Munmun De Choudhury

Interactive Computing Associate Professor, Incoming Chair Earn SIGCHI Awards

School of Interactive Computing Associate Professor Munmun De Choudhury has spent more than a decade studying social media and online forums with the goal of making the internet a better place.

For her career efforts, De Choudhury is the co-recipient of the 2023 Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI) Societal Impact Award.

SIGCHI, which is supported by the Association for Computing Machinery, announced the winners of its annual awards on Tuesday. Each year, SIGCHI recognizes individuals with its Lifetime Research Award, Lifetime Practice Award, Lifetime Service Award, Societal Impact Award, and Outstanding Dissertation Award.

The Societal Impact Award is given to mid-career or senior individuals who work to address social issues through human-computer interaction.

“I’m incredibly honored and grateful,” De Choudhury said. “It’s a recognition of some of the work we have been doing to understand and improve mental health outcomes in individuals, communities, and larger populations and societies through ethical analyses of people’s activities and social connections online. The award is as much of a recognition of the work and achievements of my students and collaborators as it is for me.”

For more than 10 years, De Choudhury has researched what she calls the “double-edged sword” of social media. Social media platforms can serve as an outlet or a safe space for people to gain support for their mental health, but they can just as easily serve as a detriment.

“These platforms influence how we conceptualize, seek help, or provide support around mental health," she said. "Sometimes these influences are positive. But other times, these platforms expose people to information that could be harmful. The work we’ve published at SIGCHI-affiliated conferences over the years has looked at both of those dimensions.”

De Choudhury has pioneered research in this area through an interdisciplinary approach that is essential for real-world translation and societal impact. She has combined social computing, machine learning, and natural language processing with concepts and theories from social, behavioral, and health sciences. Along the way, she has partnered with medical institutions, mental health advocacy organizations, and public health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

De Choudhury has served on the scientific advisory boards for Open Up, an online peer support technology, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She serves on a committee supported by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that examines current research on social media and young people.

De Choudhury is no stranger to the SIGCHI community. She has won more than a dozen best paper and honorable mention awards at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Conference, which is the annual flagship conference hosted internationally by SIGCHI. She has also won best paper at the Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW), another SIGCHI event.

The SIGCHI Societal Impact Award adds to the numerous other recognitions De Choudhury has received in her career. These include:

  • The Web Science Trust Test-of-Time Award in 2022
  • The ACM-W Rising Star Award in 2021
  • The Complex Systems Society Junior Scientific Award in 2019

The Societal Impact Award comes with a $5,000 gift and the opportunity to speak at the 2023 CHI conference April 23-28 in Hamburg, Germany. The award is generally given to two to three people each year.

Other recipients this year include Shaowen Bardzell, who was announced as the new chair of the School of Interactive Computing on Tuesday. Gregory Abowd, a former Regents’ professor at the School of Interactive Computing who spent 26 years at Georgia Tech before becoming the Dean of the College of Engineering at Northeastern University, has been given the Lifetime Research Award.