Personal Genomics for Human-Computer Interaction

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Project Brief

Personal Genomics for Human-Computer Interaction (PGHCI) is an NSF-funded project, paired with the Human Genome Project, that seeks to facilitate non-expert users to interact with their genetic data, and compare that data with others.

The explosion of personal genetic testing from companies such as 23andMe has led more people than ever to have access to their genetic data, but for non-experts, making meaning of this data can be challenging. PGHCI provides interactive visualization tools to filter, sort, and compare data with family members or friends.

These tools were developed over multiple rounds of iterative testing with hundreds of users on Mechanical Turk. By analyzing user metrics data and comprehension of the genetic data, we were able to improve the visualizations to make them even more accessible to non-experts. The visualizations have since been published on Open Humans, a citizen science website.

View the tool here.

Co-PIs : Dr. Orit Shaer, Wellesley College; Dr. Oded Nov, New York University; Dr. Mad Ball, Open Humans

Collaborators: Monsurat Olaosebikan, Lauren Westendorf, Christina Pollalis

Generously funded by NSF grants IIS-1017693 and IIS-1422706

I would like to acknowledge the contributions of the student researchers at Wellesley College and New York University for their work.


Westendorf, L., Shaer, O., Pollalis, C., Verish, C., Nov, O., & Ball, M. P. (2018). Exploring genetic data across individuals: design and evaluation of a novel comparative report tool. Journal of medical Internet research, 20(9), e10297.

Westendorf, L., Pollalis, C., Verish, C., Shaer, O., Metaxas, P. T., Finn, S. T., ... & Nov, O. (2017). From Personal Genomics to Twitter: Visualizing the Uncertainty of Evidence. In Designing for Uncertainty in HCI: When Does Uncertainty Help? Workshop, CHI 2017 Computer-Human Interaction.