With faculty and graduate student mentorship, undergraduate researchers thrive in the Rochester Human-Computer Interaction lab.
Stela Ciko ’25 chose to attend the University of Rochester because of its reputation as a Tier 1 research institution.
“I knew it would offer a lot of research opportunities in whatever field I chose to study, and I wanted research to be a big part of my undergraduate experience,” says the computer science major.
She was able to start substantive work in the Rochester Human-Computer Interaction lab the summer after her first year.
“I have been very impressed with the quality of undergraduate students and the commitment of our graduate students to mentor them.”
That’s not unusual at the lab, known as ROC (“Rock”) H-C-I. Housed in the Department of Computer Science, it has given students like Ciko invaluable opportunities to apply computer science to projects that directly help people.
Sammy Potter ’25 didn’t think he would get a chance work in a research lab for at least a couple of years. Then, during his first year at the University, he met Masum Hasan through the Google Developer Student Club. Hasan, a PhD student in the ROC HCI lab, was looking for someone with experience in 3D technology, something Potter had. “I jumped at the opportunity,” Potter says.
Since then, “I’ve had a great experience as an undergraduate hire,” he adds. “ROC HCI is a very friendly community, and I feel respected and that I have an equal voice.” The lab also helped him see new possibilities, giving him exposure to “a new field that I might not have considered otherwise.”
ROC HCI seeks a diverse representation of undergraduates
The Rochester Human-Computer Interaction lab is co-led by associate professor Ehsan Hoque and assistant professor Zhen Bai.
Hoque, who joined the University in 2013, gained international recognition after his PhD thesis at MIT demonstrated for the first time how humans could improve their face-to-face interpersonal skills with a virtual assistant. He has received multiple awards, and more than $9.6 million as a principal investigator to support a broad range of projects.
Bai, who joined the University in 2018, earned a PhD at Cambridge University and did postdoctoral work at Carnegie-Mellon. Her research includes developing learning technologies to support AI (artificial intelligence) literacy for K–12 students and teachers, assistive technology for deaf child communication, and human-AI collaboration in social reasoning.
Both place a high priority on bringing a diverse representation of undergraduates into the lab. There are multiple reasons for doing so, they say.
- The continuing underrepresentation of women and minorities in computer science hurts the field. “Imagine a lab