Congratulating our 2020 Graduates

29 Apr, 2020

Congratulating our 2020 Graduates

We are sad to bid farewell to these amazing graduate students who have been so integral to BCNM life. But we are excited to share just a few of their new media accomplishments at Cal, and to wish them well in their rich future scholarly lives.

Designated Emphasis

Christine Dierk received a Ph.D. in Computer Science for her work in cosmetic computing, which explores new possibilities for on-body wearable devices. She worked with Eric Paulos in the Hybrid Ecologies Lab researching how to develop technologies that offer a broader range of novel interfaces and interactions across a wide landscape of body sites. Christine presented her work widely at the Designing Interactive Systems and Computer Human Interactions conferences, and some of her work, such as HäirIÖ, AlterWear, AlterNails, has been featured in and Boing Boing. Christine was also part of the Swarm Lab and the Berkeley Institute of Design.

Noura Howell graduated with a Ph.D. in Information. Her work explores alternative meaning making practices with bodily data through material representations and embodied interactions, such as clothing whose fabric changes color in response to the wearer's physical, mental, or emotional excitement. She has presented widely, including at numerous Designing Interactive Systems, Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing, and Computer Human Interaction conferences, at which she has previously won a Best Paper award. At BCNM, Noura mentored undergraduates in research, offering them hands-on experience prototyping the implementation of wearables by programming a microcontroller, designing and building circuits, and integrating technology with clothing. She has shown work at the Worth Ryder Gallery’s exhibition “Vision+Light: Processing Perception,” curated by Asma Kazmi, and collaborated with Sahil Mohan and Stan Clark on a pop-up sculpture. Noura is also a member of the BioSENSE lab. Previously she worked as a human centered designer and engineer in Singapore, Morocco, and China, as well as at the MIT Media Lab, Intel Labs, and Microsoft. You can see more of her work at

Renée Pastel received a Ph.D. in the Department of Film & Media and a Designated Emphasis in New Media. Her research focuses on the screen treatment of the Iraq/Afghan Wars and the shaping of public opinion, with particular emphasis on the relative success of fictional treatments vs. documentary representations, the role of women, and the use of new media (i.e., digital cameras, instant video messaging). She has been awarded BCNM’s prestigious Lyman Fellowship for her work on how media representations of the “War on Terror” reflect the fragmented nature of contemporary visual culture. She also received several conference grant fellowships to share her research at the premiere conferences in her field. Previously, Renée has served as both our Art, Technology, and Culture and History and Theory of New Media liaison. She was recently published in #Identity: Hashtagging Race, Gender, Sexuality and Nationalism with her article on "Hashtag Television: On-Screen Branding, SecondScreen Viewing, and Emerging Modes of Television Audience Interaction", and was part of the Fan Data team that published “Watching, creating, and arching: Observations on the quantity and temporality of fannish productivity in online fan fiction archives in Convergence.

Will Payne graduated with a Ph.D. in Geography. His work studies the impact of location-based services on the production and perception of urban space, with specific attention to their interactions with processes of cultural differentiation and gentrification. His current research traces a history of informational systems about urban amenities, both contemporary digital technologies like Yelp, Google Maps, and Airbnb, and their analogue precursors like tourist guidebooks and city directories, drawing on his undergraduate training in History and Literature at Harvard. With work experience as a print and web journalist, documentary filmmaker, and technologist, Will uses a variety of methods, from archival research to interviews with developers and users, computational analyses of data generated by location-based services, and critical genealogies of these services' epistemological and representational techniques. At Berkeley, Will was a member of the student advisory board of Berkeley's Global Urban Humanities Initiative. At BCNM, he served as a graduate representative and New Media Working Group leader. He also mentored undergraduates on research methods through our Undergraduate Research program.

Yairamaren Roman Maldonado received her PhD in Spanish and Portuguese. Her research focuses on literary and cultural production in the Caribbean and Latin America, with an emphasis on contemporary colonialism, the post-national subject and the politics of 21st Century works. At BCNM, Yairamaren received summer research awards to collect digital narratives from Puerto Rico and to support immigrants through the project Humanizando la Deportación, conducted with faculty at UC Davis, as well as conference grants to present her work on contemporary colonialism and identity. She also mentored an undergraduate on her project on Digital Avant-Gardes in Post-National Puerto Rico, which processed the interviews and narratives she’d previously collected. Some of her other new media interests include: electronic literature, minimal computing, access to technology and digital culture in Latin America.


Brian Bartz is a new media graduate who received his MFA in Art Practice. Brian Bartz seeks to interrogate object-recognition computer vision algorithms that proliferate in our daily lives both for commercial and militaristic/security purposes. He is interested in approaching the subjectivity of this technology in a way that gets beyond questions of data bias, instead asking: what are the deeper ontological beliefs embedded into computationally systematizing vision, and how might we identify them? In order to do so, he is interested in breaking down the mechanisms on which they operate, examining what are essentially processes only legible to machines in a way that would improve human literacy around this technology. In order to develop an art about machine algorithms that is relatable, Brian interned with BCNM alum Trevor Paglen’s studio, where he worked on an iteration of the Sight Machine performance with the Kronos Quartet.

Xiaokang Feng was awarded a Masters in Architecture and received one of the coveted Lee Family Fund for Housing and Social Architecture awards from the Architecture department. Xiaokang is interested in virtual and augmented reality and has taken classes in tangible user interfaces, in addition to interning at studios across the globe: from Tokyo to Munich, San Francisco to Beijing.


Yinfei Gu received a Masters in Architecture with a focus in new media. Through one technical course, one design course and one theoretical course, Yinfei achieved hands-on prototyping ability, UI design aesthetics skills, as well as interdisciplinary perspective. Yinfei continues to be interested in user interface design and will develop this skill further in her next career.

Hanyang Hu graduated with a Masters in Architecture after studying with Ron Rael on a wide variety of vernacular architectural methodologies and experimental additive manufacturing techniques. With a strong trans-disciplinary background, she seeks to reexamine design methodology from new perspectives. After graduating, she will practice in architecture and further explore design.

Leena Joshi is graduating with an MFA in Art Practice. Concerned with our collective experience of material and immaterial gestures of technology and new media, Joshi currently creates visual artwork and writing in analogue to studies of abstraction, immateriality, and ephemeral art production as a politic of refusal for minoritarian people, and considers the possibility of liberation present in those practices as they intersect with the machinations of the (art) institution and the broader neoliberal capitalist state. Through their work they are interested in pushing questions of the role of data, technology, and "new media studies" within the academy by examining power and control in our personal, as well as institutional, use of new media technologies and the teaching of its related body of knowledge.

Jessie Lyu received a Masters in Information Management and Systems, focusing on Product Design and New Media. With an interdisciplinary background in user research, product design, and software development, Jessie is dedicated to developing user-centered products with both user empathy and engineering perspective. In the past, she has built 2D and 3D education games for children using Unity. She also worked as a software engineer before joining UCB at Quicket Soluctions Inc and then at Yahoo as a full-stack engineer. During her study at Berkeley, Jessie worked on many HCI design projects including software product design and tangible user experience design. Check out her portfolio ( to browse the work she’s done!

Tara Shi graduated from the Masters of Architecture program in the College of Environmental Design. She previously developed her own new media and design practice through her studio disk cactus, which created work for companies such as Google, General Electric, and the California Academy of Science. She served as an Autodesk Artist in Residence, and co-directs This Will Take Time, an artist residency and space for long-term practices and experiments. At Berkeley, she was the co-editor of the annual architecture journal Room One Thousand, which centered on the theme of Magic. She also served as BCNM’s History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series graduate liaison.

Leah Simon is graduating with an M.A. in Folklore from the University of California Berkeley along with a certificate, concentration in New Media Studies. She is a writer and a scholar, who is currently working on her final thesis project as it focuses on the intersections of diasporic tourism, authoritarianism, and new media. Her work aims to (re) interpret government sponsored tours of the Israeli/Palestinian region as complex destinations for sexual cruising between diasporic, female college students and Israeli Defense Force militarymen; a cruising that is intimately and obliquely tied to sexual histories of colonial concubinage. She works through the lens of postcolonial and gender studies to examine where imperialism mobilizes pleasure, digital aesthetics, and sexual fantasy in a biopolitical framework.

Her site of study is Israel/ Palestine where she spent the summer conducting fieldwork through the Alan Dundes Graduate Fellowship Fund. Her work situates diasporic tourism as an experiential object (and one that is often an erotic experience) for Jewish youth. She hopes to develop this project into dissertation work that will center on questions of state power and its monetization of sexual pleasure to service military occupation and authoritarianism.

Leah is currently working on a thesis film that she will pair with her final written work-- a visual project that blends new media, tape that she shot during fieldwork, and public domain archival footage. Her hope is to use media as a discursive tool to foster discussion amongst those who are drawn to this topic. Leah's work on the body, sexuality, and media has been published in sources such as Film Comment Magazine and Confluence, New York University's student journal. She is currently working on a piece that she hopes to publish on metadata tagging practices, the phenomenology of search engines, military Google Knowledge panels, and the social hacking of these interfaces.

Yuxuan Tu is a graduating master’s student at the College of Environmental Design. Recognizing the opportunities of new media as an interdisciplinary catalyst for environmental design, Yuxuan is enthusiastic about how these two subjects reinforce each other and build new social dynamics. At Berkeley, Yuxuan engaged in human computer interaction research and enrolled in Questioning New Media.

Fang Xu is a Masters of Landscape Architecture graduate of the College of Environmental Design. Fang has taken advantage of the varied disciplines on campus, taking courses in computer science, data science, as well as new media. While at Berkeley, Fang has worked with Unity 3D and other AR tools to create new interactive narratives. Their project “Green Thumbs” was made to explore how people can interact with plants. Fang continues to be interested in blurring the lines between architecture and contemporary art.

Yiming Zhang received a Master’s degree in Architecture. Yiming’s main research interests center on design research and representations. More specifically, operations of data of geological/ecological/cultural context information within architectural design that improve people's living conditions and make buildings and cities more humane and healthy. Yiming is also interested in web design and development, as well as VR related advances for better representation.