Mei-Lian Vader ’22

Mei-Lian Vader ’22 is a current second-year Ph.D. student in our Human-Centered Computing program and is expected to graduate in 2027. She received her BS in Mechanical Engineering from UMBC in 2022. Mei-Lian kindly shares with us how she first got interested in accessible technology research, her experiences as a graduate assistant, and what she is most excited about for this semester.

Mei-Lian Vader posing for a photo on campus during commencement Information Systems: How did you first get interested in Human-Centered Computing?

Mei-Lian Vader: I have always had an interest in accessible technology research and discovered the field of Human-Centered Computing in 2018 with an undergraduate research assistant position with Dr. Ravi Kuber. Dr. Kuber focuses on accessibility research within the blind and low-vision community and introduced me to the field of HCC and accessible technology research.

Information Systems: What are your current research interests?

Mei-Lian Vader: Currently, I am working on a research project exploring the challenges experienced by small business owners who are blind or have low vision. Small businesses provide a unique opportunity for blind and low-vision individuals to have flexibility and control over their work environment in a way that other career opportunities do not. While there are benefits to owning a small business, it is not without its challenges. My current research aims to investigate these challenges and experiences by blind and low-vision small business owners.

Information Systems: What are you excited about for the upcoming semester?

Mei-Lian Vader: This semester I will be serving on the Fika Committee which is a wonderful opportunity for graduate students to gather, learn, and create community. Fika provides learning opportunities for students with presentations from individuals from different research backgrounds and career fields. I am excited to be part of this community and help develop the schedule and activities for this year.

Information Systems: How has your experience been as a graduate student and a graduate assistant thus far?

Mei-Lian Vader: I have been a graduate student for a little over a year now and have been amazed by the supportive and welcoming environment. I have enjoyed my time meeting and building community with my fellow Ph.D. students through classes, Fika, and social events. I am also working as a graduate assistant for Residential Life Facilities and have enjoyed my time in the position as well. The work environment is flexible for my classes and research needs and has offered me valuable leadership experience as well.

Information Systems: What advice would you give a prospective student looking to join this program?

Mei-Lian Vader: My advice for a prospective student would be to take a chance and apply. This is a wonderful department that is very supportive and will work with your needs to make sure you succeed. I would also say that when you are in the program have confidence in yourself as a student and researcher.