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Division of Information Technology

Q&A with Associate Professor Dr. Dezhi Wu

Have you ever thought about those frustrations with specific computer programs? When something doesn’t work just right, like when you can’t sync your calendar to your email? Dr. Dezhi Wu does, and she’s working to ensure end-users achieve their optimal outcome to avoid those frustrations. We sat down with Dr. Wu to talk about her experience, research, and inspirations. 

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and your career and how it led you to UofSC: 

A: I am an associate professor at the Department of Integrated Information Technology. My main expertise is in human-computer interaction, which is the driver of human-centered computing for radical transformation to make real impacts to our lives and society. I think that UofSC is a great university, and it’s especially a very research-intensive school. I felt that my expertise fits in with the College of Engineering and Computing well, and I’ve been able to bridge multiple technology and engineering topics in my work. 


Q: What is a typical day like for you? Does that even exist for you?

A: My typical day is hard to describe since each day varies with different dynamics. Mostly a very hectic schedule to serve our university students, conduct teaching, research, and services for our university, and my professional, scientific societies to lead conferences, run workshops, serve as a journal editor and review papers, etc. I also try to spend a lot of time with my students and advise and mentor their projects. Even with the pandemic, and the difficulty that online learning can bring, I continue to try my very best to engage with them often. 


Q: Why did you decide to pursue a career in integrated information technology?

A: It started first as a very frustrated user who had trouble dealing with computer technologies. Even after taking computer science courses, I still did not feel my user problems were fully resolved. Then I embarked on my career in the field of information technologies, especially currently in the intersection between computer science, information technology, AI, psychology, cognitive science, and digital design, from which I hope to find effective technological solutions to help bridge the gaps between today’s smart technologies and humans, so technologies can be better designed and transformed to meet our needs for social good and human well-being. Over the years, I’ve found that this is what I want to do with my life, conducting research to help people.


Q: Can you tell me about your research interest in human-computer interaction and what has surprised you the most about it?

A: As a scholar, I am conducting intensive interdisciplinary research to bridge the gap between technologies and humans by creating novel user interfaces and applications. What has surprised me the most is that user problems over years are still pervasive, even with today’s AI-driven smart technologies, but we are facing different kinds of problems to make human-machine/AI interactions more transparent, explainable, trustworthy, and ethical to users because of the problem of the black box between algorithms and users. Currently, my focus of research is more on human-AI/robotics interactions through the intelligent user interface and user experience designs driven by big data, social media analytics in health, cybersecurity, and cyberlearning domains. The ultimate goal is to effectively help, and support end-users achieve optimal outcomes in a more immersive and affective way. For example, for patients, the result can be improved adherence behavior.


Q: What is your experience like as a woman working in technology/science?

A: I would say it is a challenge for a woman to work in the tech/science field, but if you love what you do, you will find ways to manage it. I think the life challenges as a woman in IT lie in at least two perspectives: one being a scientist to advance knowledge in your specific science field, and the other being a mom as a social role, you have a family to manage and responsibilities to raise children. These double roles make IT women’s success double or triple harder. I think that this can also add another layer of difficulty when it comes to being considered. This part has become a barrier, which historically makes woman IT professionals a small portion (i.e., 25% as of 2018, 34% last year with the largest tech companies on the planet at Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft) of the IT workforce, as evidenced in the news “CEOs get most of the negative airtime, it is the lack of women in the tech industry that seems to be the largest looming overhead.” (


Q: Is there a mentor or role model who inspires you?

A: Yes, I think I am extremely lucky in my professional career that I have several distinguished mentors who have encouraged and inspired me, especially at the early stage of my professional career. They are my role models to chase, and they also inspired me to be a caring educator to keep inspiring and supporting my students and serving communities at large. In my previous STEM project a few years ago, I engaged about 50 young learners in a K-12 system, with extra efforts to include female students. It was amazing and rewarding to see young kids’ eye-opening tech experiences, which increased their interest and desire to pursue their IT academic careers through experiential projects and having college students as their role models. As an educator, it was also an eye-opening observation because there is so much more that we can do to help young people be engaged in information technology fields. Serving as a mentor for my students is such a rewarding experience. It’s great when students achieve so much and can appreciate your efforts. I never expect anything in return, but just today, as you can see that I received an appreciation email from a student I mentored two years ago, and once you see these messages of success, it’s such a great feeling. 

Q: What advice would you give women looking to break into the field of information technology?

A: I would say - please do not be afraid of trying the IT field first before denying the opportunity to explore it. You never know what kind of possibilities it can give you. IT is indeed a field that requires critical thinking, creativity, imagination, and hard work. Believe it or not, IT is dynamically reshaping our human society and human lives, as all have experienced the incredibly important role that IT is playing to still make our society uprunning and sustainable during the COVID-19 pandemic after everything was locked down. Be brave and confident, and you will be amazed to see how much women can contribute to the IT industry as IT professionals and the advanced tech field as scientists. Having a cohort with like-minded individuals is essential because you always need inspiration and great ideas that make you excited. Moreover, empowering yourselves with IT can help people and positively change the world.



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