Biography








Please see my list of publications or project descriptions.

 

Personal biography

I was in my mother's belly when my family immigrated to the United States from Iran in 1979. My family moved to the United States as a result of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. When I was eight, my parents were divorced and each re-married wonderful people after a few years. I'm very fortunate to have a step-father and a step-mother.

I grew up in Maryland attending Thomas Wootton High School in Rockville and enjoyed playing soccer, basketball, and volleyball. I enrolled at the University of Maryland in the Fall of 1997 and became a Resident Assistant. I studied Computer Science and Philosophy and was involved in a diverse array of academic and social circles.

I took my fourth year off to study Spanish in Madrid, Spain and to backpack through countries in Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Middle East. During this time, I underwent many changes in my practices, ideals, objectives, and outlooks on life. I went on safari in Kenya, stayed in village huts with Masaii tribesmen, toured northern Thailand by motorbike, hiked the Himalayas, bathed in the Ganges, attended the teachings of the Dalai Lama in northern India, studied Vipassana meditation & yoga, and explored the land of my ancestors in Iran. I really haven't been the same since.

I spent the summer following graduation doing research in Athens, Greece and did some backpacking through Greece and Turkey. I embarked on a new stage of my life that Fall while studying and conducting research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA. I made new friends, began practicing Brazilian Capoeira again, met fascinating people, and started to figure out what I want to do with my life. I spent a couple of weeks backpacking Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize in August 2003. When I came back, I sat down and started to really think about life after graduate school.

After Carnegie Mellon, I traveled for another 8 months around Asia, India, Iran, and Ethiopia. I then moved to Beijing to work at Microsoft Research Asia to satisfy my adventuresome tendencies while exploring the realm of interaction design. I traveled all around Asia, even North Korea. I discovered the Chinese part of my soul and created Mouse Mischief which took me to work in Thailand, Malaysia, Costa Rica, and the US.

After two years of research at MSR Asia, I enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Stanford University in Learning Sciences and Technology Design. I am an active scholar in the fields of human-computer interaction, information retrieval, child-computer interaction, ICT for development, learning sciences, persuasive technology, and now, calming technology.

In the summer of 2009, while at MSR in Redmond, I created the first classroom environment for enabling web search skills to be learned socially in co-located environments: ClassSearch. In the summer of 2010, while doing research at Google, I conducted experiments showing we could improve search performance through the use of tactical search tips.

Since then, I've coined the terms 'calming technology' (technologies that actively induce calm states of mind and body) and 'self-shaping' (the practice of designing our environments to shape our own future behaviors and interactions). My dissertation concerns 'peripheral paced respiration', a technique I created to ensure computer users breathe in a calm manner while working.

The latest is that Jonathan and I have started Spire and our first product is Breathware.