Get InvolvedWant to change healthcare as we know it?
We are interested in working with students at all levels from undergraduate to postdoc with backgrounds ranging from computer science and engineering to health and psychology. In all cases, we’re looking for outstanding people who are passionate about personal health informatics, mobile health, and novel health applications (especially those that use applied pattern recognition in creative ways). Students coming from technical backgrounds should be solid programmers (or programmers in training) and able to rapidly prototype ideas. Students coming from health/psychology backgrounds should be enthusiastic about new technologies and pushing the limits of new experimental methods and interventions that use them. Everyone interested in working in the group is expected to have an interest in the fascinating and challenging boundary between innovative technologies and the everyday health-related behaviors of the people who use them. We build new technology, but our work is primarily about proving that we can solve real-world problems for typical people.
At the end of the day, our goal is not to just publish academic papers, but also to do research that genuinely impacts the long-term health of everyday people, and to have fun while disrupting medicine as we know it.
How do you know if you are a good fit for the group? You should answer yes to at least two of the following:
- Do you love programming and want to create the next-generation of human-computer interaction devices?
- Are you interested in how we can mathematically model human behavior and decision making to improve behavioral science?
- Are you a quantified-selfer who tracks your own behavioral data?
- Do you have creative ideas about how we can use technology to transform our “sick”care system into on that is focused on wellness and prevention throughout life?
- Do you read books such as The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care and The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care and come up with new ideas for improving healthcare?
- Do you read books that draw from behavioral psychology and behavioral economics such as Nudge, The Power of Habit, and Thinking Fast and Slow and you wonder, “how can we model behavior in a computer and how can we use computers to motivate behavior change?”
- Do you enjoy working in teams, especially teams that may include computer scientists and engineers but also behavioral psychologists and health domain experts?
- Are you interested in interactive machine learning and the connection between sensors, phones, and people?
Here’s some additional advice about getting involved with the group, depending upon your situation.
Potential Ph.D. students
Dr. Intille can admit and advise students either through the CCIS Computer Science PhD program or the unique Personal Health Informatics Ph.D. program. Potential students must meet the admissions criteria of one of these competitive programs. Most people will have a strong preference for one program over the other after reviewing the program websites, because the curricular emphases are quite different. If you want to work with Dr. Intille and decide to apply, definitely let him know so he can keep an eye out for your application. If you are admitted into either of these programs as a full-time student, it will be with funding.
If you are self-funded via a government or industry grant (or think you have a mechanism by which you could be) and you want to work in mHealth, send Dr. Intille your CV and information on the nature of your scholarship to start a discussion.
Current Ph.D. students
If you are already a Ph.D. student at Northeastern interested in personal health informatics research, please send Dr. Intille your CV, transcripts, GRE scores, and a description of what you have been doing since you arrived at Northeastern. If there appears to be a good fit between your background and interests and the research program, we’ll setup a meeting. It’s likely that you will need to work with the group for one or more semesters (perhaps while you TA) before any long-term advising or funding commitment would be possible.
We are enthusiastic about having undergraduate students get involved in our research! We have projects that students in a variety of fields could work on (CS, design, health, psychology, math, etc.). The key criteria we look for is not experience level, but creativity, dedication, and a passion for issues related to mHealth and personal health informatics. To demonstrate this, in most cases undergraduates will need to either have volunteered with the research group and shown potential, or taken one of Dr. Intille’s classes and performed well before obtaining a paid position. Paid openings will be posted to the NEU student jobs website. Dr. Intille will also work with NEU students as an advisor on a directed study course in a topic that is of mutual interest. Occasionally the group may advertise for co-op positions. A great opportunity for ambitious NEU undergraduates is to apply for the Provost’s Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors Award (deadlines are end of October, February, and June and you would need to start early on working with Dr. Intille to develop an idea).
For non-NEU undergraduates, it is unlikely the group would have funding for a part-time position or a summer internship. However, if mHealth or personal health informatics is your career direction and you are local and can devote some serious time to research to gain some experience (most likely because you are considering graduate school), you should contact Dr. Intille. Send a resume, transcript, and a one page description of what work you are doing and propose to do.
MS students and applicants
MS students who are interested in getting involved in research for pay must typically demonstrate their skills, research potential, and commitment by either (1) volunteering for one or more semesters, (2) doing well in a course Dr. Intille teaches, or (3) getting very strong recommendations from another faculty member at Northeastern with whom the student has done work. MS students working with the group should be primarily motivated by research questions and, ultimately, continuing with graduate school. Dr. Intille will definitely consider advising MS students who wish to complete an MS thesis but will still require evidence of motivation before signing on to do so. A quality thesis will require over a year of effort, so students interested in this option should approach the group early in their program. Dr. Intille does not fund students in the first-semester of the CS or COE MS programs except in extremely unusual circumstances. What would that be? A student must prove that s/he has an intimate knowledge of either Android mobile phone programming and/or pattern recognition by demonstrating either a large, sophisticated program or results from an experiment. For Android programming, this might be an application that has a well-developed GUI but also uses sensors, connects with a server-side database, and/or shows off advanced Android features; this app should be on the Android Market with actual users. For pattern recognition, this would be a publication that shows evidence that the student has conducted an experiment that started with sensor data collection and resulted in a publication on an activity recognition problem where either Matlab, Weka, or R was used. Another way to make an impression, for students who are looking for research projects before arriving on campus, is to volunteer on one of our open source projects and demonstrate programming abilities and level of commitment the semester or summer before arriving.
Occasionally the group may have funding for paid positions for students in an MS program in the health professions (e.g., exercise and public health). In those cases we will send out notes to mailing lists for the most relevant programs. If you are in an MS program in Bouvé and wish to work on mHealth or health informatics research, reach out and let us know.
If you are interested in a postdoc, you should already be working in mHealth, personal health informatics, or ubiquitous computing and publishing in venues such as JAMIA, CHI, UbiComp, Pervasive, MSSE, Pervasive Health, etc. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of a postdoc, send Dr. Intille your CV, transcripts, a brief statement of purpose indicating what you would like to accomplish during a postdoc, and a single journal publication that best represents your abilities and interests. (If you send him all of this, he’ll get back in touch. If you don’t, you may not hear from him). Dr. Intille will work with strong candidates to try and obtain a source of funding, but that requires starting very early.
Visiting PhD students
We have had some great experiences with visiting PhD students. To make these visits successful (i.e., to get a high-quality publication for the student out of it), the experience should ideally last for six months. Projects of 3 months might be considered, but no less, and in those cases the student must agree to begin work remotely for 3 months prior to the visit and be working directly on a topic of interest. To explore the possibly joining the group as a visitor, send Dr. Intille your CV, transcripts, one of your research papers, and a one page description of what you would like to accomplish were you to join the group for 6 months (i.e., what is the paper you are going to publish going to be about and what is the research method you will use). In practice these ideas would evolve once discussions with members of the research group begin, but any potential visitors should be able to articulate a clear plan. You must be willing to self-fund this visit (Northeastern will require you show proof of funding), and you will be fully responsible for arranging housing in Boston. We cannot help with the logistics.
International summer undergraduate interns
Unfortunately, we are not able to hire international summer interns or host students as volunteers. If you would like to get involved and gain some experience, ask about joining one of our open source projects, such as Wockets or BoxLab, and contribute that way.
Volunteers outside of Northeastern
One of our goals as a research group is to make as many of our projects open source efforts as possible, and we seek to engage people in the research and hobbyist communities in helping to build useful mHealth tools. If mHealth or ubiquitous computing gets you out of bed in the morning and you want to participate in the group remotely (or even if you are in the Boston area), there may be possibilities to do that. Contact us and tell us a bit about how you think you can contribute!