PhD Students

PhD Students

As of Summer 2023, here are some of our current and former PhD students who gave us permission to highlight them here!

Jasmine McKenzie (advisor: Gilbert)
My current research interest involves accessing health equity and contributing to a Culture of Health to effect change in marginalized and underrepresented communities. This includes learning more about assistive technology, specifically Smart Homes, which improves the quality of life for older adults, people with disabilities, and rural communities with home wellness technology. I also want to study reducing biases in machine learning and artificial intelligence caused by socioeconomic disparities and used in healthcare for diagnosing, resulting in misdiagnosis and improper treatment in marginalized groups. Finally, I would like to study how to improve AI to predict disease diagnoses based on social determinants.

Qing Li (advisor: Chu)
I am interested in learning technology, want to understand how students learn from class and how they apply the knowledge in their everyday life. Based on the understandings, I want to design new technologies to promote students’ epistemology of science.
Abhishek Kulkarni (advisor: Chu)
My research revolves around advanced learning technologies and connected learning. More specifically, I research interest-based learning where learning content is contextualized around a learner’s personal life interest. I want to understand whether this method of learning is effective in improving a learner’s motivation, self-efficacy, and learning outcomes.

Andrew Maxim (advisor: Lok)
My research involves exploring the ways vocal characteristics (paralinguistics) can be used with computer-generated voices to improve the social presence and persuasiveness of virtual humans.

Rashi Ghosh (advisor: Lok)
I am currently exploring how virtual humans can be used in areas such as rural education and mental health in order to increase accessibility. I am also interested in exploring gender expression and perception when it comes to virtual humans.
Patriel Stapleton (advisor: Blanchard)
My goal is to figure out way learning technologies can be better used to help further educational goals. Specifically, how these technologies can be used to help learners from BIPOC backgrounds to increase representation and participation.
Heting Wang (advisor: Ruiz)
My research interests focus on designing human-centered interfaces/virtual agents that recognize users’ non-verbal inputs such as eye gaze, facial expressions, and hand gestures, and let system provide visual/acoustic feedback to improve user experience. During the pandemic of Covid-19, my current research topic includes utilizing webcam-based emotion classifiers in virtual environments to assist users in tasks.
Xiaoyi Tian (advisor: Boyer)
My research focuses on Human-Computer Interaction, AI Education and Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning. By understanding students’ individual perceptions and collaborative interactions with learning technologies, I aim to design better learning environments that supports AI learning in K-12.
Chenshen Lu (advisor: McMullen)
My research area is to fast generate HRTF by 3DMM and machine learning approach, another area is to enhance elevation perception.
Christopher You (advisor: Lok)
I explore the effects of cultures and tailoring to cultures on virtual human technologies. In short, I explore how can we create effective health interventions to those with differing backgrounds through conversations with virtual humans.
Jeremy Block (advisor: Ragan)
My research focuses on generating meaningful summaries from user interaction data to help collaborators understand how their team is working. I’d like to provide context through metaphor and narrative to efficiently communicate progress while also providing the appropriate level of detail for users. Through a combination of familiar visualizations and narrative constructs I’m interested in exploring how summarization may improve overall communication and productivity.
Jacob Stuart (advisor: Lok)
My work focuses on creating healthcare training simulations for university students. Particularly, I am using augmented reality to allow learners to practice identifying visual cues (ex. symptoms) that they would not be able to see when using typical healthcare training such as manikin simulators or standardized patients. My research focuses on how using different levels fidelity in augmented reality affects user perceptions of the visual cues displayed.
Pedro Guillermo (advisor: Lok)
I work on designing, evaluating, and studying culturally relevant embodied conversational agents (ECAs) for STEM (i.e., Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) students’ Mental Wellness Support. My interests regard ECAs’ interaction adaptability concerning users’ trust and attraction/repulsion to similar/different characteristics such as spoken accent, ethnicity, and gender.
Sarah Brown (advisor: Chu)
As a researcher, one of my primary motivations is to wield interactive storytelling as an agent of growth and transformation in the user, not only to support mental health, but also to foster learning and self-efficacy in the user. My research thus emphasizes the potential for interactive digital narratives to be used for serious applications in the domain of health and education. As part of this, my dissertation work investigates the use of interactive story authoring to support a therapeutic process of reflection in college students.
Cheryl Resch (advisor: Gardner-McCune)
I am researching whether adding cybersecurity topics throughout core courses in the CS curriculum produces graduates with knowledge of cybersecurity and an appreciation of the importance of cybersecurity. I am also researching whether having students answer reflection prompts about what they learned about cybersecurity during the previous semester helps them retain knowledge of cybersecurity as they progress through the curriculum.
Nanjie (Jimmy) Rao (advisor: Chu)
My research is to use technology to understand human behavior and motivation in the field of storytelling and learning.
Julia Woodward (advisor: Ruiz)
My main research area is in the field of child-computer interaction. Children are increasingly interacting with technology; However, these devices are not designed with children in mind. My research goals have been to design better interfaces for children, and understand how children think about and use technology.

Shaghayegh (Shae) Esmaeili (advisor: Ragan)
My research projects primarily focus on human-centered research of design and evaluation of applications and techniques that support effective interaction and understanding of data, information, and virtual environments.
Specifically for my thesis, I am working on investigating the human perception of visual motion for quantitative data encoding and its applications.

Armisha Roberts (advisor: McMullen)
My research focuses on understanding how users detect change within a 3D auditory environment. The application area for this research is auditory guidance for first responders to physical targets. The majority of perceptual 3D audio research focuses on localizing stationary sounds. This research advances knowledge on moving 3D sound perception, especially in ambulatory listening scenarios.
Joseph Isaac (advisor: Gilbert)
My research emphasis is to investigate pedagogies to increase the interest and persistence of Black adolescence males in introductory Computer Science in the United States.