Alexander Klippel – Founder

Alex is Professor of Geography at the Department of Geography at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the Gosnell Senior Faculty Scholar and the inaugural Director of Penn State’s Center for Immersive Technologies. He holds an affiliate position at Information Science and Technology at Penn State and is an Associate of the Institute of Cyber Science. He is also founder of ChoroPhronesis – Applied Spatial Intelligence.

Alex research interests are eclectic. Topics include, but are not limited to, spatial cognition, wayfinding, geographic event conceptualization, formal characterizations of dynamic spatial processes, location based services, landscape and land cover concepts, crowdscience and crowdsourcing, and featured prominently in recent projects, Virtual and Mixed Reality and 3D modeling. An overview of current and past funded and self-funded research projects can be found here.

Before Alex came to Penn State he worked as a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the CRC for Spatial Information, Geomatics Department, and was a founder member of the Spatial Information Science Research Group, The University of Melbourne. He also spent time at the Geography Department and Cognitive Science Emphasis at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Alex received his Ph.D. in Informatics and Mathematics from the University of Bremen, co-authored the project MapSpace which was part of the Transregional Collaborative Research Centre for Spatial Cognition and worked in the AspectMap project (Spatial Cognition Priority Program, German Science Foundation). He started his Ph.D. studies in Hamburg at the Graduate Program for Cognitive Science. A very long time ago he received a masters in Applied Physical Geography from the University of Trier, Germany.

Postdoctoral Researchers 


Jan Oliver Wallgrün – Senior research associate

Independent Researcher affiliated with ChoroPhronesis, and Instructor for the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences in the area of Online Geospatial Education. Jan was a post-doctoral research scholar at Penn State’s Department of Geography from 2011 to 2014, working in the area of Geographic Information Science. His background is in Informatics and AI. Jan received his Ph.D. in Informatics from the University of Bremen, Germany, and his Diploma (M.A.) in Informatics from the University of Hamburg, Germay.

Jan’s research interests include GIScience, Spatial and Temporal Modeling and Reasoning, Artificial Intelligence, Spatial Cognition, and Virtual/Augmented Reality. His research is focused on spatial and spatio-temporal representation and reasoning based on commonsense notions of space and on the automatic interpretation and processing of human spatial language. In addition, Jan is working on the Unity3D development of VR applications that enable the immersive experience and analysis of geospatial and scientific data.



Jack (Shen-Kuen) Chang – Post doctoral fellow

My research interests are (but not limited to): human-computer interaction (HCI), user experience (UX), tangible and embodied interaction (TEI), virtual reality (VR) / augmented reality (AR), spatial cognition, and information visualization (InfoVis). My recent research can be summarized as: I explore how spatial understanding and spatial manipulation can be improved with digital interfaces; how those interfaces engage the body and the mind; how people collaborate and communicate with those interfaces; and how such interfaces and the resulting user experiences can be designed, built, and evaluated.

I obtained my PhD from Purdue University (2018). During my PhD, my team and I won 2 awards, both for Outstanding Creative Design, in 2013’s IEEE VAST Challenge. In 2014 and 2015, funded by USA’s Department of Defense, I worked at PNNL (Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) as a PhD HCI Research Intern twice (one time as a NSIP recipient, both times with merit-based extensions). In 2016, funded by USA’s NSF, I worked as a PhD HCI Research Intern at Xerox PARC, supervised by Dr. Victoria Bellotti (PARC Fellow, ACM SIGCHI Academy Fellow). From 2016 to 2018, I was invited to work in SynLab at Ryerson University as a Visiting Student Researcher for a Canada national SHHRC grant (collaborated between Ryerson Univ., Univ. of Toronto, and Georgia Tech) on designing tangible and embodied virtual reality for spatial cognition. The visiting studentship later became a postdoctoral appointment at Ryerson Univ.

I have 2 master’s degrees. One is from Indiana University Bloomington’s School of Media (formerly Dept. of Telecommunications) where I, with 2 years of full funding, studied/created interactive multimedia and game design. Another one is from Dept. of Power Mechanical Engineering in National Tsing-Hua University (NTHU), Taiwan. After I completed my master’s program at NTHU, I worked as an Associate Research Engineer at Taiwan’s ITRI (Industrial Technology Research Institute) where my team and I got technology transfers and 20+ international patents (4+ US patents) for our work on using new testing services and information/communications technology (ICT) to improve industrial and fire safety.


Pejman Sajjadi – Post doctoral fellow

Pejman is a Postdoctoral researcher. His primary research interests are digital game-based learning (serious games, educational/edutainment games, and simulations), immersive technologies (virtual/augmented reality), adaptive learning systems (learner-centered design, personalization, and adaptation), embodied conversational agents, and human-computer interaction. He obtained his PhD from Vrije Universiteit Brussel (2017) for research on adapting the mechanics of games based on the intelligence profile of their target audiences. During this period he was also a teaching assistant for several master level courses including web engineering, user interface design, and information systems.

He was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the Bielefeld University (2017-2019) where he was the main investigator of the MASCOT project, focused on crafting realistic embodied virtual coaches for social behavior competency training of professionals in virtual reality

Expertise: Digital game-based learning, Adaptive learning, Immersive technologies, Game development, Web engineering

Personal Website:

PhD Students

Mahda M. Bagher – PhD Candidate

Mahda is a fourth-year doctoral candidate at the Department of Geography and a member of the ChoroPhronesis lab and Center for Immersive Experience. She has a multidisciplinary background focusing on GIScience and immersive technologies. Her main focus is to facilitate embodied learning through immersive VR. She is interested in research topics related to memory and embodied cognition. She also has experience in procedural modeling, rebuilding historical data, and the integration of geospatial data in VR including LiDAR data, DEM, or any massive dataset.

Personal Website: 


Jiawei Huang – PhD Candidate

Jiawei is a fourth-year PhD student. She received her master’s degree in Natural Resources and Environment – Environmental Informatics from University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2016, and Bachelor’s in GIS from Northwest A&F University in 2014.

Jiawei’s  research interests include 3D modeling and VR. Research-wise, her dissertation is on the effects of high-fidelity VR interactions related to hand tracking and body tracking. Development-wise, she has been developing VR and 3D applications in the area of geovisualization, digital humanities, and environmental visualization. To know more about Jiawei’s research, see her CV. Her project portfolio can be found on her website: Contact her at

Arif Masrur – PhD Candidate

I received my B.Sc. degree in Geography and Environment(minored in Geology and Soil Sciences) from University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. My intense curiosity to know about the changing climate and its impacts on human-environmental systems (specially in the high latitudes) brought me to the United States in Fall 2014. At the University of Northern Iowa I studied space-time dynamics and climatic associations of Pan-Arctic tundra wildfires. During that time, I worked with big, remotely-sensed space-time datasets which led me to my current PhD research at the Geography Department at Penn State (started in Fall 2016).

Here, at the GeoVISTA Center I’m focusing on developing and utilizing data mining and visualization techniques to discover interesting knowledge from space-time bigdata, particularly in urban contexts (e.g., urban car traffic, air pollution, energy consumption, and so on).  I also have interest in immersive analytics. Over the summer 2017, I have developed VR and AR applications to support interactive, immersive, and augmented experiences for Obelisk – a historical landmark at Penn State.

Mark Simpson – PhD Candidate

Mark is a Geography student in his fourth year in the 5-year MS+PhD program, who joined Penn State in Fall 2015, and received his MS in fall of 2016. His research interests focus on the application of immersive virtual reality (IVR) technology to geographic visualization. In particular, he is interested in experimentally evaluating how different affordances in IVR systems (such as embodied movement) affect understanding of 3D data visualizations. Other interests include spatial cognition, big data science, and 3D modelling.

Mark is currently in the Big Data Social Science- Integrative Graduate Education Research Traineeship (BDSS-IGERT) program. Mark received his Bachelor’s in Geography from New Mexico State University in 2012, and worked as a Geospatial Analyst for a federal subcontractor in Albuquerque, NM before joining the department.

More information about mark can be found on his personal website:

Sen Xu – PhD Candidate

PhD Candidate (ABD) in the Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University. His research interest lies in spatial data mining and text mining, information retrieval and spatial analytics for Big Data. His PhD dissertation focuses on applying text mining method to a large spatial corpus to derive nearness models that could foster our understanding of how people use vague spatial relationship to describe different scenarios. He currently workd for Uber:

Jiayan Zhao – PhD Candidate

Third-year Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Geography, Pennsylvania State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in Geological Engineering from Central South University, China (2014). He then received his M.A. in Geography from University at Albany, State University of New York and worked as a research assistant for Dr. Rui Li in the area of programming and map rendering on Android platform and visualization of specific information related to wayfinding solutions (2016). Starting from 2016, he has been working on Virtual Reality application development and using that as a tool to benefit Geoscience education and assess spatial learning in virtual environment.

He has experience on Geographic Information Science with a special interest on geospatial application design. His research interest lies in spatial cognition, wayfinding, mobile development, and VR / AR integration in Unity 3D.

Research website:

More information about me can be found here: Personal website

Master’s Students


Joe Ferdiando – MGIS Candidate

Masters of Geographic Information Systems Candidate, Penn State University. He earned his Bachelors of Science in Government from the United States Coast Guard Academy.

His capstone research focus is the unique nature of planetary mapping: visualization and conceptualization of spatial features that have never been experienced directly by a human cartographer. His research will utilize open data and off-the-shelf technology to identify ways to conceptualize extraterrestrial spatial environments; streamline research planning through immersive human-systems integration; and improve scientific value through navigable virtual reality exploration environments.

paulRPaul Roddy – MGIS Candidate

Masters of Geographic Information Systems Candidate at Penn State University. He received his bachelor’s degree in Geological Archaeology from Juniata College in 1997. His interests lie in 3D modeling, virtual reality, reconstruction, preservation, land use, and conservation GIS.

His capstone project is 3D modeling for reconstruction and virtual preservation of Cahal Pech Archaeological Reserve in Belize.


Undergraduate Students

Yu Zhong – Undergraduate

My name is Yu Zhong (you can call me Sabrina if you find it hard to pronounce my Chinese name). I am a freshman who intends to major in GIS. My main interest is to combine psychology with geography. Meanwhile, I am attracted to the role GIS plays in urban planning.





peopletest2Danielle Oprean – Senior Research Associate

Danielle is an Assistant Professor in Information Science and Learning Technology at the University of Missouri. Her past position at Penn State included coordinating the Immersive Environments Lab (IEL) and with a joint appointment in the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing (Departments of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Graphic Design) and Chorophronesis. Her research focuses on evaluating the role of virtual, augment, and mixed reality technology for spatial and data visualization. She centers her evaluation work around user experience and HCI frameworks with particular interest in the role of embodiment as a explanatory mechanism for immersive technology generating a sense of presence. Her research has implications for human-computer interaction, visualization, spatial cognition and education.

Danielle holds a Bachelor of Science in Digital Media Visualization (2005), dual Masters in Engineering Technology (2007) and Design with Digital Media in Architectural Studies (2010), and a PhD in Human Environmental Studies with a focus in Design with Digital Media (2014). She has experience with large-scale immersive environments: iLab at the University of Missouri (2009-2014), Duet Lab at Cornell University (2013), and the IEL at The Pennsylvania State University (2014-Present).

Personal website


Guoqiang Peng – Visiting Scholar

Guoqiang Peng is a visiting Scholar from Nanjing normal university, beginning Fall 2017.

Guoqiang’s research interests include Geographic Information Science, Geomodeling and Geovisualization. His PhD thesis is about the modeling and analysis of urban ground water flow, this thesis involves geomodeling based on mathematical method and visual analytic technology, to simulate and help understanding the motion law of ground water in cities. Guoqiang also has experience in different fields of GIS application software development, such as environmental protection, forest fire early warning and emergency, smart city, and mapping systems.

Mingmei Tang – Visiting Scholar

Mingmei is a visiting scholar from Chengdu University of Technology in China since October 2017. She is an architectural designer with extensive experience in traditional Chinese architecture. Her research focuses on preservation and renovation of historic buildings and blocks.

In Chorophronesis, Mingmei is going to help construct the 3D models of historic buildings and surroundings, such as Mayan ruins, on the basis of objective archaeological material. By using cutting-edge digital technology, she plans to contribute to the restoration of the destroyed sites. She also plans to promote the public awareness by making the immersive virtual reality scenes. She is constantly seeking for innovative methods for her passion in protecting valuable historic buildings and areas.

Qingyu Ma – PhD Candidate

5-year Ph.D. student who joined Penn State in Fall 2016. Qingyu graduated with a GIS Master degree from University of Pennsylvania and received his BS degree in Tongji University (Shanghai, China). His research focus on space syntax, including disciplines such as Architecture, City Planning and GIS.

In August 2015, he joined as business partner in Evolution Maps LLC. The goal of the company is to make positive contributions to society and the natural environment, focusing primarily on projects which develop Smart Cities, solving social problems, disease outbreaks and climate change.

He finished a summer internship in 2017 in ESRI as a software product developer. During his internship, he has developed a map printing solution successfully reduced the printing time from 30 seconds to 5 seconds.

In August 2017, he was invited as a VIP guest speaker at the First International Youth Conference, Shenzhen, China.( He won an award of “The International Youth Friend of Shenzhen” by giving a presentation titled “Real Time Survey Mapping System”.

Jennifer Mason – PhD Candidate

PhD Candidate (ABD) at the Department of Geography, Penn State University. She received her bachelor’s degree in Geography and minored in Geospatial Information Systems & Technology at UCLA in 2009. She then received her master’s degree in GIScience at San Diego State University in 2011.

Working under Dr. Alexander Klippel, she takes a cognitive approach towards addressing the visualization of complex geospatial data uncertainty. As uncertainty is inherent in everyday geospatial reasoning and decision-making, it is pertinent to understand the complexity of uncertainty, how it propagates through socially relevant data, and how it is best visualized in a more intuitive manner. She is interested in spatial cognition, cartography, and visual analytics. More information about Jenny can be found on her personal website.


Raechel Bianchetti

She is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Michigan State University. Her research interests include both the application of remote sensing data analysis to human-environment interactions and human factors of image analysis. Her cognitive research includes both influences of expertise on visual cognition as well as novice-expert differences of basic science principles. More information about her past work can be found at


Elaine Guidero

She is a geographer at the U.S. Geological Survey. She works in applied research, investigating solutions and refinements to the USGS’ cartographic products. She earned her Ph.D. in 2016 from Penn State, combining cultural geography, graphic design, and cartographic design in a dissertation on microaesthetics, or design of letter elements of typefaces, and how these element designs contribute to the perception of typeface personality. She earned her M.S. in 2012, also from Penn State, studying event segmentation in 2-D animation. Her undergraduate degree was in French Literature, from Cornell University.

Hardisty_FrankFrank Hardisty

Coming soon…




Rui Li

He joined the Department of Geography and Planning at the State University of New York at Albany (SUNY Albany) beginning Fall 2014. He is currently working as an Assistant Professor and continuing his enthusiasm in research and teaching in GIScience. Rui’s research interests address various aspects of Geographic Information Science with a special focus on the cognitive aspect such as wayfinding behaviors, map design, navigation systems, and spatial cognition. His current research endeavors include the identifications of factors that get people lost and the design of cognitively efficient navigational systems. Before Rui joined SUNY Albany, he worked in the Institute for Geoinformatics at the University of Muenster in Germany as a substitute professor and postdoctoral researcher. Website.


Kevin Sparks

He joined in 2013 during his graduate studies. His research looked at crowdsourcing techniques and machine learning techniques to improve land cover datasets. Currently, he’s a research associate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in theGeographic Information and Technology Group. There he works on solutions to better understand population dynamics, using big social media data and large-scale data processing tools. He’s interested in machine learning, natural language processing, spatial analysis, and crowdsourcing.

Weicheng Wang – Undergraduate

My name is Weicheng Wang and I am a senior student majoring in geography with GIS minor. My research interests include 3D modeling and VR applications. I would love to expand the geographical vision by using these technologies. By doing research, I wish to have deeper understandings on 3D modeling and VR.

Jinlong Yang

He received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Geography at Penn State in 2011 and 2013, respectively. He worked as a Research Assistant on the Contextual Influences on the Category Construction of Geographic-scale Movement Patterns (ConCat) project during his study at the Human Factors in GIScience lab. Currently, he is working as a Data Visualization Developer at Amgen Inc. where he develops interactive interfaces to visualize research and business data for decision-making.

Matt Diaz – Undergraduate

Senior Geography major with minor in GIS. Primary interests involve 3D modeling, photogrammetry, lidar data collection and processing, and virtual reality applications.


Spencer Haley – Undergraduate

A senior Geography student with a GIS focus. Interested in working with new technologies to advance perspectives on the importance of GIS and spatial awareness. My main interests include modeling, as well as applications for Virtual/Augmented/Mixed reality in spatial sciences, environmental sustainability, and other interdisciplinary work. Working currently with procedural modeling of campus through CityEngine.

Michael Rebar – Undergraduate

Research interests include using Unity 3D and coding to develop 3D projects that address particular areas of interest. He is particularly interested in how these can be used together to model the environment and their potential applications to topics in his major, Environmental Engineering.


Vivaldi Rinaldi – Undergraduate

My name is Vivaldi Rinaldi, I am a senior majoring in geography with GIS option. My main interest is photogrammetry and creating 3D model by using photo reconstruction software.



Giselle Kristin – Undergraduate

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