Undergraduate Research Program

Raida Karim

Raida Smiling for cameraMajor: Computer Science
Mentor: Maya Cakmak, Computer Science & Engineering

Contact: rk1997@uw.edu

Current research project: Effective Measurement And Intervention of Adolescent Stress Levels with A Social Robot Named EMAR (Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot)

Raida is a senior majoring in Computer Science at the University of Washington (Seattle). She is currently pursuing undergraduate research in the Human-Centered Robotics Lab of Allen School, where her research focuses on formulating techniques to effectively measure and intervene stress levels in school-attending teens through the means of social robots. The excitement of meeting critical human needs and achieving social good inspires her to create high-quality technologies. She decided to major in Computer Science, as she really likes the idea of having a broader impact in society by using her tech skills to solve real-world problems. She aspires to contribute to the field of computing with a focus on sustainable human and social good through the lens of robotics, machine learning, and human-computer interaction.

 

Translate your work so that we can all understand its importance
I work on human-robot interaction (HRI), the intersection between robotics and human-computer interaction (HCI). I’m developing human-interactive capabilities in a therapist robot to offer suggestions for reducing stress in teens analyzing their historical and current mental-health data. Adolescents are victims of high levels of stress in their lives that usually result from school, relationships, and family life. The data of fluctuating stress levels can facilitate formulating effective stress measurement and reduction techniques for teens, which is imperative to support this vulnerable population. Today’s teens are the first generation to spend a lifetime living and interacting with computing technologies, such as robots. A wide array of research in human-robot interaction (HRI) focuses on developing assistive technologies for elderly people and young children. However, very little research addresses teen-stress, or teen-robot interaction. Thus, my research in Project EMAR (Ecological Momentary Assessment Robot) entails generating therapeutic activities for teens in a social robot focusing specifically on Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Making EMAR interact with teens on an intimate level to collect stress-data, I conduct user-participatory sessions with teens for analyzing/formalizing ACT/DBT activities and measure their effectiveness. After collecting stress data from teens, I train robust algorithmic models over standard inputs, and predict/classify given data to generate effective counseling/therapeutic activities, or suggestions.

 

When, how, and why did you get involved in undergraduate research?
I always loved reading books because of the independence it gave me to draw imaginary scenarios in my mind with the story narratives and I liked computers. When I was casually talking about it to one of my collegiate mentors after getting into Computer Science (CS) major in my sophomore year, she asked me, “Have you thought about doing research? You definitely should!” That’s when I started to seriously think about pursuing undergraduate research. I started cold-emailing faculty and landed in a research opportunity with the UW Natural Language Processing (NLP) group. After six months of apprenticeship there under a PhD student, I decided to pursue a more independent research endeavor. I realized that research excites me, because I can practically connect with higher level CS ideas in self-directed exploration of investigative questions through research. I communicated my interests to Dr. Maya Cakmak, who was teaching our robotics capstone in the Spring of my junior year. And, luckily, she offered me a project where I’d be able to do highly independent research – make methodological decisions, conduct technical experiments and analysis while optimizing for the real-world. That’s exactly what I’m researching now – implementation of human-interactive capabilities in a social robot to generate therapeutic activities for adolescents. My research allows me to do what I love most – imagining a better future with the power of computing and creating cutting-edge technologies by using my optimistic imagination. In the future, I aspire to pursue a PhD in CS to extend my research interests.

 

What advice would you give a student who is considering getting involved in undergraduate research?
Coming to UW as a freshman with no prior CS background or no prior familiarity with UW or Seattle, what has been mostly helpful for me is to reach out to different people – be it peers, advisors, TAs, or faculty, and ask questions about the things I’m interested in pursuing. Personally, I think being aware and frank about the fact that I don’t necessarily know everything, that’s why I need to reach out to others and ask for help, really pushed me forward to make new connections and relationships that helped me to do well in courses, get into my intended major, find and pursue research, mentoring, and teaching opportunities as an undergraduate. So, my advice for other students would be to pursue things that are interesting to you, even if you’re not entirely sure about everything that goes into that, reach out and ask for help from others. It will eventually help you to navigate this huge UW campus, and make it feel smaller for you with all the strong connections you’ll have made along the way.