Episode 11 – Started from the Java, Now We Here
Host: Dr. Jeremy Waisome
Description: In this episode, Dr. Kyla McMullen takes a seat on the opposite side of the podcast table to become a guest for the day. Dr. McMullen talks about her journey into computing, although she could not have cared less about school as a student. Today, her work in 3D audio is being used to augment interfaces in virtual and augmented reality, as well as gain insights on spatial audio perception. Tune in as Dr. McMullen tells her own unique super-shero origin story.
Description: Dr. Kyla McMullen earned her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where she was also a Meyerhoff Scholar. She earned her Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan (2007-2012). While earning her Ph.D. she was also a faculty member at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. At Wayne State University she taught computer literacy courses to over 2,000 students. Dr. McMullen is the first (and currently the only) woman of color to earn a Ph.D. in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan. She is currently a tenure-track faculty member in the University of Florida’s Computer & Information Sciences & Engineering Department. Dr. McMullen has a personal commitment to encouraging women and minorities to pursue careers in computing and other STEM fields. She is the author of “Beautiful, Black, and Brainy” and “Brilliant is the New Black” which showcase hundreds of exceptional young African Americans who excel in STEM fields and don’t fit the typical “scientist” stereotype.
Dr. McMullen’s research interests are in the perception, applications, and development of 3D audio technologies. In this line of research, sounds are digitally filtered such that when they are played over headphones, the listener perceives the sound as being emitted from a specific location in their own physical space. Think of it as “surround sound over headphones”. She is using this research to create realistic virtual environments, enhance data sonification, augment assistive technologies for persons with visual impairments, and decrease cognitive load in multimodal systems. She has recently earned the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award to further support her research in this area. She is also the PI of an NSF S-STEM award to augment the financial load of graduate school for PhD students.
Dr. McMullen is also senior personnel for NSF’s Institute for African-American Mentoring in Computing Sciences (iAAMCS) effort to broaden participation in the field of computing. In this role, she has served as the conference chair for the National Society of Blacks in Computing. The conference gathers Black computing student, faculty, and industry professionals for professional development, career progress, networking, and bonding. In addition, Dr. McMullen co-hosts Modern Figures Podcast, elevating the voices of Black women in computing. This podcast is a collaborative effort iAAMCS and The National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT ) to highlight the often neglected stories of Black women in computing.