The Illuminating Team

The Illuminating Project is a joint effort of a large team of faculty and students at Syracuse University.

Lead Researchers

Jennifer Stromer-Galley

Jennifer Stromer-Galley (PhD Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania) is a Professor in the School of Information Studies and Director for the Center for Computational and Data Sciences. She is an affiliated faculty member with the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies and with the Department of Political Science, and served as President of the Association of Internet Researchers between 2015 and 2017.

Jenny has been studying "social media" since before it was called social media, studying online interaction and influence in a variety of contexts, including political forums and online games. She has published over 50 journal articles, proceedings, and book chapters. Her award-winning book, Presidential Campaigning in the Internet Age (Oxford University Press), provides a history of presidential campaigns as they have adopted and adapted to digital communication technologies.

Jeff Hemsley

An Assistant Professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. He is co-author of the book Going Viral (Polity Press, 2013 and winner of ASIS&T Best Science Books of 2014 Information award and selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2014), which explains what virality is, how it works technologically and socially, and draws out the implications of this process for social change. You can see Jeff talk about researching viral events on YouTube. He is a founding member of the Behavior, Information, Technology and Society Laboratory (BITS lab) here at the Syracuse iSchool.

Jeff earned his Ph.D. from the University of Washington's Information School, where he was a founding member of the Social Media Lab at the University of Washington. The lab received RAPID and INSPIRE awards from NSF, an Amazon Web Services in Education research grant award, and a gift from Microsoft Research. His research has appeared in journals like Policy & Internet, American Behavioral Scientist and the Journal of Organizational Computing and Electronic Commerce.

Brian McKernan

Brian McKernan is a Research Assistant Professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University at Albany, SUNY. Brian is also a faculty fellow with Yale University’s Center for Cultural Sociology.

Broadly constructed, Brian’s research is devoted to theorizing, empirically studying, designing, and experimentally testing new and innovative approaches to tackling many of the serious challenges we face today. Brian was part of the CYCLES project, a federally-funded research program to design and test an educational game that can effectively teach players about cognitive biases and how to mitigate them. Brian is also a part of the TRACE team, an interdisciplinary project to design and test a software application that helps users engage in better reasoning and decision-making. Brian is particularly interested in designing and studying how innovative forms of collaboration and smart nudges may promote better reasoning. Much of Brian’s current work focuses on exploring the factors that contribute to successful human + AI collaborations.

Patricia Rossini

Dr Patrícia Rossini is a Derby Fellow in the Department of Communication and Media at the University of Liverpool, and was a postdoctoral researcher in the Center for Computational and Data Sciences in the iSchool. Broadly speaking, Patricia's research is concentrated on the impact of social media on politics and democracy. Specifically, she is interested in digital threats to democracy, such as the presence of uncivil and intolerant discourse in digital platforms, and misinformation on social media, as well as political uses of digital media that can fulfill important democratic roles, such as electoral campaigning, informal political discussion and political engagement. Her research on incivility, intolerance, and misinformation on social media has been funded by Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.

Nancy McCracken

Dr. Nancy McCracken is a Research Consultant in the Center for Computational and Data Sciences in the iSchool. She holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Syracuse University and is a retired Associate Research Professor in the iSchool. Her teaching and general research interests are in applying the principles and tools of natural language processing (NLP). Past research projects include acting as PI on NSF funded projects for using NLP in the content analysis of text and for building a qualitative data repository. Dr. McCracken was part of the TRACE team, helping to analyze how users engaged in reasoning through their behaviors and reports. Her current interest is in understanding the use of language patterns in social media text.

Yatish Hegde

Yatish is a research staff member at the CCDS (Center for Computational and Data Sciences). He plays a key role in the design and implementation of research projects at the CCDS and the iSchool. Yatish has many years of experience in the development of information retrieval, natural language processing, machine learning, content analysis and digital object repository applications. Previously, Yatish was associated with the CNLP (Center for Natural Language Processing) at the iSchool. His current interests include applying NLP and Machine Learning techniques to solve computational social science problems.

Yatish holds a Master’s degree in Information Management (Syracuse University, 2010) and under-graduate degree in Computer Science (R.V. College of Engineering, 2005). During his graduate studies at Syracuse, Yatish worked on multiple research projects at the Center for Natural Language Processing as a graduate research assistant. Before coming to Syracuse, Yatish worked for Alcatel-Lucent (previously, Lucent Technologies India R&D) as a software engineer.


Lisette Child

Lisette Child provides administrative and project management planning and coordination within the Center for Computational and Data Science (CCDS) in the iSchool at Syracuse University.

She organizes and implements numerous events, and maintains the Center website and social media. In addition, Lisette will provide support to various projects happening within the CCDS.

Lisette has spent the last 13 years in the corporate event research, planning and production space helping to develop engaged communities across various industries. Her work involved overseeing conference and program development, project management, industry research analysis, speaker acquisition, conference production and event logistics.

In her free time, Lisette enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, and two children. When not outside she can be found working on her many DIY projects.

Current PHD Students

Sarah E. Bolden

Sarah is a second-year PhD student in the iSchool’s Information Science and Technology program. She received her BA in Sociology and Latin American and Iberian Studies from the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2016. In 2018, she received her MA in Communication and Rhetorical Studies from Syracuse University. Sarah’s current research explores how networked activist and hate groups construct and enforce boundaries of group membership on social media platforms. Using content, network, and platform analysis, Sarah examines communities’ content production and networking practices to assess how to protect marginalized users and reduce the presence of hate speech online.

Ania Korsunska

Ania is a third-year PhD student at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. She holds a MA from the University of Chicago in the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences and has completed two years of PhD coursework at Temple University in the Lew Klein College of Media and Communication. Ania's research interests focus on understanding the spread of information about research in the health and medical sector, and designing tools to help foster scientific collaboration and improve accurate information dissemination through the media. Methodologically, her work utilizes content/textual analysis, interviews, and network analysis. She has previously worked as a User Experience researcher and medical editor at a health communication agency.

Alexander Smith

Alexander is a third-year PhD student of Information Science and Technology in Syracuse’s iSchool. He completed a BS in Economics at University of West Georgia in 2013. In 2017, he completed a thesis track MA in Economics at Georgia State under Dr. Paula Stephan while also completing three years of mathematics courses. He studies Internet memes as circulation and meaning making. Alexander is an information scientist focusing on culture and media studies considering semiotic, affective, and political potentialities of memetic documents in online environments.

Prior PHD Students

  • Feifei Zhang
  • Brian Dobreski
  • Jerry Robinson
  • Erin Bartolo
  • Sam Jackson
  • Olga Boichak
  • Jennifer Sonne
  • Ivan Shamshurian
  • Patricia Vargas Leon
  • Sikana Tanupabrungsun
  • Mahboobeh Harandi

ML Team

Shloak Gupta

Shloak is a Master’s student in Applied Data Science at Syracuse University School of Information Studies. He holds a B.E. in Information Technology from MBM Engineering College in India. He has been working in the Center for Computational Data Science (CCDS) under Prof. Jennifer Stromer-Galley for the last 2 years. His current interest lies in using Machine Learning, NLP and Deep Learning techniques to solve data science problems.

Jay Kachhadia

Jay is a Master’s student in Applied Data Science at the School of Information Studies, Syracuse University. He received his B.Tech in Computer Engineering from the National Institute of Technology(NIT) Surat, India. Jay has been working on the Data and Machine Learning Infrastructure and Data Engineering parts of Illuminating under Prof. Jennifer Stromer-Galley since August 2018. Jay also writes for the Towards Data Science on medium with more than 21,000 views on his blog.

Wenzhe Yang

Wenzhe is a Master’s student in Computational Linguistics at the Arts and Sciences College. She got the BA degree in Chinese Language and Literature. Wenzhe has been working with the Data Annotation team since September 2019 and joined the Machine Learning team doing topic analysis under Prof. Jennifer Stromer-Galley since January 2020. She is interested in NLP and its application in cross-fields research.

Alan Nguyen

Alan is a Master’s student in the Applied Data Science program at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. He holds an undergraduate degree in Information Management in Technology at Syracuse University. Alan has contributed to CCDS and Illuminating since January 2019 through message tagging, processing, and audit. He loves working with computer networking tech, performing classical music, and ballroom dancing.

Prior Masters Students

  • Karen Hawkins
  • Wei Quan
  • Billy Csesckovic
  • Michael Hutchinson
  • Akhil Nair

Current and Prior Undergrads

  • Amolwan Jittamai
  • Ben Paterson
  • Ellie Bodker
  • Hanna Yacubov
  • Julia Howard-Flanders
  • Juan Buena
  • Justin Boone
  • Liam Heffernan
  • Max Keiser
  • Maya Schmidt
  • Sophie Estep
  • Sharon Lee
  • Jamar Smith
  • Sagar Dubey
  • Meaghan Clark

Other Research Members

  • Lauren Bryant
  • Rebekah Tromble
  • Kate Kenski
  • Bryan Semaan