Yanyan Ren

I'm a PhD student at Brown University studying computing education. I'm advised by Kathi Fisler, and I'm a member of BrownPLT. My current project is on socially responsible computing. I'm interested in designing and evaluating different tools and pedagogy methods to teach undergraduate students to think about the social impacts of the software systems that they build and interact with.

Before coming to Brown, I did my undergrad at Swarthmore College, with a major in computer science and minor in educational studies. I was very fortunate to work with Professor K. Ann Renninger, and got a taste of doing educational psychology and learning science research.


  • Yanyan Ren and Kathi Fisler. “A Social Threat Modeling Framework to Structure Teaching about Responsible Computing.” In Proceedings of the 54th ACM Technical Symposium on Computing Science Education V. 1 (SIGCSE 2023)
  • Gu, Xingjian, Max A. Heller, Stella Li, Yanyan Ren, Kathi Fisler, and Shriram Krishnamurthi. “Using Design Alternatives to Learn About Data Organizations.” In Proceedings of the 2020 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, pp. 248-258. 2020.
  • Yanyan Ren, Shriram Krishnamurthi, and Kathi Fisler. “What Help Do Students Seek in TA Office Hours?.” In Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, pp. 41-49. 2019.
  • Renninger, K. Ann, Yanyan Ren, and Heidi M. Kern. "Motivation, engagement, and interest:“In the end, it came down to you and how you think of the problem”." In International handbook of the learning sciences, pp. 116-126. Routledge, 2018.
  • Projects

    Last year, I started to become interested in usability and design. I took two courses in two different departments: Human Factors from Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, and User interfaces and User experience from Computer Science.
    These two courses got me thinking:
    Why are some things hard to use?
    Is it just me or do other people experience the same thing?
    How can I better describe the usability issues?
    What usability design principles can be applied to improve the tools and websites?
    Below you can find some of my course projects that explore these questions around usability.

    Public Printer

    Persona + Storyboard

    I sat down near a public printer and observed how people used it. I later interviewed a few typical users and created personas and storyboard accordingly.


    Usability Test + UX

    I created some tasks and questions around apartment hunting using Craigslist, conducted think-aloud initerviews, and came up with suggestions to improve Craigslist's apartment hunting functionalities.

    Online Menu

    React + UI

    I explored a different way to present an online menu, by adding filtering and sorting functions.

    DMV Website

    Balsamiq + Figma

    I redesigned the license-renewal page from RI DMV's website. Started with a usability problem analysis, skeched out lo-fi and hi-fi prototypes, and made a responsive website in the end.

    Community Service

  • Co-organizer of the mentorship program for CS PhD students at Brown (2022 - present)
  • Student volunteer at ASPLOS'19
  • Student volunteer at SPLASH'18
  • Student volunteer at SIGCSE'17
  • Contact Me

    I'm not very active on social media. Email would be the best way to reach me.