People of SU / Research

Diving Into Data

Written by Tara Lee

January 10, 2023

Picture of Hildy Kong and students.
Dr. Hidy Kong (far right) with her students.

National Science Foundation grant supports undergraduate students who are working to create a web tool to expand data research. 

Seattle University is a teaching university, but that doesn’t mean that faculty and student research isn’t also happening across campus. 

In 2022, Computer Science Assistant Professor Hidy Kong, PhD, was awarded a nearly $175,000 National Science Foundation grant for research. The funded project is for an open-source web tool for conducting qualitative research that will help to better illustrate trends in interviews and data. 

Kong, who has been at Seattle University for the past four years, teaches data structures, UX design and visual analytics. 

“Qualitative researchers collect and analyze non-numerical data to understand people’s interactions, opinions and experiences. A transparent and trustworthy data analysis process could enable researchers to debunk existing bias and re-examine stigmatized topics,” says Kong. “An example of this is the inclusion of non-verbal cues in the data analysis process, which could elevate the voices of underrepresented people, such as non-native English speakers and those from different cultures.”

For researchers, including those in the health field, coding interview data can be onerous and burdensome. Data visualization can help show patterns and findings. 

This research builds on Kong’s previous work creating data visualization tools that can be used by medical professionals in pre-screening for autism. Her current work and research attracted the support and attention of the College of Nursing and Assistant Professor Alic Shook, PhD, RN.

Shook believes that flexibility is key for health providers and is collaborating with Kong to further the conceptual understanding of how stigma impacts young people living with sickle cell disease.

“I’m excited for the role this new tool may play in helping us to identify bias in the interview process, as well as trends across interviews that we might not otherwise recognize without it,” Shook says. “I’m hopeful the tool Dr. Kong and her team are working on can help us ascertain groupings of words and phrases that show up frequently in these interviews, part of larger discourses, that ultimately have an impact on nurses’ knowledge and practice habits.”

The NSF grant will also enable Kong to hire two undergraduate student researchers. 

Says Kong, “The students chosen to work on the project represent not only computer science, but design. The design student is able to experience how their designs will be used and the computer science students need to explain their work in non-technical terms. It makes for richer and deeper collaboration for all and strengthens the process and, ultimately, the research."