Portrait of Abigail Sellen

Abigail Sellen

Distinguished Scientist and Lab Director


Abigail Sellen is Distinguished Scientist and Lab Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge in the UK, with a research team in Nairobi, Kenya. At Microsoft, she oversees a portfolio of industrial research which takes an interdisciplinary approach to designing and developing new AI-infused technologies. One focus is ensuring that AI advancements are equitable and that our interactions with them are designed with a deep understanding of human values. Another is ensuring that our data centres are both efficient and sustainable through innovation across the whole stack. Fuelling all of this is a research team dedicated to making fundamental breakthroughs in machine learning.

More broadly, Abigail is an expert in human-centric computing, publishing books and papers on many topics including: human-centric AI, 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 the book “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 60 patents pending or granted.

Abigail is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society for the Arts, and the ACM.  She is also an International Member of the US National Academy of Engineering and the ACM SigCHI Academy. She holds honorary professorships in Computer Science at Lancaster University and UCLIC, University College London.

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 MASc 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. The other main academic influence in her life is her stepfather, the late, great John Senders, one of the pioneers of Human Factors Engineering.