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Postdoc Laura Pina honored for contributions to student mentorship

Laura PinaLaura Pina, a postdoctoral research associate in the Allen School and Human Centered Design & Engineering, was recognized this week with the 2018 Postdoc Mentoring Award from the University of Washington Graduate School. This annual award honors the vital contributions of postdocs in educating, inspiring, and guiding student researchers.

Pina — who works on human-computer interaction with Allen School professor James Fogarty and HCDE professor and Allen School adjunct faculty member Julie Kientz — was selected from a field of 34 postdocs from five schools and colleges across campus. According to the Graduate School’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, Pina earned recognition not only for her technical leadership but also her patience and compassion in mentoring aspiring researchers. It credited Pina for setting high standards for her mentees, and for investing her time and attention in helping them to achieve those standards.

“[Pina] works to instill confidence and celebrate successes along their scientific journey,” the office noted in its award announcement. “She is truly a model citizen and someone we know will be [a] successful scientist. She has made UW a better place by supporting undergraduate and graduate students throughout our community.”

Pina’s research focuses on the design and development of technologies that advance human health and wellness. She is particularly interested in promoting family health — including “family informatics,” which encourages parents and children to track their health together — and designing more effective tools for improving sleep quality, tracking personal fitness, diagnosing chronic health conditions, and other issues affecting health and wellness. According to the students and faculty who supported her nomination, Pina’s research is especially noteworthy for tackling problems faced by underrepresented groups that otherwise tend to be ignored. For example, she has explored the barriers that prevent immigrant and low-socioeconomic families struggling with chronic illness from gaining access to digital wellness and other resources.

Pina has mentored 16 students across seven projects that span multiple units on campus. In addition to her work in the lab, Pina serves on the Allen School’s Postdoc Committee and helps broaden participation in computer science and academic research through her work with first-generation graduate students and with Latinx families who need assistance with navigating the college application process.

The review committee also recognized a dozen finalists for the Postdoc Mentoring Award, including Allen School postdocs Yonatan Bisk, who works with professor Yejin Choi in natural language processing, and Nigini Oliveira, who works with professor Katharina Reinecke in human-computer interaction.

Congratulations, Laura!