Basketball great turned tech researcher Kate Starbird is coming back to Seattle — this time to the University of Washington.
Starbird, who pursued tech after playing professionally, was hired as an assistant professor in the UW’s Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering.
Starbird will begin teaching in the fall. In the meantime she’s working to finish her Ph.D. this summer at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she has been researching communication and social media during crises. In February she presented work at an industry conference in Bellevue.
The UW department has been overwhelmed by demand from undergraduate and graduate students since it shifted its focus from technical writing and editing to human-computer interaction and user-experience design four years ago.
After turning away 80 percent of undergraduate applicants and 70 percent of potential Ph.D. students last year, the department reorganized and is increasing class sizes, according to Chair Jan Spyridakis. It now has about 270 students.
Starbird fills one of two open positions that build on the department’s new emphasis area. The other is being filled by Sean Munson from the University of Michigan, who studies systems that nudge people into changing their health and civic behaviors.
“With these two faculties our direction’s really sealed,” she said.
Starbird was a standout player at Lakes High School near Tacoma. That led to a scholarship at Stanford, where she received national basketball honors while earning a degree in computer science. Her pro career included stints with the Seattle Reign and Storm.