The average college student needs about 8-9 hours of sleep, but many get less than 4 according to Soussan Djamasbi, associate professor of management information systems in the WPI Foisie School of Business. Djamasbi and a team of fellow WPI researchers are seeking to help college students get the sleep they need—and mitigate sleep deprivation side effects like anxiety and decreased attention span—by designing a mobile app focused on sleep health.

For her part, Djamasbi is working to optimize the user experience design of the app. She is playing a crucial role at every stage of the project, from conducting interviews with potential users to deploying eye-tracking technology to study how users interact with prototypes.

As Djamasbi explains, user experience research involves much more than simply determining which size buttons work best or how menu items should be arranged.

“My research focuses on understanding how technology can improve people’s lives. To do that we need to use rigorous scientific methods to understand why people do what they do—and then figure out how we can enhance their abilities or change their undesirable behaviors using technology,” says Djamasbi. “With the sleep app, we must start by identifying why these students aren’t getting enough sleep and what would help them to improve their sleep habits. After that it becomes an iterative process aimed at creating a product that is easy to use and also encourages students to engage in more healthy behavior.”

Based in her User Experience & Decision Making laboratory, Djamasbi has also leveraged her expertise to tackle healthcare topics such as understanding the role of human-computer interaction in developing technologies for health and wellness.

She says she is particularly excited to work on the sleep app because of its potential to make a difference on the WPI campus.

“This project will have a direct impact on WPI students, who are the target population for our app,” says Djamasbi. “Additionally, WPI students are playing a major role in developing the app. By participating in our study and giving us feedback, they are helping us build a product that could help drive improved sleep health for millions of college students.”