Emily Mower Provost

Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Michigan


"Ultimately, I have chosen to create mathematical and algorithmic tools to quantify human behavior.  Now, whenever I have a solution that works, I have also learned something new about human behavior."
 


Why Electrical and Computer Engineering?

I have always been interested in studying human behavior and in solving puzzles.  The second interest lead me to electrical and computer engineering (ECE) as an undergrad.  The pursuit of ECE in grad school led me back to my first interest.

Growing up, my community encouraged my love of science.  I learned about structures and stability with my siblings through Legos.  I learned about the power of observation from an incredible sixth grade science teacher.  I learned to construct biology and chemistry experiments through research-based courses in high school.  But, through all of this, I kept coming back to a more primary interest: circuitry and computer science, which my parents taught me through science fairs and programming tasks.

Ultimately, I have chosen to create mathematical and algorithmic tools to quantify human behavior.  Now, whenever I have a solution that works, I have also learned something new about human behavior.


How Electrical and Computer Engineering Uniquely Addresses the World’s Problems

Many of today’s grand challenges center on our health: how can we track health over time and how can we provide alerts when our health changes.  The way we manage many aspects of health now, both mental and physical, is regular check-ins with providers.  However, these check-ins are generally only intermittent.  ECE can provide an alternative: new tools to measure health and health changes in time, tools that can detect changes and explain the reasons behind these changes.  Not only is this academically interesting (and it is!), but it also provides critical societal benefits.

Researchers in ECE provides the mathematical and algorithmic approaches to solve these problems.  But it is important to remember that these solutions are relevant only when they are designed in partnership with domain experts.  True interdisciplinary research starts with questions that are relevant to each of the disciplines and collaboration to iteratively move closer to a meaningful solution.


Advice for Current and Future ECE Students

My biggest advice is to figure out what you are truly passionate about and pursue that topic.  Research is exciting, but it can also be incredibly frustrating.  You are literally pursuing a problem with an unknown solution, if a solution exists at all.  Intrinsic motivation and genuine interest in the domain makes all the frustration worth it.

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