Tonya Nguyen
Photo of Tonya Nguyen

I'm a first-year PhD student at the Berkeley School of Information, advised by Professor Niloufar Salehi. Formerly, I worked at Stanford HCI with Professor Michael Bernstein and at the Berkeley Institute of Design with Professor Björn Hartmann. My research is in the field of human-computer interaction and social computing.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how we might democratize virtual spaces, design fairer and more equitable AI, and develop technical systems that enable political participation and social wellbeing. Having grown up in an age of technological anxiety, I often think about what it means to do this work. What drives me is a belief in the political power of being present and in the idea that human life can be improved upon.

I graduated from UC Berkeley, where I curated an interdisciplinary major in Computer Science, Design, and Critical Theory. For my undergraduate thesis, I wrote about how online affordances and algorithmic curation within ethinic-based, virtual counterpublics enable the emergence of diasporic identity work. I also founded UC Berkeley's Beyond Design Thinking DeCal, served as head TA of Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction Design, and was design director of Berkeley Political Review. I am lucky to also have been involved with Innovative Design, ASUC OCTO, and Barbell at Berkeley.

Outside of work, my happiest moments are spent hiking outside, singing, practicing yoga or weightlifting, obsessing about skincare, and, of course, eating spicy food.

💼 cv (updated: jan 2020)

updated monthly

💡 Researching
  • How technology plays a role in community resilience and mutual aid networks
  • How to engage under-served communities in the process of school assignment algorithm design and policy

🧠 Learning
  • About the history and theory of new media. (Lots of Latour, it's a good time!)
  • K-pop dance
  • About personal finance and retail investing
  • How to balance my personal life, hobbies, academic goals, and fitness goals during the COVID-19 pandemic

🎧 Listening to


My—non-research related—projects. From graphic design to digital fabrication, I've always loved making things.

Transportation & Wearable Design, , 2019
Dérivé: Shoes Your Own Adventure →
Dérivé is a dynamic mode of discovery that lights the path to an adventure. My roles in this project included protoyping, wireframing, Arduino programming, and mobile app product design.
Wearable Design for Stress Relief, Grounding Practices, 2019 Instant Groundification → is an interactive bracelet that mediates grounding practices for relaxation and bodily awareness to ground users during stressful times. My roles in this project included literature review, programming, industrial design, and prototyping.
Protest Design, Public Art Installation, 2019
Hidden Systems: Black Box Ethics →
Heuristic Algorithm is an exploration of hidden mechanisms with the visual metaphor of a black box. My roles in this project included concept generation, programming, and prototyping.