At a time of unprecedented challenges facing society, we need to develop strategies for collective innovation where we engage many diverse stakeholders to generate ideas, provide feedback, and co-create better, more inclusive outcomes. Design can no longer be seen as a solitary endeavor where a designer, through pure force of talent, improves a product or service, and then hands it off to a community of use.

The ProtoLab combines research in design thinking, crowdsourcing, and decision making to create novel social technologies that motivate participation and organize people around complex problems in civics, healthcare, climate change, and education. Our research investigates the underlying social and cognitive mechanisms that impact how different groups— from local communities, to classrooms of students, to online crowds — tackle complex problems creatively and collaboratively.

Technology has not only transformed how we share information, but how we collaborate to solve complex problems. As part of our research process in the ProtoLab, we observe how groups appropriate technology to serve their goals, we conceptually model collaborative processes, and we design and test novel systems that explore opportunities for how people can work together. Ultimately, our research seeks to deepen our understanding of how the creative process works, to improve design practice for teams, and to teach design more effectively to larger audiences.

How to get involved

For PhD Students:

Prospective PhD students should apply either to the Cognitive Science PhD program or the Computer Science and Engineering program at UC San Diego. If you would like to work with Prof. Dow, make sure to mention him in your application. If you are currently a UCSD PhD student and you would like to get involved, feel free to reach out to Prof. Dow.

For Masters and Undergraduate Students:

Specific research projects are led by phd students and postdocs. If you want to join a research project, please reach out to the project leaders listed on the project page.

In addition, the Protolab currently has several positions available in the lab: Technical Lead, Visual Designer, and Copy Editor. For the right people, these positions can either be for credit (e.g., COGS 199) or for hourly pay (commensurate with prior experience and level in school). We seek to fill these positions by end of September 2017.

Technical Lead:
Our lab currently seeks a developer with full stack development skills. The ideal candidate would be someone who can work independently to develop research software, as well as aid in setting up and debugging issues across multiple other projects. Candidates should a submit resume and a link to their personal GitHub repository in order to show examples of work that go beyond just class projects.

Community Lead and Copy Editor:
Our lab currently seeks a writer and editor to help with various tasks that are part of the “Design for San Diego” (D4SD.org) initiative. The ideal candidate would be able to work independently to write and edit copy for the website and to monitor a Slack discussion forum in order to provide community support. Candidates should submit a resume and a link to independent writing samples that illustrates your writing experience and style.

Visual Designer:
Our lab currently seeks a visual designer to create graphics, UI designs, and branding materials for a variety of small projects in the lab. The job will also involve providing design feedback as part of a research experiment. Candidates should submit a resume and a link to an online portfolio that illustrates your experience with visual design.

UCSD students can apply here for these open positions.

Students from outside of UCSD: internship opportunities will be able for summer 2018. The application will posted in March 2018.