Simplifying the process of finding graduate assistantships at Georgia Tech.

My Role

User Research
Interaction Design
Visual Design
User Testing


Sep - Dec 2019
Academic Project

Tools Used


Team Members

Gurudutt Perichetla
Candice Butts
Sonam Singh
Yangyi Xu
Yash Lara


How to find Assistantships on campus?

Graduate students at Georgia Tech face difficulties in finding an assistantship position on the campus. These highly coveted assistantship positions allow students to work in academic research projects or teach classes. In addition to this, they offer financial assistance (up to 75% reduction in tuition fees) and added benefits.

Currently, finding Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA) and Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTA) is often an arduous and tedious process with high chances of unpredictability and failure.


How might we simplify the process of finding graduate assistantships at Georgia Tech?

We want to make it easier for Graduate students to acquire assistantship positions (GRA and GTA) on the campus. As of now, the process of searching for these positions, applying for them and then successfully getting one appears to be extremely tedious and hard. Currently, students have to go through a lot of cold emailing, setting up appointments and meetings with professors and facing rejections for acquiring a GTA or GRA position. 


Designing a Mobile App

We designed “Waggle” - a mobile application that helps graduate students in finding an assistantship position by simplifying the application procedure, reducing the time and effort required for applying for a position. 


Planning our Research and Design


Online Survey


Divergent Designs


Low Fidelity
High Fidelity


Expert based Testing
User based Testing


Understanding our Users and their needs

Online Survey

We used an online survey to gather data from a large number of graduate students to get a general idea about what the process of finding graduate assistantships is perceived and/or experienced by the students. Over three days, we received 51 responses from students who were currently in an assistantship position, students who were interested in these positions, and students who were looking for these positions. 

We found that most students wanted the hiring process for these assistantships to be a bit less tedious and expected clear guidelines about who to contact, the timelines, and clear information about the kind of ongoing work in different labs and the available positions. Students also expect clear information about what kind of skill sets are required in each lab for the different kinds of roles available in the lab. 

Here are some of the pain points we found through the survey:


Based on the survey responses we decided to seek out additional data through semistructured interviews. These were 30-45 minutes in duration with current Georgia Tech students. Students were recruited through the survey response. In some cases, students were asked to demonstrate a search for a GRA/GTA position.  

These students declined to have the screens recorded, but the interviewer was able to take note of their process. We interviewed 10 people in total and asked questions about how they found these assistantship positions, who they contacted, and details about the timeline of the application process. Further, we using affinity maps to understand and analyze this information.

We found 5 major themes from the results of our interviews:


Coming up with viable solutions

After surveys and several interviews, the primary pain points of graduate students searching for positions were assessed. We aim to inform students of available positions, connect them with Ph.D. students and professors, encourage seminar attendances, and ease their participation in labs. The results of these methods were analyzed in several meetings where divergent brainstorming was favored to produce unique designs. 

Divergent Designs

We came up with 3 designs that could be easily implemented with existing and available technologies, and quickly to meet the needs of students and professors as quickly as possible. The designs were also app-based, making them accessible to most on campus. 

Design 1: Job Board

Our first design incorporates a job board that allows applicants to easily search for and apply for a Graduate Research Assistant and Graduate Teaching Assistant positions. We came to this solution through our primary and secondary research after finding that there wasn’t a centralized repository for jobs and information about these jobs.  

Students create a profile using their Georgia Tech student IDs and upload relevant documents and information in their profile tab. There are two points of entry into the application - one as a student and the other as a faculty. The student has access to the job board, the same way the professor has access to student applications board. 

Design 2: Peer to Peer

The second design incorporates a peer-to-peer connecting platform that allows applicants to easily search for and apply for assistantship positions based on their skill. We incorporated a simpler way to apply to jobs by just swiping. We came to this solution after finding that students wanted an easier way to apply to positions within three clicks. 

The second feature of this design is called “Ghost-to-Ghost” digitizes Word-of-Mouth communication and allows for a student to send a message or notify his or her peers. Also, the peers will forward the message to three of their peers, who will, in turn, forward it to three of their peers. As the cycle continues, there will be an endpoint wherein the message will be forwarded either to the professor or a student currently working under that Professor. 

Design 3: GTCourses

The third design incorporates a familiar platform that allows applicants to take up courses before applying for assistantship positions. Our research showed that students often face a trade-off between interest and skill set.

Faculty can upload resources such as courses, assignments, and quizzes online that allow students to learn on-the-go. The students learn course material and take up a final quiz. Based on the quiz results, the professor can shortlist some students who have high scores or who he/she feels to be a correct fit for the lab and have interviews. 


Designing our Product

We had a poster session in which we received feedback from our peers and experts on each of our designs. We received valuable feedback which showed us which features our users liked and which features our users did not like. We also conducted surveys which asked the users which of the three design ideas they liked, and which features of the design ideas they liked.  

The design that we settled on after evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of each of the three designs is “Waggle”. To restate, Waggle, in a nutshell, is a platform that simplifies the process of finding assistantships for graduate students of the Georgia Institute of Technology.  

The final system prototype that we came up with is a combination of our second and third divergent ideas. Our second divergent idea incorporated the use of gesture-based input - via swiping right to apply for jobs and swiping left to hide jobs. It reduces the complexity of applying for a job and enables students to apply for jobs/assistantships on the go. 


The onboarding process allows the user to become familiar with the functionality of the application. The user can login using his/her Georgia Tech credentials.

The backend of the application uses Georgia Tech's servers (Buzzport, Oscar) and Canvas to fetch student data.

Exploring New Jobs

The Explore Screen showcases the jobs in a card-based format. The cards display information pertaining to the lab, the faculty who is in charge of or heading the lab, and the responsibilities of the candidate for the job. There are tags in the card which are keywords that represent the different skills pertaining to the lab.

The students can apply to jobs either by tapping on the “Apply” button or swiping right on the card. Similarly, the students can hide jobs by tapping on the “Hide” button or swiping left. The students can also save the jobs.

Saved Jobs

A common problem that students face is that they see a job posting that they seem to be a fit for, but often find it hard to apply for the job at that current moment since they might not have the resources and appropriate documents to apply for the job.

The “Saved Jobs” screen mitigates this problem by allowing the user to see the different jobs that he/she has saved, based on his/her interests.

View Application Status

After the student has applied to a job, he/she can view the application status. This builds a sense of assurance that their applications are being viewed by the professor in order to make a decision.

After the decision is made, the student will get a personalized email from the professor.

Taking up Courses

The Courses Screen showcases different courses based on the interests of the users. Each card shows the course name, the lab or class that offers the course and the number of lessons left to complete the course.


The “Search Screen” allows the user to search for job postings and courses based on keywords. Each job posting and course will have an associated list of tags and keywords that allow indexing. So, when the user searches for a particular keyword, the courses and job listings that have that common keyword will show up in the search.

Alerts and Notifications

The “Alerts Screen” displays information pertaining to applied jobs and notifications based on the labs of interest to the user. The "Alerts Screen” basically acts as a hyperlink interface to the back-end of the application which pushes in information from Outlook and Canvas.


The “Profile Screen” displays the user’s information using cards to show his/her name, email and display picture using data from Georgia Tech servers.

Branding & Identity

During the design phase of this project, we closely adhered to Georgia Tech's design guidelines and styling guide. We had the liberty of choosing the typeface for the project and we designed the user interface keeping accessibility in mind.


Testing, Feedback and Redesigns

Expert Based Testing

We recruited Human-Centered Computing Ph.D. Students and HCI Faculty to perform heuristic evaluation and a task-based think-aloud session. We had questions for each task and also asked additional unscripted questions to gain better insights. Participants reported that most of the features of the app are very easy to use and understand.

Through our Heuristic Evaluation, we were able to identify the usability errors in our design from an expert’s point of view. We received feedback about the “Alerts and Notifications” screen that it didn’t offer a lot of interactivity since it would open up external links through Outlook and not within the app itself. The users felt that it would be more appropriate to send messages within the app.

Based on the feedback we received, we redesigned and changed various features of the app to maximize the usability of the app. After our redesign, the app was considered to be easy to navigate and aesthetic with minimalist design.

Design Iterations based on Evaluation

Earliest to final iteration of the screens (from left to right).

Explore Screen

Full Job Description

Saved Jobs

Search Screen

User Based Testing

We recruited students from the HCI, Computer Science, Industrial Design and Digital Media graduate programs to participate in a task-based think-aloud session. After the session, we handed out a System Usability Scale (SUS) Evaluation form and held follow-up interviews.

Our mean SUS score was 90.83 out of 100. During the interview, we asked participants to choose the top 5 words from a word list reflecting their experience. The top 5 words that we got were: Convenient, Innovative, Clean, Effective and Comprehensive.

Many users have told us that they hope our design converts into a business solution that can be used by the students in the future!


Key Takeaways

I learned how to:

1. Conduct interviews and perform affinity mapping analyze the research data and find insights.

2. Work with a diverse team of individuals from different parts of the world with different backgrounds and engage in a holistic design process that allowed everyone to actively collaborate and bring their ideas to the table.

3. Test and evaluate the designs with experts and users and iteratively redesign the prototype to improve usability.

Future Work

1. We showcased our solution to Faculty in the MS-HCI program and the MSCS program. They were interested in making our designs come alive by developing a cross-platform mobile application. We're currently looking for developers for the same.

2. Our proposed solution involved a platform to help students find assistantships. We plan on extending the platform to help professors find and shortlist students for these positions.