About Me

Name: Morgan Zee
Email: mbz2112 (at)
Home Institution: Barnard College, Columbia University
Project: Data Security in Life Sciences

About My Project

Data sharing comes with several barriers, especially for life scientists who collaborate with others across global regions, disciplines, and institutions. The research project I am working on seeks to make the data sharing process for life scientists more secure and efficient. This summer, we will familiarize ourselves with existing works on the topic, create personas, scenarios, and storyboards based on user needs highlighted in prior research, and prototype a system to address these user needs. We plan to compile our findings into a final research paper and presentation. If continued beyond the summer, we hope to develop software to implement our designed system. As data sharing and security is an essential part of the increasingly interconnected world today, I am looking forward to working with mentor Professor Sarah Morrison-Smith and fellow student Emily to hopefully make a relevant impact.

The goal of the summer project is to understand the obstacles that pertain to data sharing and documentation, analyze the data we will collect from interviewing experts, and maybe even develop software that addresses the data sharing and security concerns of life scientists.

Weekly Progress

Week 1

This week, I read an existing body of work related to my project, specifically about access control or authorization in collaborative systems. Reading these papers helped me get a sense of what kind of research already exists and allowed me to generate new questions to consider for the project we are currently working on. Emily and I summarized what the paper was about, key findings, how the paper relates to our project, and questions for target users on google slides, which we will present the following week. I also attneded the DIMACS orientation this week, which was helpful to learn about the many opportunities we have doing research this summer.

Week 2

This week, Emily and I worked on a short presentation summarizing our project and goals for the summer, which we presented to all the DIMACS participants and mentors. We also presented what we found reading related works to our research team and mentor. Additionally, we have been searching for more related papers to read and learn about the research gaps related to data sharing and security, and potential questions we could ask experts when the interviewing process begins.

Week 3

This week, Emily and I gave a presentation to our research team on the related works we found about data security for life scientists, whether our research question has been answered, opportunities for future research, and potential interview questions. We have been gathering more papers this week, specifically on usability and security, to familiarize ourselves with existing research and generate more potential interview questions. I also attended a couple lectures of Data Science Bootcamp organized by DIMACS. Next week, we hope to get started on the interviewing portion of our research.

Week 4

This week, we presented on more related works, whether our research question has been answered, and opportunities for future work. I focused on gathering and reading papers related to usability and security, specifically for life scientists. After compiling and familiarizing ourselves with the existing body of research on our topic, we began writing the abstract and related works section of our paper. I also attended a DIMACS seminar talk to learn more about existing research projects.

Week 5

This week, we wrote personas of potential users to get a sense of who those people could be and what their user needs are. These user needs were based on the various papers we gathered and read on the topic. Within these personas, we made sure to hightlight users needs, their current technical proficiency level, and the characteristics and context of their usage. We also wrote scenarios based on the personas we created, telling a brief narrative story on how our users may use our software to accomplish their goals. We also illustrated these scenarios with sketched up storyboards. Based on these user needs, we brainstormed a system with a couple key features we hope to further develop and implement.

Week 6

This week, Emily and I worked on creating wireframes to model our brainstormed system. We used a tool called Balsamiq Wireframes to generate a highly abstracted version of our system, addressing the user needs we read about in related work, showing basic functionality, and indicating how to navigate through to help ourselves and potential users visualize the system we hope to build. We also continued work on our abstract and related works section of our paper.

Week 7

This week, we continued to work on our wireframes to model the system we brainstormed. We made modifications based on feedback from our mentor and the other students on the team. We also continued writing our paper, working specifically on the future work and limitations section and the introduction.

Week 8

This week, Emily and I completed the Introduction, System, Limitations & Future Work, and Conclusion sections of our research paper. We spent the most time delving into our System section, where we explain how to use the system we designed and show the wireframes we created using Balsamiq Wireframes software. We also worked on compiling our research into slides for our presentation next week. We look forward to sharing what we have been working on this summer with everyone.

Week 9

This week, we focused on completing our paper and compiling our findings into a presentation, which we delivered near the end of the week. We also listened to the presentations of other DIMACS participants, sharing their findings and work they did this summer. We also peer edited a paper another team was working on. It was great to hear about all of the research other DIMACS REU participants have been working on throughout the summer.

Week 10

For the last week of research, Emily and I planned out what an evaluation study of our designed system would look like. We looked at what prior evaluation studies of similar systems looked like to ground our work in.

References & Links

Mentors, Collaborators, Funding: