All posts by huhjina

Welcoming students looking for research opportunities

We are welcoming students (undergrad, grad, postdoc) looking for research opportunities. The student will assist the project under the mentorship of a postdoc and faculty with diverse expertise in human-computer interaction, computer science, statistics, biomedical informatics, and pediatrics. Please email Jina Huh (jinahuh at ucsd dot edu) for all inquiries.

  1. Overall project description

    In this 4-year project, we are developing an unobtrusive sensing and awareness system to help Latino families improve family routines. Family routines improvement can lead to various wellness improvements, including child obesity prevention. The system will use mobile phones to detect family routines (screen viewing activities, sleep, family dinner frequency), and children participants will wear wearable devices to sense physical activity level. These sensor data will be visualized as a virtual garden / farm that gives awareness to children about their daily routines. The system collects all family users’ data and strategically shares them among families to increase motivation for family routine improvement.

2. The sub-tasks involved in this project include:


  • Interviews with families
  • Observe families’ home settings
  • Brainstorm design
  • Prototype (low-fi, high-fi)
  • Generate animation of the objects

*Development & implementation

  • Develop middleware between the interface and the backend
  • Data management (sensor data collected)


  • Deploy prototypes to families to get their feedback
  • Data collection

3. Skills good to have (one of below):

  • User-centered design (interviews, observation, sketching)
  • Advanced prototyping (Adobe Flash or Unity)
  • Programming (Language: TBD, to build middleware that communicates between the interface and the backend database)
  • Spanish speaking (to communicate with the Latinos families)
  • And any other you suggest you can bring to this project

4. Incentive

  • Earn independent study credits
  • Build research experience, including co-authoring in papers (For those applying to graduate programs)
  • Build project portfolio (For those going to industries as a designer/engineer)
  • Internship closely working with faculty in medicine, with potential opportunities to shadow (for those in Pre-med programs)
  • Paid hours depending on skill level

People involved in this project:

Jina Huh, PhD, Assistant Professor, Biomedical Informatics
Lizbeth Escobedo, PhD, Postdoctoral fellow
Robert El-Kareh, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Biomedical Informatics, UCSD Hospital
Kyung (Kay) E. Rhee, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Jihoon Kim, MS, Principal Statistician, Biomedical Informatics

Michigan State University
Guoliang Xing, PhD, Associate Professor, Computer Science
Wei Peng, PhD, Associate Professor, Media and Information
Barbara Smith, PhD, RN, Professor, Nursing
Olga Napolova, MD, MSU Pediatrics

Heather Cruz, Director of Health and Wellness, Chula Vista Elementary School District




Art therapy for me

We see many adult coloring books in the bookstores these days, which are called art therapy books. It is probably an oversimplification of art therapy, but that is for another thread of conversation.

I purchased one of those books and started coloring with my daughter. I soon found myself not liking it because I have to only color where I am supposed to. All the lines were so thick and black. They were so definitive like I was not supposed to color outside those lines. I wanted to define where I can color and what the shapes are going to be. So this is my version of my own art therapy. This soothed me.


Lessons learned for online health community moderator roles: A mixed methods study of moderators resigning from WebMD communities

Our mixed methods paper on examining what happened when all staff moderators left WebMD online health communities in 2013 has been accepted to the Journal of Medical Internet Research!

Jina Huh, Rebecca Marmor, and Xiaoqian Jiang. 2016. Lessons Learned for Online Health Community Moderator Roles: A Mixed-Methods Study of Moderators Resigning From WebMD Communities. Journal of medical Internet research 18, 9: e247. [pdf]


Background: Online health community (OHC) moderators help facilitate conversations and provide information to members. However, the necessity of the moderator in helping members achieve goals in receiving the support they need remains unclear, with some prior research suggesting that moderation is unnecessary or even harmful for close-knit OHCs. Similarly, members’ perceptions of moderator roles are underexplored. Starting January of 2013, WebMD moderators stopped working for WebMD communities. This event provided an opportunity for us to study the perceived role of moderators in OHCs.

Objective: We examine OHC members’ perception of OHC moderators by studying their reactions towards the departure of moderators in their communities. We also analyzed the relative posting activity on OHCs before and after the departure of moderators from the communities among all members and those who discussed moderators’ departures.

Methods: We applied mixed methods to studying all 55 moderated WebMD communities’ posts by querying terms relating to discussions surrounding moderators’ disappearance from the WebMD community. We performed open and axial coding and affinity diagramming to thematically analyze patients’ reactions to disappeared moderators. We analyzed the number of posts and poster groups (members and moderators) over time to understand posting patterns around moderators’ departure.

Results: From 821 posts under 95 threads retrieved, a total of 166 open codes were generated. The codes were then grouped into two main themes with six total sub-themes. First, patients attempted to understand why moderators had left and what could be done to fill the void of the missing moderators. During these discussions, the posts revealed that patients believed moderators played critical roles in the communities by: making the communities vibrant and healthy, finding solutions, and giving medical information. Some patients felt personally tied with moderators, expressing they would cease their community participation. Patients also indicated that moderators were not useful or sometimes even harmful for peer interactions. The overall community’s posting activity analysis showed no significant difference before and after the moderators’ departure. The overall posting activities of the communities were declining well before the moderators’ departure. This declining posting activities might be the reason WebMD removed the moderators.

Conclusion: Compassionate moderators who provide medical expertise, control destructive member posts, and help answer questions can provide important support for patient engagement in OHCs. Moderators are in general received positively by community members and do not appear to interfere with peer interactions. Members are well aware of the possibility of misinformation spreading in OHCs. Further investigation into the attitudes of less vocal community members should be conducted.

Personas in Online Health Communities

Our paper on personas in online health communities have been accepted to the Journal of Biomedical Informatics! We will keep you updated once the paper has the final camera-ready version.

Huh J, Kwon BC, Kim S-H, et al. Personas In Online Health Communities. J Biomed Inform. 2016. In Press. doi:10.1016/j.jbi.2016.08.019.

Many researchers and practitioners use online health communities (OHCs) to influence health behavior and provide patients with social support. One of the biggest challenges in this approach, however, is the rate of attrition. OHCs face similar problems as other social media platforms where user migration happens unless tailored content and appropriate socialization is supported. To provide tailored support for each OHC user, we developed personas in OHCs illustrating users’ needs and requirements in OHC use. To develop OHC personas, we first interviewed 16 OHC users and administrators to qualitatively understand varying user needs in OHC. Based on their responses, we developed an online survey to systematically investigate OHC personas. We received 184 survey responses from OHC users, which informed their values and their OHC use patterns. We performed open coding analysis with the interview data and cluster analysis with the survey data and consolidated the analyses of the two datasets. Four personas emerged—Caretakers, Opportunists, Scientists, and Adventurers. The results inform users’ interaction behavior and attitude patterns with OHCs. We discuss implications for how these personas inform OHCs in delivering personalized informational and emotional support.


TrajectoryExplorer: Breast cancer

We are developing a tool to help patients with breast cancer make decisions. To do this, we have been conducting foundational work, including understanding how patients perceive various surgical options, such as contralateral prophylactic mastectomy (CPM), which has become a controversial topic after Angelina Jolie’s announcement.

We are comparing various sources including online health communities, national trends in uptake of surgical options, and search logs to understand how the public perceives CPM and come to understand pros and cons for various decision making points in general. We systematically developed manual annotations around characterizing patients and their posts in online breast cancer communities. These data along with clinical data will be used to develop a prediction model that will help breast cancer patients understand other patients’ trajectory in comparison with their own. We started conducting interviews with breast cancer patients to understand their needs that will be incorporated into our design.

Our students (Lead: Rebecca Marmor) were included in the final 9 teams for the Design Challenge at AMIA 2016!

Related publications:

Team members:
Rebecca Marmor, MD (Surgery resident, Project lead)
Meera Meghunathan (Medical student)
Elizabeth S. Epstein (Medical student)
Kenneth Trang (High school intern, data manager)
Xiaoqian Jiang, PhD (Machine learning)
Shuang Wang, PhD (Machine learning)
Jihoon Kim, MS (Biostatistics)
Sarah Blair, MD (Oncology)
Jina Huh, PhD (Human Computer Interaction, Social Analytics)

Preuss high school students
Mitchell Boldin (University of Michigan, MSI)