PhD Dissertation Defense: Fatima Varzgani

March 7, 2023
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A Structured Persona Development Methodology for Designing Digital Health Interventions


Personas are fictional but realistic representations of user groups of a product or service that focus on their goals, needs, behavior, and other characteristics that may impact the design of the product. Using personas in the early phases of the design process can help identify product features, and demonstrate how these features address user needs and challenges. Despite being used in research for over a decade, there is a lack of standardized and systematic methodology on the development of personas and how they are used in the design process. The objective of my research is to develop a systematic approach to the persona development process and show its effectiveness through a case study where the proposed methodology was followed to design two mobile applications for a suicide prevention intervention; a web app guiding patients through safety planning in the emergency department (ED) and a smartphone app for use after discharge. The usability of these apps was tested on patients presenting to the ED with suicide risk. The proposed persona development methodology provided a sensitive and effective approach for understanding user needs of patients with high suicide risk. The findings of our study provide an empirical examination of the effectiveness and efficiency of the design process using personas.

Dissertation Committee:
Dr. Soussan Djamasbi (Co-chair)
Dr. Bengisu Tulu (Co-chair)
Dr. Celine Larkin















March 7th, 2023
1:30-2:30 PM

Zoom link

Fatima Varzgani

Fatima Varzgani
PhD Candiate

Fatima Varzgani’s research interests are design thinking and human computer interaction, especially persona development in healthcare. Her dissertation focuses on developing a systematic methodology for persona development for designing digital health tools and technologies. Her research focuses on using personas for designing two mobile applications for patients with suicide risk.

Fatima’s research was presented at AMIA Annual Symposium 2022. It also has resulted in a publication at Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).

Prior to entering the PhD program, she received her MS with double majors in Information Technology and Marketing and Innovation, both from WPI and the Fulbright Program.






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