Michael Ortiz Earns P.h.D. in Health Informatics

Michael Ortiz successfully defended his doctoral dissertation on August 17 2021, and earned his Ph.D. in Health Informatics from the Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP) at UNC Chapel Hill. Ortiz is a CHIP National Library of Medicine (NLM) T15 fellow and worked under the guidance of Dr. Javed Mostafa, Director of Carolina Health Informatics Program. Ortiz's dissertation title was "Eye-as-an-input for Improving Interactive Information Retrieval". Where his research focussed on interactive information retrieval. How we can build and evaluate systems (machines) that intelligently display information through intuitive visualization and adapt those visualizations (user interfaces) according to implicit neurophysiological signals that we give off as humans? "I imagine a world where touch interfaces and the computer mouse won’t exist. We will increasingly interact with systems via voice and more implicitly, our eyes", Ortiz said. Michael will be joining Duke School of Medicine as a research scientist and informaticist. Ortiz has also successfully launched a startup focusing on information retrieval technologies. "We were recently accepted into the Launch Chapel Hill Accelerator program and I hope to nurture both an academic and entrepreneurial path moving forward", Ortiz added.


As a NIH-NLM fellow in the Ph.D. program has been a successful student. Michael conducted a dissertation project in a highly innovative and complex research area.  His dissertation project involved examining the area of multimodal interaction with complex information retrieval systems. He developed a completely new method of interaction based on human eye gaze movements and the intensity of gazes.  Beyond the successful development and deployment of the system, he conducted a rigorous evaluation of the multimodal interaction approach based on a test data set provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  During his term as a student, Michael published several research articles in competitive peer-reviewed forums. Finally, Michael's work led to submission of two patents by the university and his work recently led to data analytics and search company spinoff from UNC. - Dr. Javed Mostafa.


Why did you choose health informatics and what was your favorite part of your doctoral process at UNC? - "When you attend major healthcare conferences, everybody seems so happy despite the exceedingly challenging problems that are experienced at all levels of operations. This touches the university health science librarian conducting literature reviews, the physician working up patients in the clinic, and everything else in between. There are a lot of interesting problems to solve that require science and art. More engineers and designers should explore this discipline." "The interdisciplinary environment at CHIP allowed me to get multiple perspectives on a problem. For example, on one project you can have software engineers, data scientists, medical doctors, and public health research scientists discussing implementation of a solution toward a problemEveryone learning from each other and respecting the expertise they bring to the table. It was a unique experience for me over these last few years."


In my first interview with the Dr. Javed Mostafa, he didn’t ask me anything related to academia. We talked about art, the beauty of solving problems and thinking big picture. We connected on a deeper level and instinctively, I knew I wanted to study under his direction. - Ortiz said.