Portrait of Abigail Sellen

Abigail Sellen

Distinguished Scientist and Lab Director


Abigail Sellen is Distinguished Scientist and Lab Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge (opens in new tab) in the UK.

She is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (opens in new tab), an International Member of the US National Academy of Engineering (opens in new tab), and in 2021 was elected Fellow of the Royal Society (opens in new tab). She is also a Fellow of the ACM (opens in new tab) and a member of the ACM SigCHI Academy (opens in new tab). Abigail holds honorary professorships in Computer Science at Lancaster University (opens in new tab) and UCLIC (opens in new tab), University College London (opens in new tab).

At Microsoft Research, Abigail oversees a portfolio of industrial research spanning: the Future of Work (opens in new tab), which takes an interdisciplinary approach to designing and developing new productivity technologies that work in partnership with people; Cloud Systems Futures, which aims to invent the infrastructure and systems for the Cloud; and Confidential Computing, which focuses on the design of systems that guarantee strong security and privacy properties to cloud users.

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, the late, great John Senders (opens in new tab), 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.