Tech Launches New Ph.D. in Human-Centered Computing

Students design and build new computing applications that help people live better lives

The College of Computing at Georgia Tech announces a cutting-edge Ph.D. program in Human-Centered Computing (HCC), recently approved by the Board of Regents. The new degree meets industrial and societal needs for education and research in humanizing computer technology, while attracting the best and brightest from around the world.

The HCC Ph.D. program focus is not on computer technology, but rather how computers affect lives in terms of advanced product development and human capabilities for many areas of research. The degree leverages Georgia Tech's strongest programs and concentrations, including multimedia and digital media studies, human factors, ergonomics, assistive technologies, industrial design, cognitive science, sociology, and public policy. This interdisciplinary approach to computing that supports human needs allows possibilities for new discoveries in underlying issues of science, engineering, art and design.

Examples of HCC research include:

The Aware Home - a model home for research and experimentation where Computing associate professor Beth Mynatt, director of the HCC program, and students created the "Digital Family Portrait," which enables adult children to be more aware of the health of their elderly parent living far away. (

Computational Perception - Automatic ASL Interpreter - Computing assistant professor Thad Starner and students are creating an automatic sign language interpreter that helps the hearing impaired communicate, and also allows hearing impaired children to practice their ASL by playing computer games in sign language.

Technology and Learning - Computing Regents' professor Janet Kolodner, a member of the HCC faculty committee and the program's academic advisor, and students created a complete curriculum and software to help kids to learn through design activities with technology (, such as the Digiquilt project where elementary school students learn about fractions while making colorful quilt blocks (

Visualization - Computing professor John Stasko and the Information Interfaces Group are helping people actually understand all the information computers display. (

The HCC committee, which included Computing professors Jim Foley and Nancy Nersessian, developed the Ph.D. degree with a strong interdisciplinary orientation, creating synergies between CoC faculty in human-computer interaction (HCI), artificial intelligence (AI), Intelligent Systems, Cognitive Science, Learning Sciences and Technology (LST) and more.

"The HCC Ph.D. is yet another step toward broadening the CoC's intellectual base," said Foley.

Nersessian agrees. "We see this as a step in fulfilling and further articulating our vision to extend the boundaries of computing," she said.

The HCC Ph.D provides a multiple-entry approach similar to Georgia Tech's degrees in bioinformatics, HCI, and algorithms, combinatorics and optimization (ACO). Students with diverse backgrounds work in teams, complete an original and independent research thesis, gain experience in a corporate research lab for at least one summer, and can expect to obtain positions in academia and industry after graduation. For more information about the HCC Ph.D. program including how to apply, visit

About the College of Computing
The Georgia Tech College of Computing houses one of the largest computer science programs in the country with 68 academic faculty and 39 research faculty. The College strives to provide high quality instruction and to integrate computing knowledge into other academic disciplines as well as aspects of daily life. Over 1,500 students are enrolled in the college, including approximately 1,100 undergraduates and 475 graduate students, some 269 of which are Ph.D. students. The College is ranked 9th overall at the doctoral level and houses several interdisciplinary research centers including the Georgia Tech Information Security Center (GTISC), the Graphics, Visualization and Usability Center (GVU), Center for Experimental Research in Computer Systems (CERCS), and the Modeling & Simulation Research and Education Center (MSREC).