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If you asked Jacquelyn Martino when she was seven years old what she wanted to be, she would have told you that she was headed for law school. Her goal changed when confronted with reality. “I did an internship to see if it appealed to me,” she says. It did not.

Plenty of other things did, though. A researcher and artist focusing on experimental multimedia projects and technology, Martino studied design and computation at MIT. She has parlayed this background and her fine-arts work in paper, installations, and small-scale sculptural objects into a promising career that has included jobs at Microsoft, Philips Research, Columbia University, the Pratt Institute, and ultimately IBM Watson Research. At IBM she works as an interaction designer, researching how people use tools and designs for consumer applications.

In 2008 she chaired the prestigious SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques) Conference, which brings together 28,000 people in the computer graphics world. Researchers, animators, artists, and engineers gather for a week that includes technical presentations, galleries, an animation festival, and emerging-technology demonstrations in areas such as cell computing and robotics.

As chair, Martino restructured the conference business model to integrate budget, content, and volunteer interactions. Working with volunteers, she also developed a multiyear planning process, which allows for more complex initiatives. And she boosted the quality of the presentations by streamlining the use of new technologies.

Martino, who lives with her partner in Cold Spring, NY, credits MIT with opening her mind and requiring her to put discipline and reason behind her ideas. “Essentially, the biggest influence at MIT is that nobody says no, but they do say, ‘So, show me, come up with something,’” says Martino. “And that’s huge. I don’t think you find that a lot of places.”

And how about that law degree? Martino is not ruling anything out. “The future is a big space,” she says. “I don’t like to say no to much.”

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