How to join Friendly Cities / Work with Dr. Andris:

FCL looks for exceptionally creative and colorful students with a strong work ethic, ability to learn new technical skills quickly, and excellent visual, verbal and written communication skills. We value teamwork and inclusivity, interdisciplinary ideas and quality over quantity.

For CURRENT studentsundergraduates, and members of the public please contact Dr. Andris. In addition to our many graduate students, we have had 2 UROCs, 5 TIAs, 2 post-bacc researchers, 7 independent studies, and 2 community volunteers so far, and this group continues to grow.

Meet the FCL Team

Seolha Lee – Graduate Research Assistant

I’m a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at Georgia Institute of Technology. My research interest lies in visualizing overlooked human activities and interactions in a built environment through data technology. Also, I’m interested in studying the relationship between online activities (social media, e-commerce, etc.) and spatial behaviors in pursuit of human-centered urban planning and design. Before joining the Friendly Cities Lab, I worked as a research assistant in Maturepolis Lab at KAIST in South Korea and City Regional Studies Center at the University of Alberta, Canada. I also worked as a researcher in YANGJI.CO., an urban planning and design consulting firm in Seoul. I hold a BA in Civil & Environmental Engineering with a Geography minor at Seoul National University. Currently moved to Atlanta from Seoul, I’m continuing my exploration in cities with different fabric filled with intriguing dynamics.

Shaarif Sajid – Graduate Researcher

I am a first-year Ph.D. student in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech.

Xiaofan Liang – Graduate Research Assistant

I am a Ph.D. student in the School of City and Regional Planning, advised by Dr. Clio Andris. My research interests revolve around understanding how human movements (e.g., trajectories) and activities (e.g., consumption) at a micro-scale give rise to the spatial and network structures that further characterize cities on a macro-scale (segregation, street scenes, industrial structure, etc.). My ongoing projects include measuring the urban environments conducive to chain restaurants and analyzing a multiplex network of mobility, investment, knowledge, and social media friendship flows in China. Occasionally, I consult new businesses with a mix of commercial and social (or cultural) goals to better understand the meanings and impacts of their moves on cities as the Data Lead at MaxLab. In the future, I hope to contribute to building more socially sustainable cities in Asia.
I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from UC-Berkeley (2015). I pursued another Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Minerva Schools at KGI (2019), through which I rotated to study in six different countries over four years and grew my interests in cities! Before coming to Georgia Tech, I was an REU at Santa Fe Institute (2017 and 2018), from where I fell in love with complexity science and Clio’s work.

Clio Andris – Lab Director

I am an assistant professor of geography at Penn State. I teach GIScience classes at multiple levels. At Penn State, I am involved in a diverse set initiatives. I am on the Graduate Faculty of the Social Data Analytics (SoDA) Program, Associate Faculty of the Institute for CyberScience, Affiliate of the Population Research Institute (PRI) and Faculty Member of the Operations Research Program. I was a postdoc at Los Alamos National Laboratory (2014), Santa Fe Institute (2012-2014), MIT Dept. of Urban Studies and Planning (2012), and Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) (2011-2012). I have a Ph.D. in Urban Information Systems (MIT, 2011), MS in Geography (U. South Carolina, 2008) and a BA in American Studies with Geography minor (Boston U., 2006). I was a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellow during my Ph.D. and was a member of the Senseable City Lab under Carlo Ratti. I have been advised by Luis Bettencourt (SFI), Joseph Ferreira Jr. (MIT) and David Cowen (USC). I’m originally from Washington, DC, and I live in Boalsburg, PA in a very old house with a bunny.


Xi Liu – Graduate Associate

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography at Penn State. I have broad research interests in urban computing, social networks, and complexity. Before working at the Friendly Cities Lab, I was a member of the Geosoft Lab at Peking University, where I received a master’s degree in GIS. My bachelor’s degree is also in GIS from Tongji University, with a minor in economics from Fudan University. My niche, methodologically, is a combination of data-driven techniques (e.g. network analysis, data mining) and geographical theories. My previous work focused on using ‘big’ geo-data to enhance our understanding of human mobility and urban structure. The topics I am currently working on including urban complexity, social flows, spatially embedded social networks, etc. I am trying to bring in more social perspectives into my research.

Hanzhou Chen – Graduate Associate

I am a MA/PhD student in the Department of Geography at Penn State. Prior to my study at Penn State, I obtained my bachelor degrees in Geographic Information Science, and History of Art and Architecture at UC, Santa Barbara (2017). My research interests include human mobility, social flow, visual analytics, and urban planning. I am interested in studying and visualizing human mobility and interactions within urban and within a spatial and temporal framework.

Jarrett Gulakowski – Undergraduate Researcher

I am currently a fifth-year undergraduate majoring in geography with a GIS focus as well as working towards a J.E.D.I.S. (Justice, Ethics, Diversity In Space) certificate at Penn State. I am most interested in using GIS for analyzing different forms of social patterns and working with various forms of environmental justice issues and hope to use GIS to help improve on various environmental problems after I graduate. I am a multi-instrumentalist and an athlete. In my free time I like to swim, workout, write and record my own music.

Baccalaureate Researcher

I am a post-baccalaureate research assistant here at the Friendly Cities Lab. I graduated from Penn State in December 2017 with a BS degree in Geography GIS and a minor in Energy Business and Finance (EBF). I joined FCL to gain practical experience in GIS, social flows, and spatial analysis before heading to graduate school this fall. After taking two GIS classes taught by Dr. Andris in undergrad, I am fascinated by the spatial data analysis and modeling in different fields. Currently, I am working with Xi Liu on artificial intelligence (AI) project using Airbnb data. We train a deep learning model to automatically detect various objects in the Airbnb photos, analyze the spatial connectivity of interior decoration between different races and locations, and visualize the results in ArcMap.

Sohrab Rahimi – Graduate Associate

I am currently enrolled in the Ph.D. of Architecture with a minor in Applied Statistics as well as the Master of GIS program at Penn State. I have been working with Friendly Cities Lab since 2015. My primary research interest pertains to interactions between humans and the environment from a socio-spatial point of view. Currently, my research focuses on using non-traditional data sources that inform us about the cultural and societal characteristics of neighborhoods and cities. So far I have been involved in a number of projects in this lab including the environmental indicators of social capital, the spatial determinants of romantic relationships and the analysis of interior spaces of Airbnb units in 10 major cities, and the effects of geographical space on candy taste in the USA.

Michelle Pistner – Graduate Assistant (IGERT Program)

I am currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Statistics and a first-year BDSS-IGERT trainee. I have a wide variety of interests that bridge the gap between statistics and the social sciences, including spatial statistics, human interactions, data mining, and data privacy. Currently, my research centers on the movements of undergraduate students that have studied at Penn State. A lifelong Penn Stater, I completed my undergraduate degrees in Statistics and Economics (2015). As an undergrad, I had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects, ranging from maximizing athletic ticket sales to quantifying social loss related to different diseases.

Prathamesh Aher – Undergraduate Researcher

I am an undergraduate student in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering with minors in Energy-Business Finance, Geogaphy and GIS. I am pursuing my interests in Spatial Analysis and GIS by working in this lab as an assistant. I have been a part of this lab since Spring 2016, and have been working and helping with numerous different projects including the Hershey chocolate factory project which analyses the sale and consumption of chocolate in the USA. I will also be working on the upcoming Penn State Alumni network project.

Cassie McMillan – Graduate Assistant (IGERT Program)

Cassie is pursuing a dual-title Ph.D. in sociology and demography in the Department of Criminology and Sociology at Penn State, where she recently received her master’s degree. She is also an IGERT Big Data Social Science Fellow. She received her undergraduate degree from The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill in Sociology and Statistics. Her research interests include health and inequality. She uses social network analysis to study adolescent substance abuse and other health risks.

Luba Hristova – Undergraduate Researcher

I am currently 3rd-year undergraduate student in GIS. I have a lot of passion for GIS and the capabilities it has as a tool to visually explain different patterns and connections. I also love the outdoors, traveling, geography and everything in-between. I joined the team to discover more about social distance and the connections that occur across borders. I’m really happy to be helping out!

Ruiqi (Bonnie) Guo – Post-Baccalaureate Researcher

I am a senior majoring in geography and minoring in horticulture and anthropology at Penn State. I have multidisciplinary interests, and my current focus is applying spatial statistics to analyze sociodemographic variables of trips. At FCL, I am working on a project exploring the correlation between the distribution of chain and independent restaurants as they relate to different aspects of the built environment different ethnic groups. It’s truly a pleasure for me to work with members of the Friendly Cities Lab.

Rebecca Bucci – Graduate Researcher

I am a third-year graduate student in the Criminology and Sociology department. My interests include community sociology and criminology, social control and police-community relations. My current research explores differences in victim’s decisions to report a crime, the role of segregation on victimization risk, and differences in community-level social control. I am currently working with the Friendly Cities Lab to explore the effects of community building programs in different cities across the region.

Christopher Mertz – Undergraduate Researcher

I am currently a senior majoring in Geography with a focus on GIS and an interest in the social connectivity of cities. I have been heavily involved in research that aimed to help the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America determine how well they are serving the children in their communities. During the summer of 2017, I completed a summer internship at the Securities Exchange Commission as a GIS Analyst working with various sets of financial and geographic data. In my spare time, I love playing all types of sports and traveling to new places.

Mengchen Wang – Undergraduate Researcher

I am a senior in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering at Penn State. I joined the team to work on topics in geography and to broaden my horizons.  My job is dealing with big data sets through programming and data analysis. I have learned a great amount so far. Though my work at FCL is outside of my major, I will extend the knowledge I gained here into my major and I will look at problems from another angle. It is a pleasure to work in the Friendly City Lab.

Michael Citrenbaum – Undergraduate Researcher

I am a senior majoring in GIS. I am most interested in GIS modeling, spatial analysis, and social networks. WIth the FRIendly Cities Lab, I am currently helping with data analysis for the Neighborhood Connectivity Survey, and with a project on mapping dating preferences of people in romantic relationships. In my spare time, I like to play soccer and hang out with close friends.

Dr. Li-San Hung – Post-Doctoral Researcher

I recently received my Ph.D. from the Department of Geography at Penn State (minor in Demography) and joined FCL as a post-doctoral research associate in August 2016. I am a human/environment geographer with the research interests in human dimensions of natural hazards and human behavior in the natural environment. My dissertation research used a dyadic approach to understand household hurricane preparedness, and this study spurred my interest in understanding how interpersonal relations influence human/environment relations.

Margret Logan – Undergraduate Researcher

I have always appreciated technology, learning new tools, and creating things.  At Penn State, I am working towards my goals as a designer by mastering new technical skills and exercising my brain creatively. I am currently a Junior majoring in Industrial Engineering. This summer I am excited to be working as a graphic designer and web designer for the Friendly Cities Lab.

Sara Cavallo – Graduate  Assistant

I am a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Geography at Penn State.  I have an MS in Geography from Penn State and a BA in Geography & Economics from Colgate University.  My research interests are political ecology, agri-food studies, geographies of health, and mixed methods. What draws me to geography is its inherent interdisciplinarity and how it allows us to examine nature-society relationships through multiple perspectives and approaches.  Broadly, I’m interested in understanding the links between ecological health and human health, particularly through the lens of nutrition.  For my dissertation work, I am looking at plant disease in western Uganda and its relationship to food practices and nutritional attainment.  My previous work has revolved around the tea industry in Uganda and its connections to conservation and development via agroforestry policy and practice.