At most scientific conferences, almost every nametag you see dangling from people’s necks shows a university title. But this wasn’t the case for many people wandering the halls last month at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science (APS). Many of those tags featured names like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and other tech giants. It’s a sign of the times: Social scientists are getting snatched up by tech companies.
Mary Czerwinski is a cognitive psychologist based at Microsoft Research (MSR) in Redmond, Washington. Czerwinski earned a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology at Indiana University, Bloomington, and then she jumped immediately to industry, doing human-computer interface research for a series of companies while holding a part-time teaching position at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She made the jump to Microsoft 18 years ago, first working on products for the software company and then moving, after 2 years, to MSR. Czerwinski has done everything, from software interface development to basic research on attention. Today she leads a team at MSR working on several projects, including one on clothing that senses its wearer’s emotions. We sat down with Czerwinski between sessions at the APS conference and asked her about her work. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
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