PhD & PostDoc Alumni

PhD & PostDoc Alumni

PhD Students and Postdoctoral Fellows in the Network Dynamics Lab have pursued both academic and practitioner paths upon graduation. Lab alumni pursuing academic careers have accepted post-doctoral fellowships at prestigious institutions including Stanford, MIT, Harvard, Cornell and NYU and have continued on to faculty careers at leading research universities around the world. Graduates who have pursued industry paths are employing their research knowledge to tackle complex and challenging industrial problems as entrepreneurs and thought leaders. Below is a summary of the research and post-graduation paths of the excellent and award-winning Lab PhD and Postdoc Alumni.

Network Dynamics PhD Alumni

Jiayu Chen, PhD

Jiayu received his PhD in Fall 2012 in Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from Columbia University. His dissertation was entitled: “Simulating Network Structure, Layering Multi-layer Network Systems and Developing Network Block Configuration Models to Understand and Improve Energy Conservation in Residential Buildings.” Jiayu’s PhD research developed new simulation techniques to understand how energy use decision-making impacts energy consumption dynamically over time in building occupant networks. Jiayu accepted a position as an Assistant Professor at the City University of Hong Kong in 2013 where he launched the Building Environment and Eco-Informatics Lab.

Semra Comu, PhD

Semra received her PhD in Fall 2012 in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech. She had previously completed a Master’s degree from Columbia University conducting research in the Lab. Her PhD dissertation was entitled: “Examining the Impact of Facilitation on the Performance of Global Project Networks Collaborating in Virtual Workspaces.” Semra’s PhD research contributed to both the CII Globalization and NSF CyberGRID Networks research projects. She developed novel techniques for analyzing the dynamic interactions of global virtual teams and contributed new insights into global team network dynamics. The CMAA invited Semra to present her findings at their Annual Conference shortly before she graduated. Semra accepted a position as an Assistant Professor at Bogazici University in 2013 where she is continuing her global virtual team research.

Melissa Di Marco, PhD

Melissa received her PhD in Spring 2011 in Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from Columbia University. Her dissertation was entitled: “The Roles and Impacts of Boundary Spanners and Boundary Objects in Global Project Networks.” Melissa’s PhD research introduced the theory of cultural boundary spanners to globalization research and she identified the highly central role boundary objects play in globally distributed engineering team interactions. Melissa’s research was awarded two journal best paper awards and a conference best paper award. Her research contributed to the NSF Knowledge System Dynamics in Complex Services Outsourcing research project. Melissa accepted a position in international business development at SNC-Lavalin in Montreal following her graduation where she is implementing her global project network dynamics research in practice.

Abigail Francisco, PhD

Abby received her PhD in Summer 2020 in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech. She was a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipient, and her dissertation was entitled: “Urban energy informatics: improving the usability of building energy data for community energy efficiency”. Her research draws on methodologies from human-computer interaction, data analytics, and public policy domains to transform community-scale energy data into accessible and actionable information. Following her PhD, Abby accepted a position at Elevate Energy in Chicago, an energy efficiency non-profit focused on promoting smarter energy use in affordable housing. As a Project Manager, she works to advance and implement remote monitoring systems that improve energy efficiencies and building operations.

Rimas Gulbinas, PhD

Rimas received his PhD in Summer 2014 in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech. His dissertation was entitled: “Identifying and Quantifying Energy Efficient Behavior in Commercial Buildings.” While at Virginia Tech, Rimas contributed to the NSF CAREER and DOE Bizwatts projects. His PhD research advanced our understanding about how eco-feedback systems should be designed for commercial buildings, how organizational network based energy feedback impacts individual energy-use in commercial buildings, and how individual level energy-use data can be used to effectively classify building occupants according to energy-use efficiency and entropy. Following his PhD, Rimas accepted a DOE Research Fellowship and an Entrepreneur-in-Training post-doctoral appointment at the Cornell-Technion Innovation Institute. Rimas is now a founder and the CEO of Maalka, Inc., which helps cities and real estate owners and managers address the complex challenges associated with large-scale sustainability programs with an open platform for managing data, tools, and teams. Maalka has won awards from the Department of Energy and major cities across the United States (and soon around the world) are using Maalka to expand their Smart Cities Initiatives. To learn more about the innovative work that Maalka is doing, go to

Yilong Han, PhD

Yilong received his PhD in Summer 2016 in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech. His dissertation was entitled: “Urban Building Networks’ Thermal-Energy Dynamics: Exploring, Mitigating, and Optimizing Inter-Building Effects”. Yilong contributed to the NSF CAREER project and the BioBuld Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program at Virginia Tech. He also served as the Director of the CyberGRID lab. By examining Inter-Building Effects and drawing parallels between natural and building systems, his PhD research advanced our understanding of the thermal-energy performance of spatially proximal building networks and provided possible solutions to transform urban buildings through sustainable building network designs. Following his PhD, Yilong accepted a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the School of Design and Environment at the National University of Singapore where he continues seeking solutions to promote energy efficiency in buildings by developing a personality-based building energy management system. He also strives to incorporate human factors into his inter-building research.

Rishee Jain, PhD

Rishee received his PhD in Fall 2013 in Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from Columbia University. His dissertation was entitled: “Building Eco-Informatics: Examining the Dynamics of Eco-Feedback Design and Peer Networks to Achieve Sustainable Reductions in Energy Consumption.” Rishee contributed to the NSF CAREER, NSF IGERT and DOE BizWatts projects. His PhD research advanced our understanding of eco-informatics and energy conservation, how peer network dynamics function to reduce energy consumption, and he developed machine learning techniques to predict energy consumption dynamics in buildings. Following his PhD, Rishee accepted the Director’s Post-doctoral Fellowship at NYU’s Center for Urban Science & Progress (CUSP) and was awarded a NSF Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) Fellowship. Rishee is now the Director of the Stanford Urban Informatics Lab (UIL) and an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University.

Ardalan Khosrowpour, PhD

Ardalan was a Charles Via Ph.D. Fellowship recipient and a Myers-Lawson School of Construction Ph.D. Fellowship holder in the Charles E. Via, Jr. Department of Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech where he obtained his Ph.D. in Summer 2016. His research was focused on quantitative analysis of occupant behavior and establishing the need for targeted energy feedback programs. During his Ph.D., he contributed as the entrepreneur lead to a $50,000 National Science Foundation I-CORPS grant. Upon his graduation, Ardalan accepted a startup post-doctoral appointment at the Jacob-Cornell Technion Institute, where he is developing a business that improves safety and productivity in the construction industry.

Neda Madi, PhD

Neda completed her PhD at Virginia Tech in Civil Engineering in Fall 2016, with a thesis entitled “Urban Spatiotemporal Energy Flux”. Her PhD research contributed to the NSF CAREER project by identifying the significance of human movements in space-time fluctuations of energy use in urban areas. Her research further contributed to the Information System Integration Dynamics projects in the Lab. Currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgia Tech, She directs the City Infrastructure Analytics research and developments in the Lab and continues to examine the space-time structure of city infrastructure systems under fluctuations in both real and virtual environments.

Christin Salley, PhD

Christin received her PhD in Summer 2023 in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech with a dissertation titled, “Enhancing Access to Emergency Management Efforts: Exposing Disparities, Detecting Needs, and Safeguarding Infrastructure.” Her PhD journey began working on a Georgia Department of Transportation project that assessed community needs in disasters through improving emergency management personnel’s ability to effectively locate and promptly delineate actionable insights via social media. She later acquired fellowships such as the National GEM Consortium Fellowship and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholars, where she continued to develop her studies through analyzing disparities within emergency response systems and protecting critical infrastructure during disasters. Following her PhD, Christin accepted a postdoctoral researcher position as a Schmidt AI in Science Fellow with the Michigan Institute for Data Science at the University of Michigan, where she merges AI and community resilience through a multi-disciplinary lens to conduct community-based work that equitably aids in preparing for environmental hazards.

Rachel Samuels, PhD

Chel received her PhD in Summer 2020 in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech with a dissertation titled, “Mind the gaps: Mapping and mitigating exclusionary data bias in crisis informatics.” Over the course of her PhD, Chel analyzed potential data and algorithm biases inherent in the social, geographic, and infrastructural variances in Twitter data as used for emergency response during hurricanes. She additionally worked on putting her findings into practice in a social media analytics project with the Georgia Department of Transportation. Following her PhD, Chel accepted a position as a Global Security Analyst at Lawrence Livermore National Lab, where she works to improve the resilience of national infrastructure in the face of natural and manmade disasters.

Amy Tang, PhD

Amy received her PhD in Fall 2013 in Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from Columbia University. Her dissertation was entitled: “Leveraging Policy for Renewable Energy in Industrialized Countries and Emerging Markets.” Amy utilized stochastic modeling of commodity prices and agent-based simulation of investment decisions in order to contribute fundamental insights into the dependencies between innovative financing tools and effective renewable energy policy. Following her PhD, Amy accepted a consulting position at Opera Solutions in New York where she applies the analytical skills employed during her PhD to leverage big data analytics in providing business solutions to leading companies worldwide.

Hakan Unsal, PhD

Hakan received his PhD in Fall 2010 in Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from Columbia University. His dissertation was entitled: “Modeling the Hold-up Problem and Absorptive Capacity of Project Networks.” Hakan utilized game theory and agent-based modeling techniques to contribute fundamental insights into how, during periods of dynamic technological change, firms interact both in terms of their shifting contractual relationships and their inter-organizational learning efficiency. Following his PhD, Hakan accepted a consulting position at Boston Consulting Group in Dubai where he applies the analytical modeling techniques he employed in his PhD to consult to large companies on how to improve their practices.

Andrei Villarroel, PhD

Andrei received his PhD in Fall 2008 in Management of Technology and Entrepreneurship from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. His dissertation was entitled: “Open Source Competitive Strategy: Unveiling the Firm’s Open Sources of Competitive Advantage.” Andrei utilized agent-based simulation modeling and collected large-scale empirical data to analyze how knowledge brokering and open sourcing dynamics impact efficiency of inter-organizational interactions. His research was awarded multiple best conference paper awards. Following his PhD, Andrei accepted a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Sloan School of Management after which he accepted a faculty position as Assistant Professor at the Catholic University of Portugal.

Qi “Ryan” Wang, PhD

Ryan received his PhD in Spring 2015 in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Virginia Tech. His dissertation was entitled: “Human Mobility Perturbation and Resilience in Natural Disasters.” During his PhD studies at Virginia Tech, Ryan contributed to the NSF CAREER project and Virginia Tech BioBuild Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program. His PhD research advanced the ground truth understanding of human mobility patterns under the influence of natural disasters, and developed the methodologies to quantify human mobility resilience and perturbation using big data from online social media. Following his PhD, Ryan accepted a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and Department of Sociology at Harvard University. In 2016 he accepted an Assistant Professor faculty position at Northeastern University in Boston, MA where he continues using big data and urban informatics to conduct cutting-edge research at the intersection of social science, public policy and infrastructure systems.

Yan Wang, PhD

Yan received her PhD in Spring 2018 in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech. Her dissertation was entitled: “Tracking Disaster Dynamics for Urban Resilience: Human-Mobility and Semantic Perspectives”. Yan’s PhD research advanced our understanding of spatiotemporal dynamics of population and urban system during natural disasters, and she developed an intelligent and rapid emergency detection technique to identify and track emergencies and disasters from online social media. Following her PhD, Yan accepted an Assistant Professor faculty position at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL, where she continues to engage the research areas of disaster resilience and urban computing.

Lei Xu, PhD

Lei completed her PhD in Civil Engineering from Georgia Tech in Spring 2023, with a dissertation titled “Shaping the New Normal: The Role of Air Quality on Human Activities for Informed Decision Making”. Her PhD journey began with the development of a VR system for energy efficiency and gradually shifted to studying the impact of air quality on daily life, such as its effect on COVID-19 spread and the efficacy of air quality alerts in influencing transportation behaviors. Post-PhD, Lei is currently a Senior Engineer at an energy consulting company, DNV, where she leverages her research to improve energy efficiency, decarbonization, and air quality.

Xiaoqi Xu, PhD

Xiaoqi received her PhD in Spring 2013 in Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics from Columbia University. Her dissertation was entitled: “Leveraging Human-environment Systems in Residential Buildings for Aggregate Energy Efficiency and Sustainability.” Xiaoqi contributed to the NSF CAREER and NSF IGERT projects and was honored with a Columbia University Presidential Fellowship during her PhD studies. Her PhD research advanced our understanding of phenomena at the intersection between human networks and engineered networks relating to energy consumption and conservation. Following her PhD, Xiaoqi accepted the Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellowship in the Sustainability Science Program and where she contributes to the Energy Technology Innovation Policy Project at Harvard University.

Network Dynamics Postdoctoral Alumni

Pauli Alin, PhD

Pauli participated both as a PhD and Postdoctoral Fellow level research collaborator at the Network Dynamics Lab in years 2008, 2009, and 2011-2012. His research focused on discovering the principles of successful multi-party collaboration in computer-mediated engineering and design projects, in both face-to-face and virtual settings. In his research Pauli used both quantitative (network analysis) and qualitative (theory-building) methods. For this collaborative research effort, Pauli received one conference best paper award and two journal best paper awards. Pauli received his doctorate at Aalto University (previously known as Helsinki University of Technology) in Finland in 2010 and he is currently an Assistant Professor of Technology Management at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT.

Josh Iorio, PhD

Josh joined the lab as a Postdoctoral Fellow in 2010 in support of the Cyber-enabled Global Research Infrastructure for Design (CyberGRID) project. From 2010-2014, Josh led development of and research in the CyberGRID, a virtual world collaborative platform designed to support geographically distributed engineering design and planning work. His research focused on improving the performance of global virtual project networks by exploring the interactional dynamics triggered by leadership behaviors, facilitation practices, and cultural diversity within virtual workspaces. After finishing the Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2014, Josh accepted a position as the Assistant Director for the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech where he currently teaches courses on leadership, conflict management, and professional competencies. His research focuses on building workforce diversity and capacity within the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry through K-12 engagement, mentorship program development, and technological innovation.

Anna Laura Pisello, PhD

Anna Laura spent periods as a visiting scholar in the Lab during her PhD in 2010-2011 and Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2013. During this time, Anna Laura collaborated on the conceptualization, testing and expansion of the Inter-Building Effect theoretical approach to understanding inter-building impacts on resource consumption, particularly energy. After completing her PhD in Energy Engineering and Postdoctoral Fellowship in Environmental Applied Physics, Anna Laura joined the faculty of the University of Perugia in Perugia, Italy as an Assistant Professor of Applied Physics. Anna Laura continues to investigate building physics issues, bridging the gap between innovative materials for energy efficient building envelopes and urban climate change mitigation. She also continues to collaborate with the Lab to expand the Inter-Building Effect theory and, in recent efforts, to explore bio-inspired solutions to mitigate Inter-Building Effects.