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Kathleen Aubrey

Part-Time Lecturer

Kay Aubrey


Mailing Address

Northeastern University
ATTN: Kathleen Aubrey, 301 ME
360 Huntington Avenue |
Boston, MA 02115

Research Interests

  • Usability research
  • User experience research
  • Qualitative research


  • MS in information systems, Northeastern University
  • MSW in group work and community organizing, Boston University
  • BA in communication, McGill University
  • Certificate of graphic design, School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston


Kay Corry Aubrey is a UX/usability consultant and trainer who shows her customers how to make their products more easily understandable to ordinary people. Her clients have included the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, Broad Institute, Pillo Health, Stanley Black and Decker Futures, Massachusetts Medical Society, SAMHSA, Abt Associates, and Concord Consortium. She lectures about usability and design for Northeastern University. She is also a feature editor for the QRCA VIEWS magazine, a qualitative research journal, and a RIVA-certified Master Moderator and Trainer.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Ballardvale, Massachusetts, which is a section of Andover. I went to Saint Augustine’s School, then to Andover Junior High and graduated from Andover High School in the early 70’s. I think I was most affected by the time in which I grew up. As a little kid, I remember “duck and hide” drills during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the day that Kennedy was shot, as well as the day his brother and Martin Luther King Jr. were shot. As a young teenager, I witnessed the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, the nightly horror of Vietnam and the race riots on TV, as well as watching Neil Armstrong walking on the moon while saying “one small step for man, one giant step for mankind.” Boy, that was an exciting time to be young, and I am so glad that I am of that era.

What are your research interests?

My research focus is very practical. Here are some examples of research projects I have recently completed with Boston-area organizations:

  • AT&T Unified Communications – Usability testing and accessibility review for desktop and mobile versions
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Transportation/MassTRAC – Focus group moderation, usability studies, and accessibility review with police officers to improve a GIS-based system that overlays crime and crash data to improve public safety
  • Constant Contact – Field studies and focus groups with small business owners to provide insights for improving integration of social media into newsletter design
  • iRobot Corporation – Usability review and prototyping of Roomba user interface
  • Oracle Corporation, Pharmaceuticals – user research and user interface design of a secure portal to manage data collection, analysis and reporting of clinical trial data

What courses do you teach?

  • HINF6345: Design for Usability in Healthcare

What do you enjoy most/find most rewarding about what you teach? Is there anything notable or unique about the kind of students that you teach?

My teaching is very practical and hands-on. I enjoy teaching mid-career professionals user research techniques that they can apply to the technology and systems they create.

Where did you study? Any reason in particular behind your choice (a program you were excited about, a city you love, a researcher you wanted to work with)?

I had to pay for college myself, so I spent my freshman year at UMass Boston. Then, I transferred to McGill University in Montreal and graduated from there in the mid-1970’s. Tuition at McGill (including room and board with maid service) was $2,000 a year, which I earned working summers as a waitress at Valle’s Steak House on Rt. 93 in Andover, which I believe now is “Le Chateau.”

I spent part of my senior year of college at the University of Puerto Rico. One of my goals in college was to become fluent in Spanish and French, which is why I chose Montreal and Puerto Rico. Plus, I was a pretty adventuresome kid. I really loved living in Montreal. My mother was French Canadian, so I also had that connection.

After graduation, I worked in human services for several years and then went to Boston University School of Social Work, where I focused on social research and community organizing. I stayed in the social work field until I was in my late twenties and had an opportunity to switch careers via the “Women in Engineering” program at Northeastern. This is how I made the switch into technology. I graduated from Northeastern University with a master’s degree in information systems and worked as a programmer for several years.

While at Lotus Development Corporation in the early 80’s, I had a chance to become a product designer and have stayed in this field ever since. The type of product design I did is now called “User Experience Design” and a large component of UX is research oriented, where you leverage qualitative and quantitative methods to learn about end users, their tasks, their needs and how to apply these insights to the design of products. I guess my career progression makes perfect sense in retrospect!

What are the specifics of your industry experience?

I have taught at Northeastern University since the late 90s, always in a professional development area. I have worked in user experience/UX/usability for about 25 years for a variety of organizations. I work both independently and under contract. Currently, I have been at iRobot as a UX Researcher for a little over a year and a half.