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Melissa M

- Research Program Mentor

MS Master of Science


Human Computer Interaction, User Experience, History

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Improving the Pet Adoption Experience

Challenge: The application process for prospective pet adopters is difficult and lengthy today. Each animal shelter tends to have its own process, application, and sometimes arbitrary criteria to be selected. Example research and design process: We could start with trying to understand why things are they way they are today and where exactly the biggest issues are in the end-to-end adoption process. Focusing on two key user groups (shelters and potential adopters), we could conduct interviews and run workshops to prototype changes to the process and test it with those users. Output: Maybe this looks like a research paper with specific actionable recommendations for shelters, or maybe this becomes a common application that is stored in a website and shared with shelters.

Making it Easier to Research Candidates of Local Elections

Challenge: Local elections are an integral part of the American democratic system, but voter turnout is historically low for local elections compared to general elections (i.e. Presidential elections). One roadblock is the difficulty voters have in easily accessing information about local candidates and their positions on core issues. Potential research and design process: We could start with background research on the nature of the problem today. We can speak with subject matter experts who tackle these issues today and target a specific problem in the election research process to resolve. Then, we would design and test a potential solution. Output: This could be an infographic poster for use in public spaces (i.e. local libraries, post offices) detailing a streamlined process for researching candidates for local elections.

Keeping Dementia Patients Safe from Financial Exploitation

Challenge: Often, patients suffering in the early stages of dementia (as well as Alzheimer's and mild cognitive decline) have unfettered access to their finances and can be persuaded by predatory scammers into giving money away. Potential research and design process: We could start with a competitive/comparative review. What are the solutions today that already exist and target the same or similar challenge? What works? What doesn't work? What can we learn from their work? Output: We could create a mobile/web app that helps families monitor their loved ones' financial activity to keep them safe. Or, this could be a pitch deck for a startup company that focuses on this problem space.

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