C. Estelle Smith, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the CU Boulder Department of Information Science, working with Brian Keegan and Chenhao Tan. She’ll be working to support an NSF-sponsored grant to study genealogical relationships, behavioral sequences, and spiritual + social support in online communities.

Estelle completed her PhD in Computer Science with a social computing emphasis at GroupLens Research at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She was co-advised by Professors Loren Terveen (Department of Computer Science & Engineering) and Susan O’Conner-Von (Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing). Her dissertation explores spiritual and social support for users of Online Health Communities such as CaringBridge, where patients and caregivers can turn for support as they navigate life-threatening illness. Her interdisciplinary research has also touched on  topics like Human-Centered Machine Learning and Science Communications/Public Engagement in HCI (CV available here). 

Estelle was president of the Computer Science Graduate Student Association (CSGSA) at the University of Minnesota from Fall 2020-Summer 2021. During this time, she masterminded a complete organizational restructuring of CSGSA and lead a student body of over 450 graduate students through an unprecedented shift into all-virtual experiences of grad school caused by the COVID19 pandemic. She successfully advocated for a complete remodel of CSGSA’s graduate student lounge space (which will be opened when it becomes safe to do so), launched a virtual community on Slack, successfully facilitated numerous in-person and virtual events, and helped to re-invigorate the social fabric of the Department.

Estelle’s Story

Estelle draws inspiration and purpose from her eclectic and ever-evolving collection of life experiences. She grew up and currently lives in Minneapolis, MN, but she has also lived in Costa Rica, the UK, and Austria, interspersed with lots of travel all across the world. She holds a BA in English (Creative Writing, 2010) and a BS in Neuroscience (2015), along with three years of experience at San Francisco tech start-ups between degrees and ongoing side gigs in freelance Science Writing. She has bicycled across the USA, run a marathon, and dreams of someday kayaking the Amazon.

Driven by aspirations to better align advances in technology with human flourishing, Estelle joined the Computer Science PhD program at UMN in 2016. She is deeply grateful and humbled to participate in collaborative engagements with impactful non-profit organizations such as CaringBridge and the Wikimedia Foundation. As a result, Estelle’s work explores and impacts socio-technical systems used by millions of people every day. She’s pretty stoked about that.

In Estelle’s professional day-to-day, she is a passionate researcher, communicator, and educator. In her personal day-to-day, she loves to frequent yoga and rock climbing gyms, volunteer as a foster dog mom for Adopt-A-Husky Minnesota, and go for long meandering jogs along Mississippi River trails.


Complete CV Available Here.


C. Estelle Smith, Avleen Kaur, Katie Z. Gach, Loren Terveen, Mary Jo Kreitzer, and Susan O’Conner-Von. 2021. What is Spiritual Support and How Might It Impact the Design of Online Health Communities?  (Accepted to CSCW 2021)


Ph.D. Dissertation Defense. December 18, 2020. Beyond Social Support: Spiritual Support as a Novel Design Dimension in Sociotechnical Systems. (View and Download Complete Dissertation.) (Watch Zoom Recording of Thesis Defense.)

C. Estelle Smith, Zachary Levonian, Haiwei Ma, Robert Giaquinto, Gemma Lein-Mcdonough, Zixuan Li, Susan O’Conner-Von, and Svetlana Yarosh. 2020. “I Cannot Do All of this Alone”: Exploring Instrumental and Prayer Support in Online Health Communities. Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (ToCHI). (Download from ACM)

C. Estelle Smith, Bowen Yu, Anjali Srivastava, Aaron Halfaker, Loren Terveen, and Haiyi Zhu. 2020. Keeping Community in the Loop: Understanding Wikipedia Stakeholder Values for Machine Learning-Based Systems. Proc. CHI 2020. (Acceptance Rate: 24.3%)  Best Paper Honorable Mention Award (Top 5% of submissions). (Download from ACM)

C. Estelle Smith, Eduardo Nevarez, and Haiyi Zhu. 2020. Disseminating Research News in Human-Computer Interaction: Perceived Hazards, How-To’s, and Opportunities for Innovation. Proc. CHI 2020. (Acceptance Rate: 24.3%) (Download from ACM)

Sarah A. Gilber, Casey Fiesler, Lindsay Blackwell, Michael Ann DeVito, Michaelanne Dye, Shamika Goddard, Kishonna L. Gray, David Nemer, C. Estelle Smith. 2020. Public Scholarship and CSCW: Trials and Twitterations. CSCW2020 Workshop. (Download from ACM)

Mark Butzer, Zachary Levonian, Yangyang Luo, Kathleen Watson, Ye Yuan, C. Estelle Smith, Svetlana Yarosh. Grandtotem: Supporting International and Intergenerational Relationships. CSCW 2020 Poster. (Download from ACM)


C. Estelle Smith, Xinyi Wang, Raghav Karumur, and Haiyi Zhu. 2018. [Un]breaking News: Design Opportunities for Enhancing Collaboration in Scientific Media Production. Proc. CHI 2018. (Acceptance Rate: 25.7%) Best Paper Honorable Mention Award (Top 5% of submissions). (Download from ACM)

Niels van Berkel, Julio Vega, Ankit Kariryaa, C. Estelle Smith, and Ye Yuan. CHI 2018 Conference Report. IEEE Pervasive Computing, vol. 17, no. 03, pp. 58-63, Jul., 2018. (Download from IEEE)


Haiwei Ma, C. Estelle Smith, Lu He, Saumik Narayanan, Robert A. Giaquinto, Roni Evans, Linda Hanson, and Svetlana Yarosh. 2017. Write for Life: Persisting in Online Health Communities with Expressive Writing and Social Support. Proc. ACM Human-Computer Interaction 1, 2, Article 73 (November 2017), 24 pages. (Download from ACM) (Acceptance Rate: 27.3%)


10 Things You Need to Know if You’re a Computer Science Graduate Student

  Last year, a friend of mine thought I might enjoy being President of our department’s Graduate Student Association (GSA), so he nominated me without telling me. When I first saw my name on the ballot, my internal reaction was something like, “Awwwwwwww HELL no. Who did this?” When I was subsequently elected, my second …