So Karina, what have you been up to professionally these past few years?

For the past five years, I’ve dedicated my professional life to HIV research. The disease, even though it is as manageable as any other chronic illness, is still heavily stigmatized and disproportionally affects gender, sexuality, and racial minorities in the United States. I started my career in this field in 2012 to combat new HIV infections, as well as keep those who were already infected healthy. Traditional methods of engaging individuals in HIV care have grown increasingly old and outdated. Specifically, HIV practitioners weren’t reaching the individuals who were most at risk – young gay men and transwomen of color. Within my current position at The Behavior and Technology Lab at UNC (BATLab), we aim to specifically target these individuals by reaching them through channels that they are already familiar with – their computers and phones. Originally, I was hired as a research assistant where my main duties resided in the clinical aspects of our work. However, as I saw how strong of an effect our technologies had in creating behavior change within HIV+ youth, I became more interested in working with our development teams.

You can look at my CV to read about what I did specifically for the projects I worked on. You can also get a better sense of the projects I worked on and why they mattered to me here.

Why do you want to go into HCI/Information Science?

The combination of working on both successful and unsuccessful technology-based studies has demonstrated to me that there is a need for individuals who understand ethical research methodologies, recognize technology’s ability to leverage health outcomes for sexual, gender, and racial minorities, and utilize strong user experience design. There is a gap of knowledge between experts in these fields that I have seen firsthand. Communication between researchers and developers can break down because they work independently of one another and may not comprehend each other’s needs. As an individual who understands the symbiotic nature of these fields, I can more readily see the bigger picture and how these fields must work together.

I saw on the homepage that you’re a DJ. Is that really true?

Yes. You can catch me on weekends DJing with either Disco SweatPersona, or just as “Karina S” at the Nightlight Bar and Club.

For fun, I also work at a house and techno record store where my presence consistently combats toxic masculinity in relation to music taste.

If you were a kitchen utensil or appliance – which one would you be and why?

Without a doubt, I am cast-iron skillet. I am versatile, tough, and extremely useful to have in your pantry. I am also a weapon and if need be.