Get to know Kyrie Zhixuan Zhou, PhD student

Zhixuan Zhou
Kyrie Zhixuan Zhou

PhD student Kyrie Zhixuan Zhou's goal is to make information and communication technology (ICT) and artificial intelligence (AI) experiences more equitable, accessible, beneficial, and ethical for all. In his free time, he is devoted to helping junior researchers, especially those from populations not typically represented in STEM.

Why did you decide to pursue a degree in information sciences?

My bachelor's degree is in computer science, but gradually I realized my real passion is not pursuing state-of-the-art algorithms and computer systems but how they can be leveraged responsibly for human well-being.

When I was growing up, I witnessed how women's rights were overlooked, people with disabilities were invisible, and people in general were being censored and surveilled. These experiences motivated me to understand, design, and govern ICT/AI experience for social good, with a focus on vulnerable populations and from a human-centered perspective. A degree in information sciences allows me to pursue this research in collaboration with colleagues who have a similar passion.

Why did you choose the iSchool at Illinois?

Since I was young, the University of Illinois has been my dream university. Due to its reputation, the iSchool at Illinois was at the top of my list of information sciences when I was applying for graduate school.

Most importantly, I was fascinated by the interdisciplinary and exciting research conducted by iSchool faculty. Professor Stephen Downie's research on music and Assistant Professor Melissa Ocepek's research on food were refreshing to me back then. Now, working with the best advisors one can have in the world—Assistant Professor Madelyn Sanfilippo and Associate Professor Rachel Adler—I am able to explore my research interests to the fullest extent. I think I made the right choice.

What are your research interests?

My interests are broadly in technology accessibility, ethics, and education. I aspire to design, govern, and teach about ICT/AI experience for vulnerable populations. In my research, I leverage qualitative, quantitative, and design methods to gain deeper insights into the interaction between humans and technologies as well as how technologies result in societal impact. I'm also keen on proposing policy recommendations to turn research insights into practice. My ultimate goal is to make the ICT/AI experience more equitable, accessible, beneficial, and ethical for all.

What do you do outside of class?

I have been devoted to helping junior researchers thrive in their research, academic, and career development. Bridging the research divide for STEM students from rural areas, developing countries, and marginalized populations gives me the most satisfaction.

My biggest hobby is basketball. I play basketball, watch basketball games, and play basketball video games. I spend a lot of time with my dog Yinhe ("galaxy" in Chinese) and cat Mei-mei ("little sister" in Chinese).

What career plans or goals do you have?

I can see myself taking two paths. First is academia, as I love research, teaching, and mentoring. Second is industry, as I want to build technologies that really help vulnerable populations. I think some mixture of these two is likely.

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