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Dr. Shaundra Daily is an Associate Professor of Computer and Information Science and Engineering, as well as the Director of the Digital Arts and Sciences Program at the University of Florida. Shani received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Florida State University, a M.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Media Arts and Sciences from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She served on the faculty of Clemson University before joining the faculty at the University of Florida. Shani has received many awards and honors for her work, including the American Education Research Association Technology, Instruction, Cognition, and Learning Early Career Research Award, the Black Data Processing Associates Epsilon Award for Most Promising Technologist, and the Diverse Issues in Higher Education Emerging Scholar Award. Shani is with us today to tell us all about her exciting experiences in life and science.
People Behind the Science Podcast Show Notes
Life Outside of Science (2:36)
Shani has 2 daughters who are seven and ten years old, and she spends her free time dancing, singing, playing tennis, and hanging out with them. Throughout her life, Shani has been passionate about dance, including ballet and jazz.
The Scientific Side (3:37)
As a scientist working in the field of human-centered computing, Shani is answering important questions about how to design technology enriched learning environments. Some other focus areas of her research have included affective computing using computers that can sense and respond to human emotion, improving computer science education, and broadening the pipeline for people entering STEM fields.
A Dose of Motivation (5:12)
A strong desire to make a difference keeps Shani motivated. She wants to make a difference in the world so that it will be a better place for her daughters to live and grow up. Shani is also motivated by the opportunity she has to be a voice in determining how technology will transform the world, broaden participation, and encourage diversity and inclusion to solve challenges.
What Got You Hooked on Science? (6:34)
One of Shani’s high school teachers piqued her interest in science through a fun crime scene investigation activity in chemistry class. Shani had such a great experience that she decided she wanted to become an investigator in the FBI. To pursue this career, she was told you could major in criminology or engineering. Since she was already strong in math and science, Shani decided to pursue engineering. Shani initially chose to specialize in civil engineering; however, after hearing more from a mentor about the kinds of problems civil engineers work on, she quickly switched to electrical engineering.
The Low Points: Failures and Challenges (22:12)
In Shani’s career, there are many different types of challenges. Often, the technology doesn’t work, people may not like what she is building, she struggles to recruit enough participants for studies, and it’s hard to get people to invest in the projects she wants to work do. In addition, Shani has spent the past 5 years raising her two daughters as a single mom. Though her job allows some flexibility so she can pick them up from school and spend time with them, Shani spends many nights after they go to bed catching up on work. It has been important to reframe challenges as learning opportunities, celebrate small victories, and find the humor in life whenever she can.
A Shining Success! (24:44)
Recently, Shani’s research group was identified as a potential site for a new grant opportunity offered through an external foundation. Representatives from the foundation visited the university and were very enthusiastic about the exciting research directions Shani and her colleagues hoped to pursue. Though they have not been awarded the money to do the project yet, the fact that they were selected for consideration was a victory.
Book Recommendations (28:06)
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries and The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live – and How You Can Change Them by Richard J. Davidson
Most Treasured Travel (31:37)
Shani has traveled to Egypt, Paris, Brazil, Hong Kong, Korea, Mexico, Canada, Spain, and she 40 of the 50 states in the U.S. for her work. She traveled to Spain to serve on the thesis committee of a student there. Though she was only there for four days, she was able to do some sightseeing in the city near the university. They had a tradition where they went to a pub that served amazing food, and it was funny because they didn’t know how to respond when Shani requested water instead of wine.
Quirky Traditions and Funny Memories (34:30)
When Shani was at MIT, she joined a dance troupe that put on a show each semester. The weekend they chose for the show one year was really close to finals. Shani really needed to study, but she was worried her fellow dancers would tease her for studying while getting ready for the performance. However, when Shani arrived backstage, nearly everyone else was studying too.
Advice For Us All (39:12)
Decide what you’re going to be bad at. There will be so many things that you will work really hard to be good at, but there are also going to be some things you say “no” to. You don’t have to excel in everything.
Currently, Shaundra B. Daily (“Shani B.”) is an Associate Professor at the University of Florida in the Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering. Previously, she was an Associate Professor and Interim Co-Chair in the School of Computing at Clemson University directing MorphLab. She received her masters and doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab where her doctoral work with the Affective Computing Group involved designing and implementing technology-infused learning environments that provide youth an opportunity to learn about themselves, others, and to gain insight into interpersonal dynamics. Shani has been profiled in the American Association for Advancement in Science website profiling African American Scientists; Engineer Your Life, geared towards encouraging young women to pursue engineering careers; and WGBH’s Science City. Trinity Broadcasting Network, Science Update Radio Program, National Public Radio, and Under the Microscope have also recognized her work. Currently, she is an Institute for the Advancement of Healthcare Scholar and a Diverse Issues in Higher Education Emerging Scholar.
Support for this episode of People Behind the Science was provided by BioSTL.