"The Institute at Cal Poly is an ideal staging ground for technologies that have the chance to positively affect both policy and citizen life.”

-Sam Blakeslee, Ph.D., Founding Director


Dr. Foaad Khosmood, Research Director

Dr. Foaad Khosmood is the Forbes Endowed Professor of Computer Engineering at California Polytechnic State University. A distinguished scholar, Dr. Khosmood has a joint appointment in Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE) and Computer Engineering (CPE) departments. He serves as the research director at the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy.

Dr. Khosmood's research involves digital government, computational stylistics, natural language processing, digital humanities, interactive entertainment and artificial intelligence. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Faculty Scholars

Dr. Bruce DeBruhl is a Faculty Scholar with the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy and Assistant Professor at Cal Poly in the Computer Science and Software Engineering Department. He is also affiliated with the Computer Engineering Program. Bruce's educational goal is to develop opportunities for diverse students to get hands-on experience with security and privacy. Bruce's research interests include wireless security, cyber-physical security, location privacy, and automotive security. Bruce received his PhD and MS degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley, under the guidance of Patrick Tague, and his BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Kettering University.

Dr. Alex Dekhtyar is a Faculty Scholar with the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy's Open Government Initiative and a Professor at the Department of Computer Science, California Polytechnic State University. Dr. Dekhtyar is an expert in and instructor of databases, data-mining and bioinformatics. His research involves uncertain reasoning and management of uncertain data, semi-structured data management, software traceability, data mining and machine learning and bioinformatics. Dr. Dekhtyar has worked on numerous cross-disciplinary projects that involved anthropologists, political scientists and architects, and Old English scholars. In 2013, his paper on automating software traceability published in the Proceedings of the International Conference on Requirements Engineering in 2003 won the "Most Influential Paper" award. Dr. Dekhtyar received his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Maryland at College Park.

Dr. Michael Latner is a Faculty Scholar with the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy's Open Government Initiative and an Associate Professor in the Political Science Department at Cal Poly, where he teaches graduate courses in research design and quantitative methods in the Masters in Public Policy Program, undergraduate courses in political participation, campaigns and elections, and California and U.S. government, and coordinates research through the Center for Public Policy at Cal Poly. Dr. Latner earned his Ph.D. in political science in 2008 from the University of California at Irvine. Dr. Latner's research interests focus on political participation, representation, and civic technology. He has published several articles on the impact of electoral systems on voting behavior and political competition, and is an expert on political participation, Dr. Latner is well-suited to evaluate programs designed to expand public access to and engagement with government.

Dr. Cameron D. Jones is an author, editor, and historian of both academic and public digital platforms. He is the project lead for the digital history site AfricanCalfornios.org. The site is a repository for history of the lives and family connections of Californians of African descent during the Spanish and Mexican periods leading up to California statehood. Dr. Jones’ other publications include In Service of Two Masters: The Missionaries of Ocopa, Indigenous Resistance, and Spanish Governance in Bourbon Peru (Stanford University Press, 2018) and “The Evolution of Spanish Governance During the Early Bourbon Period in Peru: The Juan Santos Atahualpa Rebellion and the Missionaries of Ocopa,” (The Americas, 2016), which received the 2017 Antonine Tibesar Award from the Conference on Latin American History. Most recently he co-edited a historical volume with Jay Harrison titled At the Heart of the Borderlands: Africans and Afro-descendants on the edges of Colonial Spanish America (University New Mexico Press, 2023). Dr. Jones’ interests include the use of technology and digital platforms for public engagement with history and politics, particularly of traditional underrepresented groups. He currently teaches at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California.

Kim Bisheff is an Assistant Professor in the Journalism Department at Cal Poly and a Faculty Fellow at the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She teaches public affairs reporting and media innovation and serves as the digital adviser for Mustang Media Group. Bisheff earned her Master’s Degree in Journalism from UC Berkeley in 1999 and spent 20 years working as a journalist (Los Angeles Times, Outside magazine) and author (W.W. Norton & Co., Random House). Her research interests lie at the intersection of civic engagement, news and technology.

Dr. Immanuel Williams is a Faculty Scholar with the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy and a full-time lecturer at Cal Poly in the Statistics Department. He is the founder of the GATO365 Learning Center, an innovative platform that creates learning experiences to enhance mathematics education for students in grades K-5. Dr. Williams creates interactive web applications for students in introductory statistics courses, to help them better understand difficult statistical concepts. His research agenda involves measuring the impact of utilizing culturally relevant content through web applications, as well as measuring growth in students’ ability in mathematics.

Patrick Howe is an Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism at Cal Poly. He has 15 years of professional experience as a correspondent and editor for news organizations including the Associated Press and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He received his Master’s Degree in Media Management from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism in 2011 and teaches courses related to media management, data journalism and advanced newswriting. Since 2012 he has served as faculty advisor to the Mustang News student newspaper. His academic work focuses on media economics, innovation and advertising, and he has served as an expert source for the Federal Trade Commission, Columbia Journalism Review, Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab and National Public Radio. 

Dr. Franz Kurfess is a Faculty Scholar with the Institute for Advanced Technology & Public Policy's Open Government Initiative Initiative and a Professor in the Department of Computer Science, California Polytechnic State University. He is an expert in and instructor of Artificial Intelligence, Knowledge-Based Systems, Human-Computer Interaction, and User-Centered Design. Before joining Cal Poly, he was with Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the University of Ulm, Germany, the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, CA, and the Technical University in Munich, where he obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science. His research involves Artificial Intelligence and User-Centered Design, with particular interest in the usability and interaction aspects of knowledge intensive systems.

Dr. Dean Wendt is a Faculty Scholar with the Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy’s California Energy Independence Initiative and Director of the Center for Coastal Marine Sciences and a former Dean of Research. He has research expertise in marine ecology and conservation and strives to use data to inform the actions of ocean policy and management communities.  His research expertise include marine ecology and conservation with an explicit focus on generating long term data sets for management of marine resources.  Dr. Wendt is also actively involved with west coast regional ocean observing networks and the CSU Council on Ocean Affairs Science and Technology (COAST) where he strives to connect his scientific expertise with policy and decision makers.

Dr. Maria Pantoja is an associate professor in the Computer Science and Computer Engineering at Cal Poly. She received her PhD in Computer Engineering at Santa Clara University. Her research interests include Fault Tolerant Systems, Scientific and High Performance Computing, Computer Architecture, and Machine Learning probabilistic uncertainty. Professor Pantoja is the recipient of the Lockheed Martin Endowed Professorship in 2019. When not having fun in the classroom and lab, she enjoys running and reading.

Institutional Collaborations

Name Institution
Prof. Christian Gütl Graz University of Technology
Prof. Gudrun Socher Munich University of Applied Sciences
Prof. Lindsay Grace University of Miami

Student Researchers

Michelle Perkonigg is a student at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) in Austria. Before joining the project of Digital Democracy, Michelle got a bachelor degree in Computer Science and one in Software Development and Business Management at TU Graz. During the time at university, especially in the master’s program of computer science, she discovered her interest in Data Analytics and especially in Natural Language Processing (NLP) which further is going to be the focus of her master thesis. She is keen on working together with other project members, loves gaining new experiences and enjoys contributing to a unique and valuable project like Digital Democracy.

Jean Choi is an undergraduate student at Cal Poly majoring in statistics with a cross disciplinary minor in data science. Previously, she has worked research projects such as data analytics on the mental health of engineers across the nation. On campus, Jean founded a chapter of a professional co-ed engineering fraternity known as Theta Tau here at Cal Poly SLO. Additionally, she is a marketing lead for the Google Developer Student Club, and an experimental marketer for the hackathon organization: SLO Hacks.

Ryan Powell is an undergraduate computer science student who will be continuing at Cal Poly next year for a masters in quantitative economics. His research interests include data science and combinatorial game theory. Presently he is working with AI4Reporters on named entity recognition for the identification of California geographical entities mentioned in senate hearings. He has also filled the positions of recruitment and diversity chairman at Cal Poly’s chapter of Sigma Phi Delta, a premier international fraternity of engineers.

Maxim Korolkov is a graduate student at Cal Poly majoring in Computer Science. Before coming to Cal Poly Maxim finished his Bachelor's in Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. During his bachelor’s Maxim found his love for data science and machine learning, where he performed research on using computer vision techniques on brain EEG topographies. After coming to Cal Poly, he got interested in Natural Language Processing. Maxim is currently working on the AI4Reporters project to find the intersection between news articles and bill discussions, so that an automatic summarization system can then generate short descriptions of the bill in news article format.


Recent Alumni

Josh Grace graduated Cal Poly with a Bachelor's degree in computer science. He worked with AI4Reporters to identify group affiliation in public comments of hearings, engagement of legislators in hearings, and absenteeism of legislators. He is currently pursuing a PhD. of Mechanical Engineering with a focus in Robotics at Yale. He is looking forward to applying the research skills he learned working on AI4Reporters in graduate school.

Mugen Blue is an undergraduate student at Cal Poly majoring in computer science with a cross disciplinary minor in data science. Previously, he has worked on research projects such as path planning for underwater autonomous drones using photogrammetry and detecting errors in the metal 3d printing process. On campus, Mugen cofounded a club for diversity in tech called Color Coded. He enjoys creating a more inclusive community for computing majors while facilitating opportunities with companies looking for diverse talent. Additionally, he is an ISA for systems programming. His research interests lie within natural language processing (NLP), image recognition/detection, computer science education, and systems programming. For AI4Reporters, He is currently working on detecting statistical anomalies for hearings.

Richa Gadgil is an undergraduate student at Cal Poly majoring in computer science with minors in data science and Chinese. Previously, she has worked on machine learning and software engineering at Apple and Project Jupyter. On campus, Richa co-founded the CS+AI organization, a club geared towards giving undergraduates opportunities to work on machine learning and artificial intelligence projects. Richa has also received recognition for her interest in foreign and critical languages, including a National Security Language Initiative Scholarship by the U.S. State Department to study Chinese abroad. Her research interests include natural language processing, machine learning for health-based applications, and app localization.`

Thomas Gerrity, is a graduate student of computer science at Cal Poly within the blended masters program. His current research is machine learning for event newsworthiness classification for the AI For Reporters initiative. Previously, he worked as the database administrator for the Digital Democracy Project responsible for ETL. At Cal Poly, he has served as a TA for introductory and advanced machine learning/database courses. His research interests include automated machine learning, information security, network security, and natural language processing. His past research projects include solar energy output prediction using machine learning, automated machine learning with respect to hyper parameter optimization, and vulnerability analysis of Apple’s Airdrop communication protocols.

Ethan Goldfarb is a fourth-year computer science major with minors in math and statistics at Cal Poly, SLO, with primary focus on the topics of NLP and Deep Learning. Previously, he has worked on machine learning and statistics projects at Apple, served as a TA for machine learning courses, as well as conducted undergraduate research in the areas of representation learning, data science and statistics. In his free time, he enjoys reading philosophy and history, weightlifting, running, economics blogs and chess. Ideally he is found at a tea or coffee shop having a nice conversation about any of the aforementioned topics.

Sanjana Gundala was an undergraduate student at Cal Poly majoring in Computer Science and part of the BMS blended program. Previously worked on cybersecurity, data science, and algorithms at Microsoft and planning to do her thesis in Data Science and AI. She served as the President of the Society of Women Engineers and is also the Off-Campus Marketing Director for TedXSanLuisObispo.

Kiran Illindala was an undergraduate pursuing a bachelors in Computer Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Previously, he has worked on data analysis of epilepsy as well as vector based facial recognition/similarity detection. He has a passion for the intersection of product development and new technology. He is studied sentiment analysis on speech for the AI4Reporters project.

Anastasia Klimashevskaia is a graduate student at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), Austria and a visiting scholar at California Polytechnic State University. Before starting her master program in Austria, Anastasia got a bachelor degree with honors in Moscow, at Russian State University for the Humanities. The program allowed her to get vast knowledge in both linguistics and programming, which lead to her great interest in Natural Language Processing (NLP) in general. Further Anastasia has been working for more than a year at Signal Processing and Speech Communication laboratory at TU Graz on other NLP projects with collaboration with other local companies and universities in Graz. She joined the Digital Democracy project looking forward to conduct necessary research for her master thesis investing her NLP knowledge and get more experience working with all the experts on the team.

Nathan Philliber is an undergraduate student at California Polytechnic State University majoring in software engineering and minoring in data science. Nathan currently works on the Teachers AI project, iterating with the San Luis Obispo coastal school district to develop a way to help elementary school teachers of English. Previously, he worked on the database team at Digital Democracy and also the Panoptyk project. Nathan hopes to continue to be able to work on projects that have positive effects on citizens and the broader community. 

Nathaniel Andre is an undergraduate student at California Polytechnic State University studying business and computer science. He has worked with AI4Reporters on automatic summarization of bill-related information from legislative dialogues, along with on developing novel domain adaptation techniques. Previously, he has worked as a quantitative research intern at Moody’s Analytics and as a machine learning engineer intern at ServiceNow. In addition, he has been involved with other research projects, spanning applications of deep learning for trading commodities in finance to researching NLP methods to better model ambiguous short-text data, among other work.

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