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Meet the Labbers: Kristy Johnson

Listen here: In our ongoing audio series, Meet the Labbers, we hear people from all roles across the Media Lab talk about what they do and why they do it.  

Today, meet Kristy Johnson.

I heard about MIT Media Lab and that they sort of liked misfits, and I was a misfit at that point.

"I’m Kristy Johnson. I’m a graduate student in the Affective Computing group here at MIT Media Lab. I’m interested in the role of affect in learning and cognitive development. In particular, I’m working with children who have neurodevelopmental disorders, and finding the sort of ‘sweet spot’ between cognition, regulation, and engagement. And I do that by exploring motivation-driven learning—developing customizable tools and devices, particularly those in the form of a toy where we can tune the device to their needs and find the just-right challenge and the just-right reward, if you will, that help them learn in a novel, customizable, motivation-driven manner.

If you had asked me if I would ever end up here, I certainly wouldn’t have said 'yes.' My past life is originally in physics and astronomy, and with the birth of my son who has a rare genetic disorder I was motivated to shift fields. I was interested in what I could do to help my son to learn, to grow, and to thrive. And I heard about MIT Media Lab and that they sort of liked misfits, and I was a misfit at that point. So I ended up coming here so that I could merge my two loves of science and physics and fundamental truths with developing technology and devices for children with neurodevelopmental disorders.

My son Felix is definitely my go-to test subject—he is the inspiration and motivation for all of my work. I feel…well, I think everybody does here…but I feel lucky every day to work in a place that is so open-minded; it sort of invites this nuanced, antidisciplinary or the transdisciplinary mentality. And so I feel…I feel like I’m home here.”         

Music: “Dust in Sunlight” CC BY Chad Crouch/Podington Bear

Meet the Labbers is an ongoing audio series that takes us inside the Media Lab. We listen to people from all roles across the Lab community, talking about their own perspectives and motivations. Check in every two weeks for a new episode.

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