Aakash Gautam

I am an assistant professor in the School of Computing and Information at University of Pittsburgh. I hold dual appointments in the Department of Information Culture and Data Stewardship (ICDS) and the Department of Computer Science (CS). Previously, I was a faculty member at the Computer Science Department at San Francisco State University (SFSU).

I am interested in designing socio-technical systems to realize an inclusive and just society. My research falls across human-computer interaction (HCI), learning sciences, and community-based participatory action research. Acknowledging that technology design can reinforce the status quo, I seek ways to support the groups to own the output and engage with institutional infrastructures to bring about desired social change. I leverage participatory approaches that take incremental steps, focused on supporting communities to develop a critical awareness of their existing strengths and surrounding contexts. In the process, I design technology to function as an intermediary in facilitating people to come together, have a say in the process of change, and make moves towards enacting their desired futures.

I completed my Ph.D. at Virginia Tech where I was a member of ThirdLab. During my graduate program, I worked on two major projects. The first involved developing integrated computational thinking and science modules for middle school classrooms. We deployed curricular materials, including simulations and code-based models, in schools in Texas, Virginia, and Nepal. The second ongoing project involved an anti-trafficking organization in Nepal and survivors of human trafficking supported by the organization. The project aims to support survivors in achieving what they call “dignified reintegration.” Since then, my research has expanded to examine the use of various forms of technology in attending to complex social problems through collaborations with non-profit organizations and individual community partners.

I am actively seeking to work with undergraduate and graduate students who share an interest in (1) designing socio-technical systems for both informal and formal learning environments, and/or (2) exploring and creating community-centered solutions to aid marginalized and vulnerable communities. If you are currently enrolled at Pitt, let’s chat over coffee/tea/hot chocolate. If you are considering graduate studies at Pitt, I encourage you to reach out to me before submitting your application.

You can reach out to me via email (aakash[at]pitt[dot]edu). I am also (sporadically) on Twitter/X.