Announcing our Spring 2019 Graduate Cohort

21 Mar, 2019

Announcing our Spring 2019 Graduate Cohort

Art by Yuanpei Zhuang.

We are thrilled to welcome this Spring's graduate cohort – a stellar group of interdisciplinary scholars from African American Studies, Architecture, Computer Science, Education, Film and Media, Folklore, Geography, Information, and Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies!

Designated Emphasis

Rachel Chen

Rachel Chen is a PhD candidate in Special Education at the Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on developing tangible and movement-based supports that facilitate collaborative learning of individuals with complex communication and motoric needs. Extending from her work on multimodal interaction, and grounded in the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), Rachel has begun prototyping tangible supports for accessibility and communication in the special education classroom. Rachel has worked in the past with Kimiko Ryokai on long distance tactile communication. One such project, the Tactophone, developed out of her research with Kimiko Ryokai on tactile communication. Tactophone is an interactive musical mat that amplifies physical touch between people through sound.When participants step onto separate mats and explore different types of touch interactions, sound dynamically and spontaneously changes. Such a tool lowers the threshold for expressivity and communication despite the students’ challenges, and uses touch and music as prosocial resources.

Julia Irwin

Julia Irwin is a first year Ph.D. candidate in Film and Media, focusing on the ways computation and automation intersect with visual culture, with an emphasis on camera technology and computer vision systems. Prior to joining us at Berkeley, Julia was a practicing media artist and adjunct professor, teaching new media courses and workshops at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in video, 3D animation, virtual reality, and web documentary. Julia’s recent work engages with machine learning algorithms that not only compute data, but seek to locate patterns, to interpret, and to predict, and asks how individuals and systems interact to mediate the predictability of human behavior. She has written about the history of emotion recognition software, used by law enforcement agencies and corporate marketing departments to detect deception and predict purchasing behavior.

Haripriya Sathyanarayanan

Priya is pursuing a Ph.D. in Architecture, studying healthcare experiences through evidence-based design. With a growing body of work suggesting that built or physical environments can play a key role in defining the physical and psychological health not just for patients but also healthcare providers, Priya’s research addresses behavioral based programming, user perception and preferences of spatial design alternatives and environmental performance for key hospital rooms. Recently, she has been leveraging virtual reality systems to offer new insights into participant responses to their environment. Priya is currently working with Dr. Yehuda Kalay on an NSF funded project to develop and apply a transformative tracking, networking and operation technologies, using visible light communication (VLC) technology, to enable smart, connected and efficient hospitals. Priya is working on event-based behavioral models and simulations of building-user interactions in hospital settings, along with the development of enhanced algorithms for human behavior prediction and simulations in unity. Previously she worked as a Total Building Performance and Environmentally Sustainable Design (ESD) Consultant with Zeb Technologies.

Rashad Timmons

Rashad Timmons is a doctoral student in African Diaspora Studies at the University of California Berkeley. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan State University in Journalism with specializations in African American and African Studies. His research interests include critical theories of blackness, new media and performance studies and broadly concerns the infrastructures of chattel slavery and their afterlives in contemporary social and political life.

Xiaowei Wang

Xiaowei is pursuing a Ph.D. in Geography, focusing on rural technology use in China, and the impact it has on the systems of food security and food safety. Previously, Xiaowei studied Architecture and worked as a software engineer. As part of the team at Situ Research, she helped examine the future of housing and growth in New York City for the MOMA: Uneven Growth show curated by Pedro Gadanho, as well as helping design and create a platform for the UN Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism to visualize drone strikes. Additionally, she has co-founded participatory art and technology projects such as FLOAT Beijing, an air quality sensing kite project that allowed Beijing residents to test air quality for themselves, given government censorship of air quality data. This project was an INDEX: Design to Improve Life finalist in 2013. More recently, she served as Creative Director at Logic Magazine, a print journal on technology and culture, which has featured original writing from scholars and practitioners such as Mar Hicks, Astra Taylor, Chen Qiufan, and anonymous data scientists and engineers. Much of the writing is a critical look at technology and the culture of software engineering.

Jeremy Warner

Jeremy Warner is a third-year Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley in the EECS department, advised by Björn Hartmann, working in the Berkeley Institute of Design (BiD). He has also worked as a Graduate Research Intern at Autodesk in the User Interface Research group. He studies human-computer interaction and computing education systems, exploring novel collaboration methods, prototyping tools, and teaching platforms. More precisely, he builds prototypes that embody novel explorations of this design space and then evaluate their effectiveness and flexibility, which then informs the next iteration of design. He consults New Media as a lens to focus and ground inquiry into these technological frameworks.


Jen Coluccio

B.A. Philosophy, English Literature, UCLA; M.A. Theater, California State University, Los Angeles. Jen is a writer and scholar with an interest in the intersections of affect, social cognition, and the performance of psychopathology. She is concerned with the implications of the poststructural-empirical binary as it relates to the biological, social, and political transmission of affective dis-ease. In particular, Jen is looking to explore affective transmission through popular theatrical-television performances and digital audience forums. She is a 2018 Koshland Fellow and her collaborative media work won an Eisner Award last spring.

Sofia Dewar

Sofia is a Master’s candidate at the School of Information, where her studies focus on Human-Computer Interaction. Most recently, she has been working on research related to facial recognition and affective computing. Having received her B.A. from UC Berkeley in Cognitive Science, she is interested in topics related to lower-level perception of new media forms, along with the emergent social and cultural impact new media creates. Over the years, Sofia has pursued her own art practice and wishes to use her research in HCI and involvement with BCNM to inform her art practice, drawing on new media forms to do so. Prior to returning to Berkeley for her Master’s, Sofia worked in Technical Operations and User Research.

Mathieu Iniesta

For me, the BCNM Department represents the idea of a critical understanding of the nature and implications of society, broadly conceived, drawing on theories and methodologies from across a disciplinary spectrum which is also composing the roles of an Architect. Indeed, the arts, social sciences, and engineering are fully part of my path in architecture. I reckoned the BCNM as an introduction to the different facets of new media research because it leads to opportunities for innovative and collaborative research in order to make the world a better place. Indeed, when I started Architecture, it appeared to me to be a stimulating subject in which I could have the possibility to express myself as well as learn from the expressions of others. This ideal has been reaffirmed in my studies by my growing fascination with different aspects of the world, which has materialized through many years of playing different sports with success in high-level competition, but also through my studies, and by representing my pairs on student and professional councils. Similarly, BCNM’s will to teach the essential values of research and inter-disciplinarity ignites my growing curiosity.

Reechal Mevada

Reechal is a candidate in the Masters in Architecture program, where she has been focusing on the effects of artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality on the future of Californian ecology and architecture. At Berkeley, she has been working on materials and mediums of digital art and graphic design to test ideas and has developed her skills in 3D model making and representational tools. At her most recent workplace, Perkins Eastman, she created a short film, ‘Human by Design,’ that explored how we inhabit spaces of an urban park after its closing.

Konstantinos Moustakas

Konstantinos Moustakas is an architect engineer, currently attending the one-year post-professional ‘Studio One’ Master of Architecture program. He believes that architecture is a form of art, where various elements come together and act as a medium to form space, while as a field it is always transforming, directly related to multiple social, economic and political values. Models, drawings, renderings, are all media that convey perception and vision, and without a doubt evoke emotions, while they evolve simultaneously with the architecture they depict. In an era where the digital interface will become even more embedded in our reality, he is interested into exploring how the tool palette of an architect can be enhanced, and how could these media transform and offer a different experience to the creator and the recipient.

Leah Simon

A current member of the Folklore Masters program at U.C. Berkeley, Leah is motivated to research how nationalism and visual media inform sexual subjectivities. In her current research, she examines libidinal identities and their implications in practices of global gentrification and youth tourism. She hopes to better understand how popular perceptions of gender, authenticity, and sexuality have been discursively shaped in the past by the present and in the present by the past. During the time in her masters program, Leah looks forward to working closely with scholarship that focuses on womxn, the body, gender, and sexuality in folklore, new media, and postcolonial studies.

Yuanpei Zhuang

Yuanpei Zhuang is a Masters in Architecture candidate and focuses on data visualization and user interaction. Yuanpei has been using R studio to translate data into graphics, accelerating his design process. He is particularly interested in virtual and augmented reality visualizations.