#IamUCI – Jazette Johnson
Q&A with Class of 2023 graduate Jazette Johnson, Ph.D., informatics
Jazette Johnson will be the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in informatics from UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. During her sophomore year of undergraduate studies at Spelman College, she began a research project focused on developing a music therapy app for people with dementia. At the same time, her grandmother was going through the last stages of dementia at home. She died the summer that Johnson completed her research. Since then, the native of both Mount Vernon, New York, and Savannah, Georgia, has continued to explore the intersection of technology and dementia care. Much of her research today focuses on using social media to support caregivers. During Johnson’s time at UCI, she’s worked with the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Orange County to understand the challenges they’re facing and help them find technology-driven solutions. An arm tattoo of a forget-me-not flower with her grandmother’s initials serves as a constant reminder to Johnson of the importance of what she does.
Can you describe a time you felt most proud to be an Anteater?
My proudest moment as an Anteater has been successfully defending my dissertation as the first Black woman in the informatics department to do so. This was a proud and significant moment for me personally and professionally. However, I cannot help but reflect on the institutional factors that have contributed to this achievement 21 years after the establishment of the department. Despite this, I remain committed to promoting a greater focus on the retention and inclusivity of Black and brown students within academia and beyond.
What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I intend to take a sabbatical from academia to engage in self-reflection and rejuvenation. During this period, I plan to embark on a travel experience. Thereafter, I aspire to transition into a full-time career as a user experience researcher. I’m excited about the prospect of applying my skills and knowledge to enhance user satisfaction and drive business success through the development of intuitive and user-friendly products and services.
“Jazette’s research is that rare combination of excellent scholarly work and high impact. By working closely with community partners and the general public, she made sure that she was always giving back to the communities she was studying even while creating new knowledge about how we can best use an array of technologies to support people with dementia and their caregivers. Not only is Jazette an excellent researcher, but she excels as a leader and mentor. From her first day here at UCI, she was always someone other students could count on to work with, to explain things to them and to support them.”– Gillian R. Hayes, dean of the Graduate Division and vice provost for graduate education
Who has been your biggest influence at UCI?
Throughout my academic journey at UCI, my advisors, Dr. Gillian R. Hayes and Dr. Anne Marie Piper, have had a profound impact on my growth and development as a researcher. Under their guidance, I’ve been fortunate to have the freedom to explore topics that are of personal and societal significance. One such research area that I’ve been passionate about is understanding the use of social media as a form of social support among caregivers of people living with dementia – beyond traditional support groups. Their mentorship has been invaluable in enabling me to conduct meaningful research that has the potential to make a positive impact on people’s lives.
What advice would you give to your first-year self?
I would remind her of two key things: self-compassion and perseverance. While it’s important to set high standards for yourself, it’s equally important to be kind to yourself and practice self-care. Remember that you are capable of achieving great things, even if you do not always receive straight A’s. Instead of focusing solely on grades, prioritize your personal growth and research goals that you’ve set out to achieve since your undergraduate years. By staying motivated and persistent, you can achieve your goals and create a successful future for yourself.