Katie Siek interview: Selected quotes

Katie Siek

On a separate page: Overview page for this interview

Insights from a Project Adventure experiment

[talking about pre-college experiences] And then my other favorite course was a course we had called Project Adventure, which was a course in building trust and doing trust activities, like trust falls, and doing kind of like a group leadership, the kind of camps that people go to now, but we had that as a full year class. I was part of an experiment in that class. So one of our teachers was getting her Ph.D. And until, like, my senior year, I’d never heard of a Ph.D before. Like, I’d heard “Dr. Martin Luther King,” but I knew he wasn’t a real doctor, but I didn’t really know what that meant. That’s as far as I knew about a Ph.D. And then the political science professor had a Ph.D. And then my Project Adventure teacher was getting her Ph.D and doing the research on us to find out how Project Adventure could help us. She had three groups. She had one class that had all Honors students. She had one class that had students who were in a regular course load. And then she had one … my group, who didn’t get along at all at first. It was Honor students and regular student and students that were at risk for dropping out of school and not finishing. And we got interviewed. And they tracked our progress. And by the end of the year — which totally went against what she thought would happen — by the end of the year our group had more trust. We had less accidents. We were really bonded and really were helping each other out. But it was … I think that’s like my favorite experience from high school: it’s just giving people a chance. Because my first interviews I’d say, “I’m not going to do a trustful activity with those people. They can’t touch me because I have a future and they’re not going anywhere and they don’t care. They’ll let me fall.” And then by the end, one of my best partners was one of those people that didn’t even want to touch me. And I was kind of like, “Come on, you know, if he’s not belaying me, then I don’t … but, you know, if he’s my partner, then that’s it!” So, it was a lot of fun.

Quote from interview with Katie Siek
  • Transcript lines: 200-220
  • Audio clip [2 minutes 18 seconds] located at 16:57 in full audio of interview

Gold, jewelry, and microchips

[W]hen I was in 4th grade, my Uncle Frank … I had to do a book report … I had to do a report on something, I had no idea what I wanted to do. And my uncle said, “Well, you like jewelry, right?” And I said, “Oh, yeah!” And he said, “And you like gold?” And I said,”Yes.” And he said, “Well, did you know gold is in microchips?” So I’m like, “No!” So he brought me to his work and he grabbed an old microchip and he took off the top and he showed me the strands. And at the time — I don’t know what they are now, but at the time, they were gold — and he showed me the strands. And he showed me the microchip. And he was telling me how it worked. And I just wrote my whole report on that then. I remember going to school and I had the microchip and I was showing them the gold strands. And all the other girls were like, “Whoa, gold is in computers? Like, that’s really cool!” It was just this kind of girlie thing, I mean like, “There’s gold there!” [laughter]

Quote from interview with Katie Siek
  • transcript lines: 326-336
  • Audio clip [50 seconds] located at 26:53 in full audio of interview

Advantages of a Liberal Arts background

I mean I say I didn’t know about these other technical schools, but I’m glad of the path I took. Because I think going to a liberal arts school helped prepare me for where I am now. I do research in HCI, working with psychologists and sociologists. And I do work in pervasive health care … excuse me, pervasive computing, which is systems-oriented. And then I put that in the domain of health care. And I think because of my liberal arts educational experience, I’m not scared of reading anything, you know? You give me a psychology book, a sociology book, the latest in diabetes; I’ll read it and I’ll figure out what it says. And I find that my friends who are really from strict technical backgrounds are like, “Whoa! Sociology? That soft stuff?” Or “Oh, I’m …” It’s almost like they have some sort of superiority thing. And there’s also this thought of, “I just don’t want to go there. I just don’t want to read about that other stuff.” I love reading about other fields. So I think that helped me in my career choice.

Quote from interview with Katie Siek
  • Transcript lines: 492-502
  • Audio clip [1 minute 3 seconds] located at 39:03 in full audio of interview

Understanding differences in the millennial generation

I did get to do some research on teaching, especially the summer I wrote my CAREER, NSF CAREER, award. So I was feeling, “Oh!” Like, it was enlightening! I wish I had, like, some type of seminar or something on this, or someone said, “Read this!” Because I’m used to … you know, I tutored and TAed for students close to my age. But this new generation of students is completely different, like they call them millennials. And they use social networking sites. And they’re just very quick [snapping fingers several times]. And if they’re bored it’s not going to happen; they’re not going to do it, no matter what. And I just wasn’t used to dealing with that kind of students. But reading about this and finding out, “Oh, OK. But yeah … These are my experiences. This is what happened. And here are some ideas of how to bring them into teaching. Bring in more interaction to the classroom. Bring in … Let them bring laptops. Let’s do some social networking site research here. Let’s look this up right now during class.” That’s helped a tremendous amount.

Quote from interview with Katie Siek
  • Transcript lines: 1142-1152
  • Audio clip [1 minute] located at 89:33 in full audio of interview

Using interactivity in class

I’ve been working more on, kind of, interactive classes and bringing in my own research experiences. And giving them problems. Like a lot of times, especially in medical informatics, I go and meet with doctors and nurse researchers. And they’ll say, “We’re having this problem. You know, like, people are doing X and we want to help them do Y.” And so then I tell them, “Oh! Can technology help with this?” And so now I just, you know, bring them to my class. Like, here’s my … you know, I have my ideas. But I bring them to my class. I say, “OK. So I’ve talked to you about X, now here’s the problem that was proposed … that someone just told me about just last week. Can we fix it? Can we help it? How can we enhance it? What’s going on here?” And then they break out and think up some ideas. And so, it’s been a … this year has been a lot more … easier for me to teach, I think, than the last two years. Because the last two years I was just expecting them to be students like we had, you know, eight or ten years ago, when things have changed so much more.

Quote from interview with Katie Siek
  • Transcript lines: 1154-1164
  • Audio clip [1 minute 4 seconds] located at 90:33 in full audio of interview

Life balance and reflections

I’ve been talking to one of my friends about this a lot lately. So, I guess the main challenge in recent years is kind of getting over my mom’s death and getting back on the research path. And one thing it taught me, you know, my mom was 50 when she died, so life is short. You know, like, I’m 30, so I may have only 20 years left. And 30 went really fast, so 20’s going to speed by. And I can’t die when I’m 50. So I’m going to take care of myself, so … and yet … and yet I’m not. You know, like, I’m not. One of my friends said, “You work so much. Like, what are you doing? Are you enjoying your daughter?” And I’m kind of like, “Yeah, I love her, but …” I said, “I love her, but …” And I shouldn’t say “but.” But I do! You know, it’s intense and it’s hard. And I’m just kind of living for the next deadline, living for the next paper to get in, you know, living for the next grant to get in. When I’m with [my daughter], I’m kind of like with her, but I’m also thinking, “OK, I have to get her to sleep by 10, so I can be working by 10:15, so I can do this.” And so … I should have learned more from my mom’s death than I’m doing.

Quote from interview with Katie Siek
  • Transcript lines: 1453-1463
  • Audio clip [1 minute 17 seconds] located at 113:21 in full audio of interview