meet our team

The UC Davis Center for Design in the Public Interest was founded in 2014 to bring together interdisciplinary teams to solve community problems through research-based design. Our team members have expertise in humanities, arts, social sciences, engineering, and technology, and we collaborate with partners inside the university and beyond to work at the leading edge of a growing movement that connects human-centered design with social good.

Funding for the Center for Design in the Public Interest is provided by The Office of Research at the University of California, Davis via its Interdisciplinary Frontiers in the Humanities and Arts initiative.

Profile photo of Susan Verba

susan verba


Professor, Department of Design
College of Letters & Science: Division of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies

Drawing on her experience in mechanical engineering and graphic design, Susan brings cross-disciplinary expertise in directing large collaborative project teams and developing innovative design methods, processes, and outcomes. Her academic research focuses on design for public benefit; she is particularly interested in addressing the needs of individuals outside the mainstream, including seniors, beginners (anyone faced with a new situation and choices), and persons with disabilities.

As a design practitioner, Susan has worked on over 100 projects for dozens of clients in the U.S. and internationally. She cofounded the San Francisco office of Studio/lab, an interdisciplinary studio focusing on identity, information, and experience design.

Profile photo of Bo Feng

bo feng

Professor, Department of Communication
College of Letters & Science: Division of Social Sciences

Bo Feng’s expertise lies in the area of interpersonal communication and intercultural communication. Her scholarship focuses primarily on supportive communication, which includes a broad class of situations in which one person interacts with another person with the intention of providing the latter with some form of aid or assistance.

She brings her experience and expertise in studying communication processes using various methodologies (e.g., survey, experiment, content analysis), as well as her research experience in studying cultural factors in communication processes. She helps to identify relevant communication-related theoretical frameworks that can guide the design of projects, and works with other team members to construct data collection instruments, interpret and analyze data, and write manuscripts.

Profile photo of Suad Joseph

suad joseph

Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies
College of Letters & Science: Division of Social Sciences and Division of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies

Suad Joseph, an anthropologist, investigates the politicization of religious sects in her native Lebanon and the connections between religion, ethnicity, and state; the impact of religion and state on women and family; and the dynamics of child socialization, human rights, citizenship and subjecthood in the Middle East and its diaspora. The representation of Muslims in American news media is another focus. She has founded several professional associations.

She has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the International Development Research Center, the Population Council, UNICEF, the Swedish Institute of Alexandria, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and other funders. At UC Davis she has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Graduate Mentor Award from the Consortium for Women and Research; the Distinguished Scholarly Public Service Award; and Chancellor’s Award for Diversity and Community.

Profile photo of Kwan-Liu Ma

kwan-liu ma

Professor, Department of Computer Science
College of Engineering

Kwan-Liu Ma is a professor of computer science and the chair of the Graduate Group in Computer Science. He leads the VIDI (Visualization and Interface Design Innovation) research group, and directs the UC Davis Center for Visualization.

His research spans the fields of visualization, computer graphics, high-performance computing, and user interface design. He previously directed the Institute for Ultra-Scale Visualization, a 5-year project sponsored by the Department of Energy, involving three other universities and two national laboratories to carry out interdisciplinary research in several scientific application areas.

He presently leads a team of over 25 researchers working on projects in big data visualization, information visualization, visual analytics, artistically inspired illustrations, visual storytelling, and biomedical data visualization. He brings expertise in user interface design, in exploring data visualization as an enabling technology for increasing productivity and insight, and in fostering visual research and education in engineering, the sciences, and beyond.

Profile photo of Sarah Perrault

sarah perrault

Associate Professor and Director, Writing Intensive Curriculum Program
College of Liberal Arts, Oregon State University

Sarah was co-director of DiPi through 2016. She is now Associate Professor and Director of the Writing Intensive Curriculum Program at Oregon State University. Sarah’s work involves public engagement, especially around complex scientific issues, interdisciplinary communication within or between research teams, and critical science literacy. Her contributions to Writing Across the Curriculum—including coaching faculty and graduate students in creating effective pedagogy and critical thinking activities that engage students and promote deep inquiry—played an important role in developing the cluster’s education and training component.

current residents

Profile photo of george slavik

george slavik
Fellow, MFA Design

brooke bahn
Design and Psychology


Profile photo of Sumayyah Ahmed

sumayyah ahmed
MS Computer Science

Profile photo of Emily Alameida

emily alameida
Technical Communication

Profile photo of Melissa Alvey

melissa alvey

thorie asgeirsdottir
Cognitive Science

Profile Photo of Chelsea Best

chelsea best
Design, Art Studio

cynthia chen
Cognitive Science

michelle colato-ochoa

Profile photo of Prerna Dudani

prerna dudani

Profile photo of Patrice Ehlert

patrice ehlert
MFA Design

Profile photo of Kenna Fallan

kenna fallan
Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems

aleeza garcia
Cognitive Science

Profile photo of Yuting Han

yuting han
Computer Science

Profile photo of Hanna Henry

hanna henry

hannah hill
MS Textiles and Clothing

marc holtsman
Computer Science

Profile photo of Zackery Jones

zackery jones

thea kaiser

Profile photo of Yohei Kato

yohei kato
MS Community and Regional Development

lana kazakova

karyn kershaw

Profile photo of Tricia Kietikul

tricia kietikul

Profile photo of Shinna Kim

shinna kim

Profile photo of Michelle Lee

michelle lee

maysnow liu
Cognitive Science
and Design

leslie lopez

Black and white closeup photograph of Tracy Manuel

tracy manuel

zoe martin

elisa massenzio

nima rahni

Profile photo of Mitchell Snyder

mitchell snyder

fei fei song
Psychology and Statistics

vega sood
Computer Engineering

jazmin valencia
Pharmaceutical Chemistry

lily wang huang