ‚hard work’ it can also provide good opportunities to meet people or gain experiences that others might not have. Also, when your work/research involves the people side of technology, areas that women are more likely to pursue, you are often regarded by peers as somehow less important in a team or less ‚scientific’. I have experienced this in both industry and in academia and I know that other people with the same skill sets have similar issues. There are also the unconscious biases that play out in very consistent systematic ways, for example where studies have shown that the same technical skills are rated more highly if they are thought to belong to a man than a women. Being who I am is also a positive in that I know I can bring different complementary skills to work, teaching and research. I think it is far more helpful to talk about diversity than playing out the issues on male/female lines.

Achieving a work-life balance is a continual struggle, much more so in academia than in industry from my experience. In academia, there is always another student you can take on, another course you can teach, another paper or grant proposal you can write, another conference committee you can sit on. There is no natural stopping point. For women the pressure is increased as there is also always another university committee to serve on to meet the 40% target. For me it is important to work out what my own boundaries are and recognise that it is not so much about learning to say ‚no’ to requests, which I still need to do, but learning to say ‚yes’ to important aspects of life outside of work, such as relationships, leisure, health and so on, and giving those their required priority. I’m still working on this! 

My main recommendation is to find where your passions and skills lie, what energises you. Don´t accept the mainstream way for how things ought to be done if it doesn’t work for you. Find your own path and go for it, even if it means carving out a new niche. And recognise that there is a world beyond work – keep it all in perspective.