Cognitive Solutions & Foundations at IBM Research - Almaden - User Systems and Experience Research (USER)

User Systems and Experience Research

The User Systems and Experience Research (USER) group at IBM Research - Almaden focuses on understanding and improving how people interact with technology and with each other through technology. We analyze existing practices, build novel, interactive technologies and systems, and study their impact on real users, often in the field. Our cross-disciplinary team is comprised of researchers and software engineers with backgrounds in computer science, psychology, social science, design, and user experience. We are a part of the Human Computer Interaction Research community at IBM.

More about the USER Group

Social Computing

We are exploring the use of social networking and social media activities among businesses and their customers to derive a deeper understanding of individuals (e.g., employees and customers) and groups (e.g., online communities and organizations). We then develop novel technologies that facilitate human-computer-human interactions based on such understanding (e.g., employee-employee, marketer-consumer, patient-doctor). We are particularly interested in the following three research areas:

  • User, team, and community modeling: Characterizing individual and group behavior and traits from collaboration tool usage data (e.g., community spaces, emails, microblogs), through studies and computational modeling. We are leveraging these models to improve the effectiveness of groups and the user experience and value of their tools.
  • People modeling from social media: Designing and conducting empirical studies to better understand what factors, e.g., psychological and social factors, affect one’s particular traits. Developing analytic models and algorithms to derive one’s composite traits from his/her social media posts and activities. Developing live experiments to validate the effect of the models/algorithms in real world (e.g., for collecting information in crisis/disaster situations).
  • Individualized interaction: Designing and conducting field studies to understand the effect of engaging people on social media based on their unique traits, e.g., personality and fundamental needs. Development of novel interaction technologies that better facilitate individualized engagement (e.g., how to interact with users if the system knows their personality and emotional state). Applications could include collecting hidden information, verifying questionable information, or taking action (e.g., recommending a marketing promotion).

Contact: Jeff Nichols (jwnichols at or Barton Smith (barton.smith at

User-Centered Visual Analytics

This line of work involves researching and developing visual analytic paradigms, tools, and methodologies to support task and goal-driven decision making. We aim to support users in their decision making in domains such as retail and healthcare. We are interested addressing several research issues:

  • Design and develop technologies to identify and extract factors from massive unstructured and structured data that influence one’s decision makingn.
  • Development of novel, interactive visual metaphors and technologies to explain the discovery of decision factors and the evidence in the original data to substantiate such discoveries.
  • Support of interactive, collaborative visual analytics that allow users share and complement each other’s analytic methods and paths.

Contact: Eser Kandogan (eser at

Internship Opportunities with USER

The USER group at IBM Research - Almaden in San Jose, California is accepting applications for interns for next summer. We seek interns with backgrounds in computer science, cognitive science, sociology, and design. Applicants must be enrolled in a Ph.D. program.

To apply for an internship, send an email to one of the contacts above or csjobs at

  1. With a subject-line "USER summer intern 2014 application"
  2. Attaching your CV, and
  3. Including the following information in the body text of the email:
    • A few keywords describing your current research and research area (e.g., CSCW, info viz, end-user-programming, experimental psychology).
    • A few keywords describing your HCI research skills (e.g., strong programmer, quantitative data analysis, experimental design, visual design).
    • The name and email address of your academic advisor.

Applications sent to csjobs at will be considered by all USER research areas. If you know which area you are interested in, you are encouraged to send an email with the above information to the contact person for that individual area above. Your application will still be considered for all USER areas.

IBM is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin, genetics, disability, age, or veteran status.