Graduate student profiles

Jonathan Baltrusaitis


"I am a storytelling machine from a film and television background. The XDM Masters program is rapidly expanding my narrative toolkit and I am interested in the narrative possibilities of games. I am examining and merging the traditional forms of civic monument and documentary through augmented reality."

Jonathan Baltrusaitis

He is also the recipient of the Grade Average Award - Graduate for Fall 2017.

Marcela Bomfim

Marcela Bomfim

Applied Health Sciences

Marcela Bomfim is a PhD Student in the School of Public Health and Health Systems (AHS), working under the supervision of Dr James Wallace. She holds a BSc in Nutrition and in Systems Analysis and an MSc in Computer Science with specialization in Human-Computer Interaction. 

"My research focuses on exploring Gameful Design to improve Food Literacy among people. My research leverages Self Determination Theory to build peoples' competence, autonomy, and relatedness around food, with the aim of making people more knowledgeable and skilled when planning and selecting foods, as well as promoting a celebratory food culture bringing people to eat together."

Marcela Bomfim

Toben standing and smiling in a blue t-shirt

Toben Racicot

English PhD

Toben Racicot, BA Creative Writing (BYUI), MA Rhetoric and Communication Design (University of Waterloo), is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Waterloo.

Robert P. Gauthier

Robert P. Gauthier

Public Health and Health Systems

Robert P. Gauthier is a PhD Student from the School of Public Health being supervised by Professor Jim Wallace.

Ali Haider Rizvi

Management Science

Ali Rizvi (MS, Columbia University; B.Tech, NIT Jalandhar) is a PhD student studying Human-Computer Interaction. He is interested in studying the interaction between technology management, human factors and data analytics as it applies to non-traditional interfaces Prior to his PhD, Ali was a Senior Product Manager on Amazon's Alexa platform. When Ali is not at work, he is either climbing mountains or flying a tiny Cessna.

Marvin Pafla

Systems Design Engineering

Marvin Pafla is a Master's student in Systems Design Engineering. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in both Psychology and Computer Science at the University of Konstanz (Germany). Marvin's interest lie Games Research, Human-Computer Interaction, and Artificial Intelligence. He has experience in public display research. Marvin is supervised by Prof. Dr. Stacey Scott and Prof. Dr. Mark Hancock. Marvin attended the 2018 CHI Conference in Montreal and will be in attendance at the 2019 ISS Conference in Tokyo.

Publication: Pafla, M., Wong, C., Gillis, D., Pfeil, U., & Scott, S. D. (2019, June). Jumping on the Bandwagon: Overcoming Social Barriers to Public Display Use. In Proceedings of the 45th Graphics Interface Conference on Proceedings of Graphics Interface 2019 (p. 21). Canadian Human-Computer Communications Society.

Presentations: "Jumping on the Bandwagon: Overcoming Social Barriers to Public Display Use." at Graphics Interface (GI) in Kingston, Ontario.

Mitacs Internship at Axonify: June 2019 - February 2020 

Giovanni Ribeiro

Giovanni Ribeiro

Systems Design Engineering

Giovanni Ribeiro is a games user research student pursuing a M.A.Sc in Systems Design Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Lennart Nacke at UW.

Yeti Li


Yeti Li is a post-doctural student from the Systems Designs Engineering program. 

AC Atienza's Face

AC Atienza

English - Experimental Digital Media

AC Atienza is a Masters student in the Experimental Digital Media program at UW. Their primary area of interest involves re-application of design principals from one field to another, such as game design into pedagogy or literary theory into game design. Hobbies include spending time with friends, playing games, designing games and drawing.

Sonia Laposi


Sonia Laposi, BA (English and Drama; UW), is currently completing her masters in Digital Media.

Marco standing in front of the CN tower

Marco Aurelio Moran Ledesma

Systems Design Engineering

Omar Gutierrez


"I am researching the ways in which games use nostalgia to take advantage of gamers. More specifically, I am interested in how endless sequels and re-makes contribute very little - if anything - to the series or to the genre, but then cover it up by exploiting the gamer's feels. In other words, through clever manipulation of psychological vulnerabilities and deep associations within the memories of players, a large part of the videogame industry is now in cruise control, demeaning the art and giving love [of videogames] a bad name... making millions of dollars in the process."

Omar Gutierrez

Sid Heeg

Sid Heeg

Rhetoric and Communication Design

Sid Heeg is a Master's student in Rhetoric and Communication Design. They've always been interested in story driven games and how narrative works within them--not just how narrative is built in the game but how players build their own narrative with the affordances of the game. MMOs, mods, and let's play channels on YouTube often construct their own narratives within the world of the video game, so even if a story wasn't intended, players build one in regardless. Beyond this, Sid tries to keep up to date on the video game industry and the major developments within it.

Junhyeok Kim

Computer Science

Junhyeok Kim is a PhD student in the Cheriton School of Computer Science. He completed Bachelor's and Master's degrees at the University of Manitoba. He practices and designs interactive systems using latest technology to improve immersion of computing.

headshot of Sabrina in a stripped shirt

Sabrina Alicia Sgandurra

Experimental Digital Media

Sabrina Alicia Sgandurra is a PhD student specializing in the intersection of narrative structures and gameplay in role-playing (RPG) video games.

Samira Mehrabi

Aging, Health and Well-being

Samira Mehrabi is a PhD student and research /teaching assistant at the University of Waterloo.

Detective Pickachu

Apoorva Sanagavarapu

English - Experimental Digital Media

Apoorva Sanagavarapu is a current Masters’ student in the the Experimental Digital Media (XDM) CO-OP stream of English, at the University of Waterloo. Her research interests have led her to develop a deeper understanding of topics , including, but not limited to: fan studies, digital/social media cultures, feminist and gender theory, critical media infrastructures, critical race theory, the Anthropocene and environmental sustainability, as well as LGBTQ+ representation in the media, canon, and/or “fanon.” She previously earned an Honours BA in English Literature and Rhetoric, along with specializations in Digital Media Studies and Technical Writing, as well as a minor in Italian Studies, also from the University of Waterloo. Following a trend she started in the later years of her undergraduate career, she continues to pursue endeavors related to her primary interest in fandom/fanfiction studies, as seen through her research creation projects for XDM, the majority of which consist of a fanfiction component.


Giuseppe William Femia

English - Rhetoric and Communication Design

Giuseppe Femia is an MA student in the Rhetoric and Communication Design program. His main research focus is on the reparative play found in Dungeons and Dragons, as well as the self-empowerment found in identity. He previously completed a BA in Honours English (Rhetoric, Media, and Professional Communication) at the University of Waterloo.

Maximilian Altmeyer

Mathematics and Computer Science

Maximilian Altmeyer is a researcher and PhD student at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) and the Ubiquitous Media Technology Lab (UMTL) at Saarland University, Saarbrücken, Germany. He holds a M.Sc in Media Informatics from Saarland University. His research focuses on using gamification elements in behavior change support systems, on factors influencing their perception and on ways to tailor them to users.

EKat with red glasses and a black sweater

Ekaterina Durmanova

Systems Design Engineering

Yirou (Chris) Li


"I’m currently a MASc student in Systems Design Engineering Department at University of Waterloo working under the supervision of Dr. Jennifer Boger. My research and thesis work on developing VR exergames as well as effectiveness measures to evaluate the efficacy of the games in promoting physical activities in people living with dementia. My research interests lie in healthcare, human factors, UI/UX designs to bring technologies into people's life easily."

- Chris

Suji Nivedita Sathiyamurthy

Management Sciences, Engineering

"I'm a Masters student with software design & development background. Enthusiastic about Design, Technology and Nature. I'm currently working on measuring Haptics design experience under the guidance of Dr. Oliver Schneider."

- Suji

Arielle standing beside a magnolia tree

Arielle Grinberg

Management Sciences

Arielle is a PhD Candidate working with Mark Hancock and Rob Duimering. Her interest in Human-Computer Interaction began when she worked as a research assistant at the GI. Her research interests span across a wide range of disciplines.

David Bell

Systems Design Engineering

David Bell holds a BEng in Electronic Systems Engineering from Conestoga College and is pursuing a part-time MASc degree in Systems Design Engineering under the supervision of Dr. Mark Hancock. He has an interest in mixed reality, vision systems, and gesture-based interfaces.

Pelisha Emily Samithamby

Management Sciences

"I have recently graduated from Management Engineering at the University of Waterloo. I will be studying for a MASc in Management Sciences. My research interests include human-computer interaction, and I will be working with Professor Oliver Schneider to learn about haptic technology and ways to incorporate UX/UI design in his various projects."

- Pelisha


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