Bio Picture

Jessica Colnago

jcolnago at

I am a PhD Student in Societal Computing at Carnegie Mellon University co-advised by Lorrie Cranor and Alessandro Acquisti. Previously, I obtained my MSc in Computer Science with a focus on Human Computer Interaction and BEng in Computer Engineering at the Federal University of São Carlos.

Through many changes in areas of interest within Computer Science and Engineering, I noticed that my passion is on understanding how people behave and how that influences technology use. I strive to incorporate this behavioral understanding into system design.

As I (apparently) think very highly of myself, I decided to tackle the complex issue of usable privacy and security for my PhD. I have worked on smart password meters, private browsing, password blacklists, and two-factor authentication. All with a focus on making these technologies easier for you to use!

I enjoy reading, watching TV and movies, and any other activities that will increase my trivia knowledge. All this trivia takes up memory space previously occupied by people's names, birthdays, and phone numbers. So I apologize if I do not remember you or your birthday ahead of time.

I have been struggling with learning German for a while now, but I am not quitting until I can speak it to natives without them switching to English in the first minute or so. However, I am taking a break and trying my hand at Italian for a little bit.

(Last updated June 2018)

Awards and Scholarships


Facebook Emerging Scholar Award

I received a two-year scholarship from Facebook to conduct research in the area of understanding people's privacy concerns related to social media and emerging technologies. Click here for more on the Award Program.

Best Paper Award

CHI 2017

Best Paper Award

UbiTtention @ Ubicomp 2016


Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP)

I received a scholarship to perform research as a Visiting International Research Student at the University of British Columbia, in the Human Communication Technologies Laboratory. Worked for 6 months on wearables development associated with Proxemic theory.

Research and Work Experiences

HCI Research Intern, Emerging Technology

Mozilla, Mountain View

May 2018 - August 2018

As an HCI research intern I was associated with the Voice Assistants project. My responsibilities spanned from helping with prototype usability testing, quantitative and qualitative data analyses, study preparation and data collection in France and Germany from in-home interviews and participatory design workshops, as well as presenting my findings in internal reports and in a Mozilla-wide presentation. To learn more about research at Mozilla, click here.

Teacher, Summer Immersion Program

Girls Who Code, IBM Classroom in NYC

July 2016 - August 2016

I was a teacher for the Summer Immersion Program in New York City, sponsored by IBM. In this program I taught basic CS concepts and some programming languages to 20 high school girls in order to introduce them to the world of CS and motivate them to pursue CS as their major in college. See an overview of the summer and a brief description of the girls projects here.
Class management, Scratch, Python, CSS/HTML, JavaScript, Arduino

Visiting International Research Student

Human Communication Technology (HCT) Lab, Vancouver, Canada

September 2014 - February 2015

At HCT I worked with wearable technology and participated on a project that focused on exploring the theory of proxemics applied to wearables. I performed research, built and tested prototypes using a web-based platform and RaspberryPi, and prepared a user study protocol for later use by the group.
Raspberry Pi, Python, Meteor Framework, JavaScript, MongoDB

Research Assistant

Advanced Interaction Laboratory (LIA), São Carlos, Brazil

August 2013 - August 2014

At LIA I worked on the Breakout project, a public space game with full-body interaction, and the Wishboard project, an interactive public space art installation, where I analyzed data and worked on papers with graduate students. I also worked on their wearable project, a series of design prototypes for mediating the interaction between user and a distant community, doing research, building prototypes using Arduino-based and RaspberryPi boards, and big screen web-based interfaces, as well as helped advise a bachelor thesis.
Qualitative Analysis, Raspberry Pi, Python, Arduino, FLORA


Embrapa Instrumentação, São Carlos, Brazil

April 2013 - July 2013

During my time at Embrapa I was assigned to work on the FACE Brasil system which was associated with a project to study the effects of climate change on agriculture. My work was related to the data collection side of the project and, as such, I developed the database for the FACE Brasil system. This involved the database design and implementation, development of user-friendly query tools and database management tools, as well as script development for data migration.
Database design, PostgreSQL

Intern, Intelligent User Interfaces

DFKI Projektbüro, Berlin, Germany

October 2012 - December 2012

At the Intelligent User Interfaces group I worked on several tasks associated with an existing web-technology based mobile multimodal platform and the prototype Android app Voice2Social. I improved their dialog manager (SCXML) responsible for receiving and fusing multimodal inputs; implemented the "Lift-to-Talk" functionality to trigger the speech recognition for voice commands; and, implemented additional features and optimized the "Sound Radar" functionality, which allowed users to query restaurants nearby based on sound related filters (e.g. music style). As a side project I implemented a speech synthesis component for the SATIN visual programming editor.
Android, JavaScript

Intern, Quality and Usability Lab

Deutsche Telekom Innovative Labs, Berlin, Germany

July 2012 - September 2012

For my internship at the Q&U lab I was assigned to the "Smart Senior" project. I worked on the INSPIRE system, a Java based multimodal system for Smart Houses, for which I worked on the multimodality input fusion module, as well as implemented gesture and speech recognition, using Microsoft's Kinect and Google's Voice to Text API respectively. To test these functionalities I ran a small scale user usability study.
User studies, Java, Kinect API, Google Text-to-Speech API

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Department of Computer Science and Engineering, São Carlos, Brazil

April 2011 - March 2012

I assisted Dr.-Ing. Sebastian Feuerstack, at the time a PhD student, on his project involving the use of state machines to ease the development of multimodal user interfaces. I developed a parser that read SCXML state machines and generated equivalent Ruby state machine, building upon the existing state_machine module for that programming language.
User studies, Ruby, SCXML, Visio

Volunteering and Service

Student Volunteer Chair

CHI 2019, Glasgow, Scotland

May 2018 - May 2019



Multiple venues

2015 - onward

Full paper (IHC'17, SOUPS'17), Late breaking work (CHI'16), Student Grant (LAtINiTY'15)


Multiple venues

2015 - onward

INTERACT'15, CHI'16, CHI'17, OurCS @ CMU'17, CHI'18

PhD Program Representative

SCS4ALL PhD Initiative

2017 - onward

I was one of the original members of the SCS4All PhD Initiative, established in 2017, and as of 2018 I am the leading member of the group.
We are an initiative by PhD students and for PhD students to provide the necessary support to overcome the issues that we experience here at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University so we can thrive in the PhD program. We collect data and propose solutions to the Dean of the School of Computer Science, as well as implement some solutions directly.
Current members: Reuben Aronson, Jessica Colnago, Rose Catherine Kanjirathinkal, Ben Lengerich, Vaishnavh Nagarajan, Sreecharan Sankaranarayanan, Cathy Qiao Su, David Gray Widder, Franceska Xhakaj, Chenghui Zhou