UCL News


Spotlight on... Dr Mengdie Zhuang

3 December 2020

This week we meet Dr Mengdie Zhuang, Postdoc at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, who chats to us about her work leading the COVID Response Evaluation Dashboard (COVID RED).

Mengdie Zhuang

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a Postdoc at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis. I research how people interact with artificial systems in the process of acquiring information, and how this interaction augments the user experience and influences decision-making. My current work looks at applying the findings in the context of infection control.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I am midway through my second year. I moved here from the North of England, where I completed my PhD at the University of Sheffield. 

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

It has to be the COVID Response Evaluation Dashboard (COVID RED)!  Large volumes of test and trace data are publicly available, however, putting the situation described by the data into the whole picture of the infection control cascade in real-time has always been a challenge. In this new dashboard, together with colleagues from i-sense, we collate and present data from the Office of National Statistics, Public Health England, and the NHS under five categories; Find, Test, Track, Isolate and Support. The dashboard also presents indicators of England’s performance under each of these headings therefore making it clear where targets are being missed.

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?

I am currently working on an essay describing the various types of data dashboards and their purpose, together with their design challenges and evaluation troubles. While working on this, I have been reflecting on the design of an intelligent system which learns to present data that helps quick and accurate decision making but also robust under biased prior knowledge or data. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Album: Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino (Arctic Monkeys).
Film: In the mood for love. The original title has a wistful melancholy that doesn’t fully transpire in the English version. 
Book: The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin).

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

There are two hard things in computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors.
Oh, and weird concurrency bugs.
Oh, and weird concurrency bugs.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, for her humour and insights into human feelings. 

What advice would you give your younger self?

I probably did all of these:
Have fun, play more tennis and eat lots of chocolate. 

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I’m really rather a big fan of Formula 1.

What is your favourite place?

Wherever my family is.