Dr Caroline Jay

As part of our Women of Wonder series, we spoke to Caroline Jay, Senior Lecturer in Empirically Sound Software Engineering at the Department of Computer Science.

Dr Caroline Jay: "I soon realised that science is not just about lab coats."

Working as a Researcher and later a Lecturer at The University of Manchester, Dr Jay’s research focuses on modelling how digital information is perceived and used by people. She has also taken a growing interest in what we can learn about the human brain by considering the way we design and create technology.

Before becoming a Computer Scientist, Dr Jay qualified as a Psychologist. In 2017, she led the Data Science Meets Creative Media project, funded by The University of Manchester Research Institute and BBC Research and Development, and she was a member of Senate, the University’s principle academic authority.

We asked Dr Jay about her work and what she hopes the future holds for her field of expertise.

Can you tell us a bit more about your work at The University of Manchester?

I specialise in trying to understand the human relationship with technology, so we can improve the way we design it.

How does your work impact society and the world we live in?

I'm interested in the health arena. The [now completed] CityVerve project looked at how the 'Internet of Things’ can be used to improve health and wellbeing in Manchester.

I’ve also been involved in Britain Breathing, which asked people across the country to tell us about their hay fever and asthma symptoms so we could gain an understanding of how these are affected by the weather and pollution. Anyone who is an allergy sufferer and a budding citizen scientist was invited to take part!

What inspires you?

The people I work with. Science is team-based and every project requires a diverse set of individuals offering a variety of skills. This ranges from people who specialise in the field of study, to data scientists, to research software engineers.

The best science happens when a range of perspectives comes together and everyone’s voice is accorded value.

What did you study at school, and when did you realise you wanted to specialise in your area?

I actually took language A levels [a subject-based qualification taken by students in the UK between the ages of 17 and 18]. I didn’t expect to become a scientist when I was at school, but I went on to study Psychology and then Computer Science.

I soon realised that science is not just about lab coats and test tubes, but about asking questions and understanding the world - and that technology offers a powerful means of doing so. This really broadened my horizons, and led to an interest in using computation to run experiments, capture real-world data, and perform powerful analyses.

Technology pervades our lives and affects our behaviour.

What would you like to see happen in your field in the next few years?

It would be great to see a shift from thinking about what technology can do, to understanding what people really want from it.

Technology pervades our lives and affects our behaviour. Starting to think more about technology design from a human perspective, rather than relying on tech creators to dictate ’the next big thing’, is a challenge for those working in science and innovation.

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