School of Information
The UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
WHAT STARTS HERE CHANGES THE WORLD

Yan Zhang
Associate Professor
School of Information
The University of Texas at Austin

Email:
yanz@ischool.utexas.edu

Work phone:
(512) 471-9448

Mailing address:
The University of Texas at Austin
School of Information
1616 Guadalupe Suite #5.202
Austin, TX 78701-1213

Office:
UTA 5.446

Research Projects

Contextualizing Consumer Health Information Search for Personalized Health Information Access
Information is most effective when consistent with individual's needs and characteristics. To realize personalized access to health information, it is necessary to understand the context in which user needs are situated and capitalize on salient contextual elements. Thus the goal of the project is to identify contextual factors perceived by users as important for conveying their request and examine how such factors (e.g., task complexity) impact their search behavior.

Understanding Consumers' Quality Evaluation of Online Health Information Using a Mixed-Method Approach
The School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin (Drs. Yan Zhang and Jacek Gwizdka) is collaborating with the Department of Informatics Engineering (Dr. Carla Lopes) at the University of Porto, Portugal on a collaborative grant from the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and the Digital Media Program at UT-Austin to study whether consumers actually evaluate the quality of health information when searching online, and if so, how they evaluate it and how age and health literacy impact the behavior. By using eye-tracking, in combination with the retrospective interview method, this project will improve the current understanding of consumers' quality evaluation behavior and serve as a stepping stone for designing interventions to enhance users' ability in evaluating online health information quality.

Improving Low-SES Older Adults' Ability to Evaluate the Quality of Online Health Information
The School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin (Drs. Yan Zhang, Bo Xie, and Randolph Bias) is partnering with the Austin Public Library through an National Network of Libraries of Medicine award to develop and evaluate an interactive multimedia tutorial to help older adults, especially those who have lower incomes and/or are uninsured, learn to evaluate the quality of online health information. This project is a starting point in efforts to develop and test different technological and pedagogical strategies in improving end users' ability to evaluate the quality of online health information.

Consumers' Perceptions and Use of Social Media for Health Information
Searching for health information is not a solitary task; instead, it is highly social. The emergence of social media has broken the boundary of time and location and significantly expanded ones capacity to connect to people with similar concerns. This project is to understand users' health information seeking behavior in social media environment, including their motivations for using or not using social networking sites (SNSs) for health information, types of information requested, characteristics of information inquiries, and motivations for sustained use of online communities.

LIFEisGame: Learning of Facial Emotions Using Serious Games
In collaboration with Dr. Jake Aggarwal from the ECE Department at UT Austin and Dr. Veronica Orvalho from the Computer Science Department at the University of Porto, this project is to design an interactive game employing real time facial synthesis and automatic expression analysis techniques to teach children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) to recognize emotions from human facial expressions. This virtual reality approach allows children to learn emotions in a fun way and enhance their ability to recognize and respond to non-verbal conversational cues that are central to effective inter-personal communication.

End Users' Mental Models of Information Systems
This is my dissertation project. Guided by the theoretical perspective that users' behavior of using a system is mediated by their mental models of the system, I postulate that knowledge of the construction and development of their mental models is key to understand search behavior and inform system design. Therefore, I conducted a study to examine what elements are included in people's mental models of web as an information search system. In my dissertation, I expanded the research and examined the dynamic process of lay users constructing mental models of an information-rich web space for consumer health information, MedlinePlus, during their interaction with the system, as well as the impact of task complexity on model construction.

Grants and Awards

Personally Identifiable Information and Human Values in Patient Portals. Center for Identity at UT-Austin. June-August 2015. Role: Co-PI (with PI Ken Fleischmann and Co-PI Bo Xie). Total award: $50,000.

Understanding Consumers' Quality Evaluation of Online Health Information Using a Mixed-Method Approach. Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and the Digital Media Program at UT-Austin. January 2015- January 2017. Role: PI (with PI: Jacek Gwizdka), $22,000 (of $44,000 total).

Center for Transdisciplinary Collaborative Research in Self-management Science. National Institute of Health (NIH)/National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) P30NR015335. 2014-2019. Role: Center Affiliate (With PI: Miyong Kim).Total award: 2.4 million.

Improving Low-SES Older Adults' Ability to Evaluate the Quality of Online Health Information. National Institute of Health (NIH)/National Library of Medicine (NLM), sub-contract from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, under HHSN-276-2011-00007-C. May 2013- June 2014. Role: PI (with Co-PIs: Bo Xie and Randolph Bias). Total award: $25,000.

Facebook as a Platform for Health Information and Communication: A Case Study of a Diabetes Group. Temple Teaching Fellowship, School of Information, the University of Texas at Austin. September 2013- August 2014. Role: PI. Total award: $9,000.

LIFEisGAME: Learning of Facial Emotions Using Serious Games. Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. September 2010 - February 2013. Role: Co-PI (With PI Veronica Orvalho and Co-PI J.K. Aggarwal). $249,933 went to Portuguese PI, $65,589 to me (to study users' information needs).

Query Reformulations in Searching for Health Information. Alumni Teaching Fellowship, School of Information, the University of Texas at Austin. September 2012- August 2013. Role: PI. Total award: $9,300.

Exploring the Use of Contextual Factors in Consumer Health Information Searching. Summer Research Assignment. The University of Texas at Austin Graduate School and the School of Information. June- July 2012. Role: PI. Total award: Two months' summer salary.

Understanding the Process of Consumer Health Information Searching. Alumni Teaching Fellowship, School of Information, the University of Texas at Austin. September 2011- August 2012. Role: PI. Total award: $9,700.

Workplace Wellness at Your Library Symposium. National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM), National Institute of Health (NIH). Nov. 2011- May 2012. Role: Co-PI (with PI: Loriene Roy). Total award: $7,964.

Contextualizing Consumer Health Information Searching. Research Grant. The Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Texas at Austin. October 2010- August 2011. Role: PI. Total award: $5,834.

Characteristics of Consumer Health Information Needs and Implications for System Design. Temple Teaching Fellowship, School of Information, the University of Texas at Austin. September 2010- August 2011. Role: PI. Total award: $6,000.