Careers in User Experience Research


User Experience Research and Design (colloquially known as UX) encompasses a broad sweep of new roles in diverse industries. Whether designing wayfinding in buildings or interfaces for apps, UX researchers need to understand and meet the needs of diverse clients. UX researchers have backgrounds in social sciences, hard sciences, and the humanities, depending on the specific field, and the diversity of our panelists reflects the diversity of places where graduate students and postdocs can look for rewarding work.


Courtney Roberts, User Experience at W.W. Grainger (MA, Social Sciences) My journey with UX started at the University of Chicago, wherein completing my Master's in Social Science I was drawn to the micro-interaction dynamics between people and their mobile devices in our everyday lives: the impact on face-to-face encounters and a shift in our notions of public/private space and social etiquette. At that point, my insights were based in theory, but my research at UChicago catapulted me into the world of professional UX. And since then, user-centered research has been crucial to a passion-filled career. As the Lead Researcher at TOCA, a small boutique-style market research consulting firm here in Chicago, I conducted qualitative, ethnographic research projects from start to finish (and learned many lessons along the way). At GfK (formerly User Centric), I was taught and excelled at usability testing in a lab environment. And at my current role as a UX Researcher at Grainger, I collect and leverage user-centered insights to guide development and design endeavors for our eCommerce team. Don't be a stranger at GRADUCon, I love this field and am happy to meet and talk to you!

Kirsten Bruckbauer, Senior UX Researcher at Allstate (MA'10 Social Sciences) is a design researcher and strategist who guides product development and decision making by mapping and measuring user experiences. Prior to joining the in-house user experience team at Allstate, Kirsten was a research director in the user experience group with GfK Custom Research LLC, a global market research firm. She employs evaluative usability research techniques including lab and field-based usability testing, cognitive in-depth interviewing, expert reviews, heuristic analysis, competitive benchmarking, and contextual observation, and has established a track record of consistently excellent research execution and insightful, actionable results. She has worked with clients in the fields of healthcare, telecom, and finance and insurance, including leading nearly a dozen major pharmaceutical companies through successful programs of human factors research on consumer healthcare products. While fluent in usability measurement techniques, Kirsten is also inspired by generative research techniques and is equally comfortable with exploratory research, envisioning, and path finding based on business and strategy needs. At Allstate, she is working with a team of UX researchers, designers, and information architects to develop a research-based user-centered design culture. She lives in Evanston with her husband.

Jonathan Shih, Technology/UX Consultant at Deloitte Digital (MS'12, Computer Science). Jon works at the intersection of design, technology, and business to deliver compelling experiences and drive adoption of user research based design principles for some of the world's largest organizations in retail, healthcare, and the public sector. His multidisciplinary background helps him bridge traditional organizational silos to realize solutions that are desirable, feasible, and viable. In his previous lives, Jon studied human-centered design methods under usability pioneer Don Norman and spent time working as a back-end developer and product designer. In his spare time, he enjoys mixology, playing/writing music, and eating his way around the world.

Bari Wieselman Schulman, Co-Founder of thinkMAGENTA (PhD'04, Psychology), is an expert design strategist and experience designer with deep cross-cultural experience. Her high-intensity creative and analytical mind and keen sensitivity to cultures, trends, and worldviews fueled leadership roles at a number of innovative firms, including e-Lab / Sapient, Insight Product Development, Razorfish, and Panorama Innovation. Bari's deep-seated passion for creative expression, experimentation, and tackling deliciously complex ideas, stemming from her love of language, the intricacies of the human mind, and exploring new cultures, has led her to co-found thinkMAGENTA, an experience design company that brings high-impact arts and culture installations to life. 


Maddy Ross, UX Specialist, GfK (MA'14, Social Sciences) has a background in cultural anthropology, and received her Master's degree from UChicago. Shortly after graduating, she joined GfK as a UX researcher, where a significant amount of her UX training came "on the job." She now works across multiple industries as a consultant, including: Medical, Automotive, and Consumer Goods. Her background in anthropology prepared her to be a researcher as well as to be a keen observer, which has served her well in her career in UX.