Current Members

Current Members

Group Director

Benjamin Lok, Ph.D.

I’m a Professor in the Computer and Information Sciences and Engineering Department at the University of Florida and entrepreneur and co-founder of Shadow Health, Inc., an education company. I want to impact our world through improving how people communicate with each other. Did you know we are still using the same tools for hundreds of years in how to prepare people to have high-stakes conversations (such as health care providers talking with patients or teachers talking with students)? My group is leveraging the amazing advances in virtual humans, human-computer interaction, and artificial intelligence to create virtual social experiences that can help teach and train people to have better conversations with conversation partners.



Alexandre G. de Siqueira

I am a Postdoctoral fellow at the Virtual Experiences Research Group at the University of Florida. My research interests are in multimodal interaction combining tangible user interfaces with multi-touch, augmented, and virtual reality. I am also interested in the maker movement, and how rapid digital prototyping can be brought to the masses. I have been spending most of my time lately exploring and implementing Virtual 3D Social Spaces for enhanced learning environments. I have collaborated with multi-disciplinary teams of musicians, communication scientists, and physicians both from the academy and the industry across multiple projects. I enjoy designing, making things, and tinkering with them.


Ph.D. Students

Heng Yao

I am a PhD Student in Computer Science. I am interested in exploring how to use virtual patients to improve health professional trainees’ nonverbal communication skills. My research involves around developing embodied conversational agents, emotion recognition and behavior training.


Mohan Zalake

My research involves around developing embodied conversational agents (ECAs). ECAs are computer generated human-like 3-D characters and converse through natural language-style dialogues with humans. I am particularly interested in creating interactive ECAs as an interface to deliver and collect medical information. Although a large population is aware of conversational interfaces like smart home speakers, very few are familiar with ECAs. My research focuses on identifying and understanding user needs of diverse healthcare population to build intuitive and usable ECA interfaces.

I have also developed several virtual reality experiences which demonstrate the applicability of virtual reality in various domains. My interests include virtual reality, natural language processing, machine learning, computer graphics, and human-computer interaction. You can find more about me here.


Jacob Stuart

I am currently a student in the Human-Center Computing Ph.D. program. My interests include Augmented and Virtual Reality. I hope to be able to use these to help improve education. I am currently working on a project where we are creating a simulation for nurses performing triage in an ER after a mass casualty incident. Being a member of the VERG lab has shown me how to focus on what is most important when it comes to making an impact on learning.


Andrew Maxim

I am a PhD student in Human Centered Computing with the Virtual Experiences Research Group.  I am interested in researching methods for making social interactions in Virtual Environments more immersive.  I believe that by improving the connections people feel with and within the virtual world we can improve how people interact and communicate with one another across all avenues of life.


Christopher You

I am a first year Ph.D. student in Human-Centered Computing.  My interested are in Virtual & Augmented Reality and how we can use them for the betterment of society.  Having done my undergrad at the Illusioneering Lab at the University of Minnesota, I’ve determined that I want to work with implicit attitudes in society and how we can reduce them using virtual reality.  My previous research has involved using AR for assisting physicians in surgical procedures, VR in locomotion and navigation, and implicit attitudes studies as well, but currently I am working on a platform where patients with psychiatric disorders can learn to convey their thoughts to their healthcare providers by use of virtual humans.  The VERG lab has been nothing but welcoming to me and I’m excited to see where my Ph.D. will take me here.


Pedro G. Feijoo-Garcia

I am a Fulbright scholar in the Ph.D. of Human-Centered Computing at the University of Florida. My research involves the design and evaluation of technologies and experiences for educational setups. I am interested in exploring the use of virtual humans as complementary actors in STEM educational setups, evaluating their societal impact with learning and user-experience lenses.


Rashi Ghosh

I am a PhD student in Human-Centered Computing. I have had experience working as a software engineer in the healthcare industry, and my primary motivations are mental health and preventative healthcare initiatives. I am interested in exploring the ways virtual humans can be used to advance preventative practices, mental health, healthcare accessibility, and social health & wellbeing.


M.S. Students

Shrishail Zalake

I am a graduate student in Computer Science at the University of Florida. I am interested in exploring applications of machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) in the field of Virtual Reality (VR). Using machine learning and IOT, I want to connect virtual world with the physical world.


Yogesh Laxman

I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Florida. I have three years of work experience in the field of software engineering, coupled with domain expertise in healthcare and digital marketing. I have a keen interest in Virtual and Augmented Reality. I want to work at the intersection of computer graphics and Machine Learning to improve the way people interact with the virtual world.