Day: November 11, 2020

Briana Bettin, Part II: Research, Mentors, Creative Energy

Briana Bettin, front, far right, with fall 2019 Computer Science dept. teaching assistants

Michigan Tech 2020 Ph.D. graduate Briana Bettin, Computer Science, is among six new faculty members the College of Computing welcomed this fall. Bettin is an assistant professor for the Department of Computer Science and the Cognitive and Learning Sciences department.

This semester, she is teaching courses including CS1121 Introduction to Programming in C/C++, and pursuing research and other projects with faculty and students.

In this, Part II of this profile of Briana Bettin, Bettin and her faculty mentors talk research, education, and novel ideas.

Read the first installment of this article, ‘Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success Part I”, published Oct. 28, 2020, here.

Mental models, constructing knowledge, programming analogies.

Briana Bettin’s research interests are many. They include user experience, human factors, human-computer interactions, mental models, information representation, rural digital literacy, education, engagement, retention, and digital anthropology. Her Ph.D. dissertation aims to better understand how novice programmers approach learning programming, and how their construction of programming ideas might be better facilitated.

“I delve into mental models research and explore theories for how students might construct knowledge,” she explains. “Specifically, the major studies in my dissertation explore how prior applicable knowledge might allow for transfer to programming concepts, which can feel very novel to students who have never programmed before.”

Bettin is also exploring methods for designing programming analogies, testing their application in the classroom, and observing how their use may impact student understanding of specific topics. “I take a very user experience-oriented approach, and work to apply methods and ideas from user-experience research in the CS classroom space,” she says.

Creative energy, insight, and humanity.

With Computer Science department faculty members Associate Professor Charles Wallace and Assistant Professor Leo Ureel, Bettin has worked on projects studying how novice programmers communicate. She and Ureel also worked on several ideas in the introductory CS classrooms, including exploring pair programming obstacles in the classroom and in research.

“I got to know Dr. Wallace during my Ph.D., and I love getting his perspective on research ideas,” Bettin says. “He has so many interesting ideas, and he’s so fun to talk to!”

“Briana brings loads of creative energy, insight, and humanity to everything she does,” says Wallace. “We are very fortunate to have her with us.”

Passionate about Computing Education.

Other research collaborators include Lecturer Nathan Manser, Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, and Senior Lecturer Michelle Jarvie-Eggart, Engineering Fundamentals, College of Engineering, with whom Bettin has explored topics in technology acceptance across engineering and computer science.

“Briana has been an enthusiastic addition to our research group,” Jarvie-Eggart says, who is working with Steelman and Wallace on improving engineering students’ acceptance of programming. “She really is amazing!”

Jarvie-Eggart sat in on Bettin’s Intro to Programming class in fall 2019, and noted that Bettin’s. approach of teaching algorithmic thinking and logic—before students begin programming—helps make programming more accessible to all.

“It builds foundational knowledge from the ground up,” she says. “Our research team is very excited about using her progressive CS education approaches to teach engineers programming.”

Stefka Hristova, in Michigan Tech Humanities, has always been supportive, helping me cultivate an interdisciplinary research vision and voice,” Bettin says. “Dr. Robert Pastel has also been so valuable in helping me approach my research with strong design. He has given me a lot of insight and I am so appreciative!”

“Briana is passionate about Computing Education, and she is invested in infusing equity and diversity into the STEM field,” Hristova says.


In Part III of this article, to be published soon, Briana Bettin talks about peer mentors and friends … and they say a few words, too.


Read the first installment of this article, ‘Briana Bettin, Asst. Prof., Part I: Neopets, HTML, Early Success Part I”, here.


Sangyoon Han to Present Chemistry Seminar this Friday, Nov. 13, at 3 pm

A Chemistry Seminar will be presented Friday, September 13, 2020, at 3:00 p.m., via online meeting.

Dr. Sangyoon Han will present his lecture, “Toward Discovery of the Initial Stiffness-Sensing Mechanism by Adherent Cells.” Han is an Assistant Professor in Biomedical Engineering, an Affiliate Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, and advisor for the Korean Student Association. Han is a member of the ICC’s Center for Data Science.

Lecture Abstract

The stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM) determines nearly every aspect of cellular/tissue development and contributes to metastasis of cancer. Adherent cells’ stiffness-sensing of the ECM triggers intracellular signaling that can affect proliferation, differentiation, and migration of the cells. However, biomechanical and molecular mechanisms behind this stiffness sensing have been largely unclear. One critical early event during the stiff-sensing is believed to be a force transmission through integrin-based adhesions, changing the molecular conformation of the molecules comprising the adhesions that link the ECM to the cytoskeleton. To understand this force transmission, my lab develops experimental and computational techniques, which include soft-gel-based substrates, live-cell imaging, computer-vision-based analysis, and inverse mechanics, etc. In this talk, I will talk about how we use soft-gel to quantify the spatial distribution of mechanical force transmitted by a cell, how we use light microscopy and computer vision to analyze the focal adhesions, and how these techniques are related to stiffness sensing. In particular, I will show you new data where cells can transmit different levels of traction forces in response to varying stiffness, even when the activity of the major motor protein, myosin, is inhibited. At the end of the talk, potential molecules responsible for the differential transmission will be discussed. 

Researcher Bio

Sangyoon Han received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Washington (UW) in 2012 and did postdoctoral training with Dr. Gaudenz Danuser in the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center for five years until 2017. Before the Ph.D., he received B.S and M.S. degree from Mechanical Engineering at Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea in 2002 and 2004.

He joined Michigan Tech, Biomedical Engineering from fall 2017, and started Mechanobiology Laboratory. His lab’s interests are in understanding the dynamic nature of force modulation occurring across cell adhesions and cytoskeleton that regulate cells’ environmental sensing. His lab develops a minimally-perturbing experimental approach and computational techniques, including soft-gel fabrication, nano-mechanical tools, live-cell microscopy, and image data modeling, to capture the coupling between force modulation and cellular molecular dynamics.