Published Apr 25, 2022
Faculty Spotlight: Rebecca Leis
Rebecca Leis’s years of research in human-computer interaction and psychology help her prepare Full Sail technology students for professional success.
To the untrained eye, the tech industry seems like it’s all about numbers. But to create successful software, you’ve got to keep user psychology in mind. Luckily, Dr. Rebecca Leis – who is Program Director for Full Sail's Computer Science bachelor's (including concentrations in Mobile Development and Artificial Intelligence), Computer Science master's and User Experience bachelor's degree programs – is skilled at both. Rebecca brings years of academic research in psychology and human-computer interaction into Full Sail’s classrooms, giving students comprehensive training that prepares them to work in the technology sector.
Rebecca grew up in a family of engineers, but she kicked off her post-secondary education with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Central Florida. She switched to a Human-Computer Interaction track toward the end of her degree and explored relationships between people and technology.
She went on to earn a master’s in Modeling and Simulation from UCF, and she recently earned a Ph.D. The original research she’s participated in gave her not only a strong foundation in simulation technology but also an acute understanding of the human mind.
“There is a lab at the [UCF Institute for Simulation and Training] that I worked at that focused a lot on physiological responses,” says Rebecca. “[We used] things like EEG caps and medical equipment to monitor your electrical signals. That was one of the things that was inspiring to me was understanding the human brain and how it works on a biological level when you’re interacting with different technologies,” she says.
Rebecca was on several research projects that explored how people could use technology to become safer, more efficient workers in high-risk jobs at oil rigs or nuclear power plants. However, the research she helped conduct for UCF’s Space, Science, and Spirituality Project examined how technology could affect people’s ideas about themselves and the world.
“It was a simulated space flight; you were coming from the Earth and you would kind of orbit around the Earth after you got outside of the atmosphere. And then we would monitor how you felt during that because many astronauts explain that they have these spiritual experiences once they get out into space. Seeing that is awe-inspiring to many people. So we were trying to explore that, the feeling of awe and wonder,” Rebecca says.
Her deep understanding of how technology affects its users gives Rebecca an advantage when she’s preparing her Full Sail students for life after college, with a particular emphasis on achieving a healthy work-life balance.
“Software development and computer science can be very time-consuming and world-consuming fields because you can get so stuck in a problem. You can either get stuck and stop doing the problem completely, or you can get obsessed," she says. "I try to impart... that there’s a balance in life. I do a lot of project management, time management, and working on determining what your priorities really are."
Rebecca also emphasizes planning and polishing in her classes.
“One of the biggest things I teach is making sure things are in the right place before you start working on development,” she says. “The other thing is making sure [the work] is polished at the end… Even if you haven’t gotten to everything that you want to do, just polish the stuff that you have done so that when we present it to an investor or a future boss, they can actually see that you did something from start to finish.”
According to Rebecca, a successful UX student will have a fascination with the intersection of graphic design, research, and the human factors that drive technology. Computer Science students should love programming.
“Knowing beforehand that you like to program, or like that type of very detailed task where you have to focus really hard for hours… It’s one of those things where it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, then it finally works. So [a successful student will] one, know that you like programming. Two, not be afraid of failure. And three is just having a love for lifelong learning.”