Yea-Seul Kim, assistant professor in HCI, visualization, and data science, joins UW-Madison Department of Computer Sciences

Yea-Seul KimYea-Seul Kim joins the CS Department from the University of Washington where she earned a PhD in information science. She had previously received an MS in human-centered design and engineering from the same university. Her main focus is “to develop models and interfaces that make data more comprehensible to help people reason with data and its uncertainty.” Kim interviewed in the spring during the COVID shutdown, so she hadn’t been to campus before she arrived in August to start her job. Her first impression of UW-Madison was that the campus is “gorgeous and beautiful, and big!”

Hometown: Seoul, Korea

Educational/professional background: I recently received a PhD degree in information science at the University of Washington. I also received a master’s degree in Human-Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington and a bachelor’s degree in Applied Statistics at Yonsei University in Korea. Before starting the master’s program, I worked at Samsung as a product analyst. 

How did you get into your field of research? I have long been intrigued by the power of data that provide people with insight and lead to better decisions. While studying statistics as an undergrad, I wanted to make statistics/data more accessible to people of varying expertise levels. That led me to explore the field of human-centered design and data science, where I could learn techniques to build usable tools and methods to evaluate how people perceive complex information. 

What is your area of focus? My research interests lie in the intersection between visualization, human-computer interaction, and data science. My focus is to develop models and interfaces that make data more comprehensible to help people reason with data and its uncertainty.

What main issue do you address or problem do you seek to solve in your work? As more and more data become available, people want to make the most of the data we have.  However, the capability of human cognition remains constant. In my research, I seek to bridge this gap by leveraging human perception and visualization techniques. 

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?  I am teaching the data visualization class this semester. I would like to emphasize that visualizations are artifacts created by humans and consumed by humans. I hope my students not only learn the techniques to build visualizations but also learn to be aware of the bias they can bring in as a creator and how visualizations they create can influence people’s beliefs and decision making.

What attracted you to UW-Madison? UW-Madison is a strong research school. Also, the culture of valuing collaboration and interdisciplinary work was very attractive to me. 

What was your first visit to campus like? Due to COVID, my job interview was conducted online. My first visit was to pick up my office key and make the wiscard.  My first impression was, UW campus is gorgeous and beautiful, and big!

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea?  Yes, I think my research vision is well aligned with the Wisconsin Idea. In my research, I want to make data more accessible to people with varying expertise. In this increasingly data-driven society, being able to reason with data and its uncertainty is a skill that is valuable beyond the classroom. It allows people to make better decisions in many aspects of their life. 

Hobbies/other interests: I like outdoor activities such as hiking, running, and biking.