Portrait of Abigail Sellen

Abigail Sellen

Partner Deputy Lab Director


Abigail Sellen is Deputy Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge in the UK.  She also oversees the lab’s portfolio of research exploring the Future of Work, taking an interdisciplinary approach to designing and developing new productivity tools that work in partnership with people.  This approach recognizes that radical transformations in the world of work mean that we need to keep human aspirations front and centre in the technologies we build. It means recognising what people do best, while at the same time playing to the strengths of digital systems in order to make our working lives more fulfilling.

Abigail joined Microsoft in June 2004 from Hewlett Packard Labs, Bristol. She spent 6 years at HP researching many different kinds of topics ranging from appliance design to Web use to mobile technologies. Prior to HP, she spent 7 years at Xerox’s research lab in Cambridge UK (EuroPARC), was cross-appointed to the MRC Applied Psychology Unit, Cambridge, and was a Research Fellow at Darwin College, University of Cambridge. Before moving to England, she also worked for other corporate IT labs such as Xerox PARC, Apple Computer, and Bell Northern Research.

Abigail has a doctorate in Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego where she was supervised by Don Norman. She also has an M.A.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Toronto. She spent some formative years as a post doc working with Bill Buxton, Ron Baecker and Marilyn Tremaine at the Computer Science Research Institute at U of Toronto. Her other main academic influence was her stepfather, John Senders, one of the pioneers of Human Factors Engineering.

Abigail has published on many topics including: healthcare, computer input, help systems, reading, paper use in offices, videoconferencing design, search, photo use, gesture-based input, human error and computer support for human memory. This includes two books, “Video-Mediated Communication” and “The Myth of the Paperless Office” (with co-author Richard Harper), which won an IEEE award for distinguished literary contribution to engineering. She is an inventor with over 50 patents pending or granted. She is also a Fellow of the ACM, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, a Fellow of the British Computer Society, a Fellow of the Women’s Engineering Society, an Honorary Professor of Computer Science at Lancaster University, an Honorary Professor of Interaction at the University of Nottingham, an Honorary Professor at UCLIC, University College London, and a member of the ACM SigCHI Academy.  In 2020, she was elected as an International Member of the US National Academy of Engineering.

Microsoft Academic link is here.