“We made a big mistake 300 years ago when we separated technology and humanism. … It’s time to put the two back together.” — Michael Dertouzos, Scientific American, July 1997
As a computer scientist who specializes in user experience design and usability engineering, Dr. Matthew Kam has a track record in crossing disciplinary boundaries to solve inherently complex, multidisciplinary problems in the real world. Growing up as a teenager, his ambition was to become an outstanding development economist who would address problems related to global poverty. This interest led him to pursue an undergraduate degree in economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and to research the educational and socioeconomic benefits of computer donations to low-income households in Singapore and the United States. He concurrently pursued a second undergraduate degree in computer science out of his childhood hobby in computer programming and robotics. After realizing that human-centered computing allows him to integrate his interests in engineering with the social and behavioral sciences, he stayed on at Berkeley to pursue a doctorate in computer science, where he built a client-server wireless handheld tablet learning system as his first project. As he continued to apply his usability skills to design, build and deploy educational technologies during graduate school, he obtained the epiphany that he was trying to solve education problems, not technical computer science problems. Realizing that he needed to learn from master teachers and education researchers, he crossed over to the opposite side of campus to complete graduate work at the Graduate School of Education. Kam continues to take this domain-focused approach when applying his leadership skills and technology background to diverse domains.