Current Leadership

 H. Chad Lane, PhD (Principle Investigator for WHIMC) is a Professor of Educational Psychology and Computer Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  Prof. Lane’s research focuses on the design, use, and impacts of intelligent technologies for learning and behavior change.  This work involves blending techniques from the entertainment industry (that foster engagement) with those from artificial intelligence and intelligent tutoring systems (that promote learning), as well as running studies to better understand whether and how the resulting learning experiences impact learners.  He received his PhD in Computer Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2004, and has over 70 publications in the areas of artificial intelligence, learning sciences, and educational games.

Luc Paquette (Principle Investigator for QRF) is an associate professor in the department of curriculum & instruction. He completed his PhD in computer science at the University of Sherbrooke where he studied the design knowledge representations for intelligent tutoring systems and the use of those representations to automatically generate pedagogical content. After his PhD, professor Paquette worked as a post-doctoral research associate at Teachers College, Columbia University where he used educational data mining techniques and knowledge engineering techniques to study the behavior of students using digital learning environment.

Jeff Ginger

Jeff Ginger, PhD is a Research Scientist for the College of Education, former adjunct instructor at the School of Information Sciences and program coordinator for Illinois Informatics, all at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His work includes aspects of all three missions of the University of Illinois: public engagement, teaching and research. His scholarship and teaching is primarily situated in social and community informatics and his dissertation research focused specifically on the investigation of how public libraries foster digital literacies through community engagement. This led him to his recent capacity as the director of the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab from 2014 to 2020, where he served as an advisor for the WHIMC pilot project. He has recently joined the WHIMC team full time where he works as a project coordinator, research advisor and UX and development team leader.

Neil Comins

Neil F. Comins, PhD (Co-PI) is an astrophysicist at the University of Maine, where he has taught for 39 years.  His research ranges from general relativity to galactic dynamics to science education.  He is the author of numerous articles and 20 published books, including What if the Moon Didn’t Exist?, What if the Earth had Two Moons?, Heavenly Errors, The Traveler’s Guide to Space, and numerous editions of Discovering the Universe and Discovering the Essential Universe, among others.

Staff and Students

Matt Gadbury

Matt Gadbury (Research Lead) recently completed his PhD in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Within the area of games and design, Matt examines the effects of developing interest on learner motivation, memory, and knowledge. He has experience designing educational games in the social sciences and is currently looking at what design principles can best support development of games for triggering interest in STEM. Prior to joining the team, Matt worked for the University of Illinois’ office of Global Education and Training for 9 years, securing funding and developing customized educational programs for students and leaders from abroad.

Sam Hum (Research Assistant – AI Development) is a PhD student in Curriculum and Instruction at University of Illinois.  His main research focus is on the application of AI and software tools with education, in particular pedagogical agents. He has prior experience with AI in lung cancer detection and computer education projects with autonomous vehicles. He wants to leverage these technologies to address fundamental issues in STEM education.

Qianhui (Sophie) Liu (Research Assistant) is a PhD student in Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on applying data mining methods in combination with learning science theories to help improve the efficiency of teaching and learning in various educational settings, such as programming education and educational games. She is interested in closing the loop of machine learning to humans for actionable insights through explainable models and techniques.

Rachel (Yiqiu) Zhou is a PhD student in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, under the guidance of Dr. Luc Paquette and Dr. Jina Kang. Her research focuses on applying data science methods to examine and model learner behaviors in various contexts, including simulations, educational games, augmented reality, and online learning environments. Passionate about leveraging educational data to understand and optimize student learning experiences, Rachel’s work aims to bridge the gap between technology and education by providing insights that can enhance learning experiences and outcomes.

Bryce Roix (Research Assistant – Astronomy Content) is a Masters in Physics student at the University of Maine. Bryce’s research goals include theoretical physics and student education in physics and astronomy. His contributions to WHIMC include content creation as well as verification of astronomical variables and principles used in simulating hypothetical worlds. Bryce hopes to help students’ understanding of astronomy and physics while playing one of the best video games ever created, Minecraft!

Nina Byers (Fiske Staff – Curriculum and Instruction) has dedicated the past six years of her career to innovations for youth development in diverse learning spaces. Since 2020, Byers has developed and delivered STEM curricula infused with SEL to K-12 students at Fiske Planetarium, in Boulder CO. She synthesizes her experience from serving as an SEL instructor in rural Maine for outdoor educators, traditional classrooms, and informal learning environments. Byers also consults in renewable energy education, youth leadership programs, and summer camps. She holds a BA from Hamilton College in Comparative Literature with minors in Geosciences and History.

Jack Henhapl

Jack Henhapl (Developer) is now a Software Engineer at Jump Trading LLC. He studied Statistics and Computer Science and graduated in the spring of 2021 but continues to help out in his spare time. His passion for Computer Science started in middle school where he learned to program so he could make plugins for Minecraft. He loves the idea of using Minecraft as an educational tool because it undoubtedly kick-started his love for computers and is the reason he is in computer science.

Jay Mahajan (Machine Learning Researcher/Engineer) is a Junior at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign studying Computer Science and Astronomy. His main research goal is to apply AI with WHIMC, specifically using Computer Vision and NLP, to create smarter and more robust pedagogical agents. Jay hopes that this project will leverage the power of AI to help students understand concepts in STEM.

Cassie (Jon) Schiller (Full-Dome Production Technician) works with Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado Boulder. He graduated from University of Colorado in 2019 with a BA in Astronomy and has since helped develop several films with Fiske including Forward To The MoonClimate Change in Our Backyard, and Kids In Space (currently in production). He also produced and edited Fiske’s podcast A View From Earth. In his free time, Jon is working on getting his Private Pilot License, with the hope of eventually getting a Commercial Pilot License.

Kobe Duda (Developer) is an undergraduate studying Electrical Engineering. Having grown up learning computer science through Minecraft, he hopes to apply these skills to contribute to opportunities for kids to learn STEM concepts in a way that ignites the same passion for learning that Minecraft initially gave him.

WHIMC Advisory Board

Susan Foutz, MA | Director of Research and Evaluation
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN.

Laura Huerta Migus | Executive Director at the
Association of Children’s Museums

K. Ann Renninger, PhD | Eugene M. Lang Research Professor
Chair of the Department of Educational Studies, Swarthmore College

Becky Wolfe | Science Programs Manager
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN.

Omer Delialioglu, PhD | Professor of Instructional Technology
Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey

Previous WHIMC PI’s and Leadership

David Condon

David Condon is the Editorial Director at PBS Nova Labs, a free online platform from the producers of PBS’s flagship science series that engages teens in authentic scientific exploration through games and interactives. On the broadcast side, David develops new programs for NOVA. Among his credits are major specials including The Elegant Universe, Einstein’s Big Idea, This Emotional Life, Making Stuff, Life Beyond Earth, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Making North America, School of the Future, and Prediction by the Numbers. An honors graduate of Harvard University, David lives in Newton, MA, with his wife and three children.

Jorge Perez-Gallego, PhD (Co-PI) is a multifaceted astronomer, designer and educator, with a Ph.D. in astronomy and a Master of Fine Arts in design currently at the University of Colorado Boulder. He has published his work and research in both astronomy and design journals, and done work for institutions such as NASA and Telefónica. Dr. Perez-Gallego has led the development of rich exhibit content and programs in both state-of-the-art planetariums, and pioneering exhibitions such as LASERsHOW and Feathers to the Stars at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science.

Past Student Contributors

Emi Brown

Emi Brown (Developer and Content Specialist) is a Freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign majoring in Computer Science. Video games have always been a huge part of her life and had sparked her interest in programming at an early age. She hopes that through this project she can use her passion for games and education to help kids learn about STEM!

Diya Yunus (Machine Learning Researcher/Engineer) is a freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Business. She aspires to utilize her passion in AI and past experiences as an instructor to enhance students’ knowledge and engage them in STEM education.

Eric Mattson (Content Specialist) is an undergraduate studying Linguistics and Astronomy who assists us with technical upkeep, instruction and world design.

Evan Shipley (Research Assistant – Curriculum and Instruction) is a PhD student in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His primary research interests lie in the field of educational technology, and he works with developing quest content as well as running WHIMC camps. Before coming to UIUC, Evan worked as a middle school teacher in the Dallas area.

Janelle Domantay is a PhD student in Interactive Computing at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her current research investigates the applications of machine learning for modeling user engagement and resource allocation. She has prior research experience using computer vision to develop drowsiness detection models. 

Chase Booher

Chase Booher (Content Specialist) is an undergraduate at the University of Maine interested in Minecraft and Astronomy. He helps to create new worlds on the server and find appropriate science data for simulations.

Meghana Paul (Research and Education support) is an undergraduate at the University of Illinois studying education and therapy. She assists with data collection, processing and analysis as well as teaching during camps.

Jack Dempsey (Research Assistant) is a PhD student in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His primary research interests involve the comprehension of language during reading and statistical methods in cognitive science. Generally, his research goal is to better understand how humans encode information and interpret it. He contributes to survey design, implementation, and analysis and has worked on other projects involving technology in education.

Pieter Svenson (Developer) is a Senior at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana majoring in Computer Engineering and Civil Engineering. Whether it was playing video games, learning how to code, and teaching STEM principles to grade schoolers in an educational environment, Minecraft has been a large part of growing up for Pieter. Through this project, he hopes to use his knowledge and skills to bring joy and education to kids everywhere!

Aidan Rivera-Rogers

Aidan Rivera-Rogers (Content Specialist) is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Natural Resources and Environmental Science, with interest in the areas of ecology, biology, and sustainability. Combining these fields with education and hobbies such as video games is enticing and a path of scholarship which he hopes to pursue in the future.

Brian Guerrero (Research Assistant) is a PhD student in Curriculum and Instruction at University of Illinois. His scholarship has a heavy emphasis on digital technologies and he hopes to integrate augmented reality, virtual reality and gaming into more educational spaces. Much of his interest stems from a background of community development in online gaming communities. He is currently exploring teaching in informal learning spaces and assists Professors H Chad Lane with the STEM-C NSF grant project.

Matthew Feinberg

Matthew Feinberg is a Sophomore at UIUC studying Electrical Engineering. His passion for Minecraft goes all the way back to middle school. Being able to use his knowledge and passions to educate kids in STEM topics is what brought him to the project team.

Sherry Yi

 Sherry Yi, PhD, EdM (Research Assistant) completed her PhD at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2021. She investigated interest triggering and interest development on the WHIMC project. She is now a research scientist at Osmo.

Alex Swanson-Linville is a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign studying Computer Engineering. Alex began exploring the advanced functions of Minecraft at an early age, building complicated projects with redstone and creating games using command blocks. After taking a camp with the Fab Lab he was invited to help as an intern in hosting and coordinating other camps. After deciding to attend UIUC for college the WHIMC team was happy to bring him on to the development team for work with command blocks and resource packs.

Omer Delialioglu, PhD was a visiting scholar at UIUC in 2019. He is a Professor at the Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey. His research interests include mobile learning, design and development of effective blended learning environments and student engagement in these environments, computer networks and communication technologies, and technology-enhanced learning environments.

Yue Fan (Research Assistant) is a master student in Educational Psychology at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. During the program, she studied educational games, e-learning and educational data mining. She sets about the creativity study on Minecraft EDU to investigate the relationship between the openness and accessibility of educational games and the likelihood of fostering creativity in students.


Hyunwoo Park (Programmer) is an undergraduate student at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, studying Mathematics and Informatics. His main interest lies in software engineering, which was triggered by the game Minecraft when he was still in high school, and web development.