Diligence Leading to Exploration

PROVO, Utah – Mar 18, 2019 – BYU Marriott School of Business information systems professor Jeff Jenkins is no stranger to the hard work and patience needed to delve into unexplored areas of his discipline. Growing up on a dairy farm in Rigby, Idaho, taught him about diligence, an attribute Jenkins has had to continually rely on during nearly ten years of researching areas of untapped research.

Jenkins took an interest in computers when he was young, but it was when he was attending Rick’s College (now BYU-Idaho) in 2004 that he decided he wanted to pursue a PhD in information systems. He transferred to BYU to finish up his undergraduate degree in information systems and then earned his master of information systems management in 2009 from BYU Marriott. He started working as a professor of information systems at BYU Marriott after graduating with his PhD in philosophy from the University of Arizona in 2013.

For nearly a decade, Jenkins has been pioneering research in information technology, specifically in the unexplored field of digital sensors. His recent research, which he has published and patented, focused on how users use computer keyboards, mouse touch pads, and touch screens to learn how to create better online experiences.

“Researching in this area has been a lot of fun,” Jenkins says. “It’s a blue-ocean-type research, meaning no one else is really doing it well.” He patented a software that measures users’ cursor movements in order to differ between people concealing information and truth tellers. Those who use the software can also determine what kind of experience users are having on their websites. For example, by observing and analyzing the mouse movement of a user, web developers can tell if users are frustrated or upset with a website’s interface.

Being among the first doing research in this area has been a thrill for Jenkins. “The novelty of solving problems that no one knew the answer to is exciting,” says Jenkins. “You get to define the field.”

Defining the field meant that there was no field to begin with. Jenkins has had to overcome a multitude of obstacles in his research and, in the process, has realized that the key to his success was diligence, a lesson he learned as a young boy milking cows on early mornings in Idaho. “That’s how I learned to stick with a problem, and not to give up,” he says. “There’s been dozens of times that we realized how hard something is and wondered what to do next, but giving up isn’t an option.”

Wondering what to do next led to more and more research, and over the course of ten years, Jenkins frequently published installments of his research. “Each one of the publications had a little gem that pressed us forward in knowledge,” he says.

Rewards from new research can be plentiful, but for Jenkins, the most satisfying result is seeing the difference his research can make when implemented. “My research has been patented and licensed to companies in the real world,” Jenkins says, “Technology is always changing so we change with it.” He doesn’t plan on stopping his research anytime soon, and looks forward to more discoveries that can contribute positively to society.

Jeff Jenkins
Jeff Jenkins, assistant professor of information systems at the BYU Marriott School of Business

Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Maren Cline