Laura Ruel

Laura Ruel is an associate professor within the UNC School of Media and Journalism. Her research employs UX methods, usability testing, and eye-tracking technologies to provide insight into user behavior and cognitive processes.

Laura Ruelphoto by Alyssa LaFaro
August 29th, 2018

When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I was about 13, I visited Washington, D.C., for the first time. It was when the movie “All the President’s Men” came out in the aftermath of Watergate. And although I believe this was part of what inspired me to become a journalist, at that time I decided I was going to be the first female president. I clearly remember my dad telling me to go for it.

RESEARCH IN 5 WORDS:

“The eyes tell the tale.”

Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose your field of study.

In 2000, while working at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, part of my job as the page-one editor for the Monday edition was to deliver a printed PDF of the paper’s front page to our “web guy” so he could scan it and send it to the Newseum in Washington, D.C.  He sat in a dark room in the basement of the newspaper building, and could always be found in headphones, playing video games. One night when I was delivering the front page to him, I realized that I could have given him a “joke” front page and he would have scanned it and sent it to the Newseum. He was so unaware of the news he was shoveling into the website; the digital department did not feel any connection to the newsroom. At that moment, it became my mission to merge the digital world and the newsroom. I became obsessed with online news and understanding how people process it.

Ruel with her daughters, Amy and Allie, in the Bahamas.

Ruel with her daughters, Amy and Allie, in the Bahamas.

Tell us about a time you encountered a tricky problem. How did you handle it and what did you learn from it?

In the newsroom, I was constantly in situations that forced me to think on my feet, keep my cool, and make decisions quickly. One tricky situation involved news of a plane crash that required me to “stop the presses” and change the front page of the paper for the next day. I learned how important it is to trust that my instincts will guide me to make the best choices.

What are your passions outside of science?

Spending time with my daughters, playing the guitar, walking my dog, listening to podcasts, and mindful meditation. Through the years, I’ve realized that I’m much more productive if I take some downtime.

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