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5 Questions with Faculty: InduShobha Chengalur-Smith

InduShobha Chengalur-Smith likes challenges. Here she is negotiating the EdgeWalk, which involves walking around the outside circumference of the roof of Toronto’s CN Tower — 1,168 feet above ground.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 8, 2016) — InduShobha Chengalur-Smith is an associate professor of Information Systems & Business Analytics in the School of Business. She came to UAlbany in 1991, and says her colleagues have helped her put down roots in the area.

Chengalur-Smith, received her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, specializes in the fields of virtual communities, health informatics, open-source software and information quality and security. When not behind a computer, she loves gardening.

What are you working on now?

I am fascinated by how communities coalesce around technology. I am exploring how cancer patients use online communities to exchange information about their disease and treatment, and support each other. This will allow us to design online portals to help users further exploit these information channels and expand the solutions available to them.

I am also studying an underserved community of farmers in developing countries. My main purpose is to evaluate how they adopt new technologies and share information. Many of these farmers have limited access to the Internet. Even if they gain access, the language of the Internet is English, which many cannot read. To overcome these problems, IBM developed a prototype called Spoken Web. The system allows them to use their cell phones to record verbal information that can be archived and searched. I am researching the use of this tool to create a knowledge repository.

What made you decide to pursue your field?

My graduate training was in statistics and my dissertation research was on quality control in manufacturing. My first job as a statistical process engineer (at Corning, in Virginia) involved using statistical process control to calibrate robots. My next job, at the New York State Department of Transportation, involved developing a statistical algorithm to determine whether to maintain, rehabilitate, or replace bridge decks (driving surfaces).

All these experiences convinced me that I wanted to continue investigating business applications of statistics. Since then, I have continued to use my statistical training to evaluate how organizations and individual users exploit technology to solve specific problems.

What’s your favorite spot on campus and why?

The arches on the podium. I love how they frame different views as the seasons change and even at night.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

I like to get my facts through fiction by reading historic murder mysteries. I just read two series, one by Charles Finch set in Victorian England, and the other by Lindsey Davis set in Ancient Rome.

What’s one thing students might be surprised to know about you?

I like to challenge myself by trying activities that make me nervous (but aren’t life-threatening), such as Segway tours, stand-up paddle boarding, hang gliding etc.

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