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

Currently, the ProtoLab offers opportunities for PhD students, masters students and undergraduates. We welcome everyone to join our weekly lab meetings on Mondays from 2-3pm in Atkinson Hall 1309. Contact Prof. Dow for more information.

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 join our lab meeting or reach out to Prof. Dow.

For Masters and Undergraduate Students:

Both masters and undergraduate students can participate in ProtoLab research through an independent study. Funding may be available on a part-time basis for certain projects that have a specific need. To learn more, reach out to the project leaders.
Current students at UCSD who want to get involved can apply for a research position here.
Undergrads from any US university are welcome to apply for a paid summer internship position here .