July 23, 2024

Health Benefit

Healthy is Rich, Today's Best Investment

IST student diversifies wearable tech health data apps through Google internship

3 min read

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This summer, Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) doctoral student Sahiti Kunchay put her knowledge and skills to the test as a research intern at Google. 

Kunchay worked alongside some of the nation’s top research developers to diversify content measured by smart devices like Apple watches and Fitbits. Her research primarily focused on catering these platforms to people that menstruate in all stages of their life. In her internship role, Kunchay analyzed how biometric data such as activity and exercise could be affected by different life events.

“My team worked closely with product teams and clinical specialists to understand how findings from the study could impact teams across Google,” Kunchay said. “I was tasked with analyzing data sets and coming up with research questions. Basically, I was trying to complete a mini research project in the three months of the internship.” 

Menstrual and reproductive health is a topic that Kunchay is extremely passionate about. 

“This is a really impactful and interesting topic that touched upon something that is really important to me. Things like women’s health is not a topic that is usually approached in the ubiquitous computing community, so I thought there was a lot of potential,” Kunchay said. “A lot of the applications on the market right now don’t provide enough support during different stages of life.” 

Kunchay is well versed in developing technology for the user experience. In her fifth year of her doctoral program at the College of IST, she regularly works to improve individuals’ health and well-being through her research in the Wellbeing & Health Innovation (WHI) lab. She recently led a study to explore users’ perceptions of the lights in smart speakers that serve to deliver notifications to the user and is currently analyzing behavioral health through novel ubiquitous systems. 

Her thesis explores how smart watches monitor substance abuse in younger populations. Kunchay’s internship at Google has enabled her to expand her knowledge in her field, giving her the confidence and skills to be successful after graduation.

“Since my work at Google was so data centric, I picked up a lot of data analysis tools and skills that will be very useful to me in my Ph.D.,” said Kunchay. “I learned a new computing language, how to use new tools and frameworks, and I got to experience working on a large research-oriented team. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of my future career and the information I need in order to make an informed decision on what I want to do after my Ph.D.”

While working remotely at Google, Kunchay was able to seamlessly transition to the virtual office environment thanks in part to her experience at the College of IST. She said the collaborative and industry-driven programs offered at IST prepared her for life at Google. 

“I was confident that I could be a part of a cross-functional team because of the interdisciplinary nature of IST,” she said. “They encourage students to take courses in different departments and work with people from other colleges. At Google, I knew how to work with different stakeholders and view a project with several different perspectives.”

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