I know, I know. Wait. Hear me out first before you yell (but then please, please yell; I want to make a go/no-go decision within 8 days so I can stop thinking about it).

Short version: PhD students in Engineering Education are required to have an "engineering specialization, " and mine is on hearing aids from both a technical (electrical, computer, and human factors engineering) and disability activism (access and modifiability) perspective. As someone who's come in without a Masters degree, I am required to take 3 related graduate-level engineering courses already. If I add a 4th class and take all 4 in Industrial Engineering, and write a Masters' thesis (which can serve to pilot parts of my PhD dissertation), I will effectively also have an MS in Industrial Engineering.

I had originally dismissed this "Get An MS On The Way!" idea as Totally Crazy last year when I arrived, but two of the sanest and most focused grad students in my department (Joi and Jeremi) are doing precisely this. Joi and Jeremi are people I admire for being totally focused on only the things that will help them graduate. They have to be; they're running against ticking clocks. Joi outlined in detail what she was up to, and I went "Oh. Waaaaait. Hrm."

So here's the deal.

Prospective thesis topic: How technologically skilled hearing aid users perceive their devices. I would collect data by mediating between interested members of the online Hearing Aid Hacks community of tech-savvy hearing aid users and doctoral students in Purdue's Audiology program taking a required course (either Signal Processing, which I am teaching in Spring 2013 – or EPICS in Fall 2013, or something).

Connection to my existing ongoing PhD: This would serve as a testbed to develop and formalize “radical transparency” practices that can be used and understood both by a distributed open-source-type community (Hearing Aid Hacks) and a co-located academic community (Purdue's Audiology program); these practices would then be applied between multiple academics (instead of between academics and open communities) for my ENE dissertation research (which is on radical transparency used between academics). In other words, right now radical transparency is done hacker-to-hacker (where "hacker" means "member of an open community") and I want to do it academic-to-academic. This would be an intermediate stage looking at hacker-to-academic radical transparency. I might need to do this stage anyway.

Potential advisors: I won't sign up unless I find an IE prof willing to take me on for what I want to do. There are two that seem pretty interesting; one is a joint appointment with Nursing, another lists Assistive Technology as an interest -- but I would meet them in person before applying, for sure.

Potential courses (in order of what I'm interested in -- I'd pick 4, and take things over the summer or remotely if humanly possible.)

  • IE 590C Sociotechnical Systems
  • IE 590E Design of e-Work and e-Business Systems
  • IE 65900 - Human Aspects In Computing
  • IE 55900 - Cognitive Engineering Of Interactive Software
  • IE 57700 Human Factors In Engineering
  • IE 590M Human Performance

If I do not go for a MS, I will just pick 3 courses (or 2 courses + a 1-credit independent study) from the list above. Additional courses from outside the IE department are also options if I take a more technically-focused route.

  • ECE 51100 - Psychophysics
  • ECE 64900 - Speech Processing by Computer
  • ECE 66900 - Natural Language Processing

SANITY CHECK, PLEASE. Feel free to say this is me trying to get distracted and looking for excuses to cram things in. That's what I'm afraid of. Because this makes way too much sense to me right now.