I am currently seeking academic appointments in the areas of racial/social justice, games and play, and/or human-computer interaction. Get in touch with me if you spot any connections!

I am a PhD Candidate in the Human Computer Interaction Institiute (HCII) at Carnegie Mellon University, advised by Jessica Hammer and Geoff Kaufman.

My work focuses on experiences of uncertainty. Specifically, I am focused on how targets of interpersonal racism cope with trauma and uncertainty through social support. Related to this work, I have interests in empowering marginalized groups and examining systemic inequality and bias.

I also design and research non-digital games for middle school students to encourage STEM comfort and engagement through increased curiosity.

During my undergraduate and Masters programs, my research with the Stanford HCI Group examined how to facilitate work within groups of experts from the crowd.

  • aato {at} cs.cmu.edu
  • Download CV [pdf]

// Research Interests

  • Racism, Micro-Aggressions
  • Ethnic-Racial Identity (ERI)
  • Uncertainty / Curiosity
  • Game-Based Interventions
  • Expert Crowdsourcing

// Skills

  • Qualitative Research
  • Transformational Game Design
  • Team Management
  • Javascript / jQuery / HTML5 / CSS
  • C / C++


My current research is about designing and studying transformational games for marginalized populations. The specific focus of my main project centers on increasing comfort with STEM topics by encouraging scientific curiosity through games.


Recovering from Racialized Aggression

This project focuses on how people respond to and recover from instances of racism in personal interactions. We examine specifically how those targets leverage their social networks both online and offline to communicate about their experiences.

Sensing Curiosity in Play and Responding

The SCIPR Project is focused on game-based interventions for marginalized students in STEM. We are designing and researching games to increase scientific curiosity in order to increase comfort with STEM topics.

Tandem Transformational Game Design

Tandem Design is a transformational game design process that pulls from best practice in transformational games, design, psychology, and organizational behavior. Go to tinyurl.com/tandemdesign for more information.


Character Diversity in Games

This project examines current techniques both digital and non-digital games employ in order to represent diverse players through game characters.

Flash Orgs

Flash orgs are rapidly assembled, reconfigurable organizations of online expert crowd workers working on highly complex, open-ended goals. (Published at CHI 2017)


WearWrite is a system that enables users to write documents from their smartwatches by leveraging a crowd to help translate their ideas into text. (Published at CHI 2016)

Flash Teams

Flash teams are modular, self-contained, replicable, and computational workflows for expert crowdsourcing. (Published at UIST 2014)


Please see my CV for a complete and updated list of my publications.


Character Diversity in Digital and Non-Digital Games

To, A., McDonald, J., Holmes, J., Hammer, J., Kaufman, G.
To Appear in ToDiGRA Diversity Special Issue

Tandem Transformational Game Design: A Game Design Process Case Study

To, A., Fath, E. Zhang, E., Ali, S., Kildunne, C., Fan, A., Hammer, J., Kaufman, G.
Meaningful Play 2016

Integrating Curiosity and Uncertainty in Game Design

To, A., Ali, S., Kaufman, G., Hammer, J.
DiGRA/FDG 2016: Digital Games Research Association and Foundations of Digital Games First Join International Conference

Experts On Demand: Enabling Flash Organizations with Rapid Onboarding

Alexandra To
Advisor: Michael Bernstein, Second Reader: Melissa Valentine
Symbolic Systems Program Masters Thesis 2015

Expert Crowdsourcing with Flash Teams

Retelny, D., Robaszkiewicz, S., To, A., Lasecki, W., Patel, J., Rahmati, N., Doshi, T., Valentine, M., Bernstein, M.
UIST 2014: ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology

Foundry: Managing Teams of Experts Online

Alexandra To
Advisor: Michael Bernstein, Second Reader: Daniela Retelny
Symbolic Systems Program Senior Honors Thesis 2014


Stanford News interviews Asst. Professor Michael Bernstein and Alexandra To and the flash teams research as a part of their coverage of the Symbolic Systems Program


Honorable Mention, University Post-Secondary Category - Carnegie Science Awards 2017

Best Paper Award - ACM CHI 2017

Best Student Non-Digital Game, "Outbreak" - Meaningful Play 2016

People's Choice, "Outbreak" - Meaningful Play 2016



05-430/05-630 (Programming Usable Interfaces) - TA

CMU - Fall 2017

Programming class for HCI students. Lead weekly lab of 30 students covering basics of prototyping, designing, and programming for the web.

85-357 (Navigating Race and Identity in America) - TA

CMU - Spring 2017

Advanced psychology seminar on race and identity in America.

SymSys 100 (Minds & Machines) - TA

Stanford - Fall 2014

Overview course of the interdisciplinary study of cognition, information, communication, and language. Leading a discussion section of 30 students.


Carnegie Mellon University - PhD Student / Research Assistant

Fall 2015 - [PRESENT]

Co-Advised by Jessica Hammer and Geoff Kaufman. Work on SCIPR (Sensing Curiosity in Play and Responding) project. Designing and researching a tabletop game for underrepresented middle school students in STEM fields. Team management of 12 research interns across one year.

Carnegie Mellon University - Research Assistant

Summer 2015

Work with Michael Nebeling, Steven Dow, Jeff Bigham on WearWrite. Shepherding the crowd to complete complex tasks from a smart watch.

Stanford HCI Group - Research Assistant

Summer 2014

Continued as Masters' research throughout the '14-'15 year
(SEE: Publications & Media)
Wrapping up research on flash teams (flashteams.stanford.edu) and continuing next phase of research - scaling up flash teams to flash orgs. Combining HCI research and organizational behavior/management literature. Studying issues of coordination and hierarchy in a large-scale on-demand organization.

Stanford University HCI Group - CURIS Intern

Summer 2013

(SEE: Publications & Media)
Created Foundry, an interactive online tool for authoring and managing flash teams. Created with Javascript, D3, jQuery, Twitter Bootstrap and run on Rails.

Stanford University Symbolic Systems Program - Summer Intern

Summer 2012

Worked jointly with the SymSys Program and the MLK Jr. Institute designing a collaborative history online platform to engage a wide audience with digital history. Designed research studies based on project.


Facebook - UX Intern

May 2018 - Aug. 2018

Working on the Emerging Verticals team performing qualitative research (e.g., diary study, interviews) with small business owners and consumers.

Schell Games - Design Intern

May 2017 - Aug. 2017

Working on an interdisciplinary team with eleven game designers, artists, and developers working on transformational game design for a digital app. Gathered and synthesized research related to the project’s transformational goals, contributed to design brainstorms and iteration, and wrote narrative content.

Stanford Bing Overseas Study Program - Head Student Advisor

Sept. 2013 - June 2015

(Previously) Beijing Student Advisor Sept. 2012-June 2013
Organizing BOSP team of student advisors. Organizing efforts around large outreach events and panels.

Stanford Residential Computing - Residential Computer Consultant

Sept. 2013 - June 2015

Assistant residents with internet, hardware, and other personal computing and technology issues.


Game Design Blog

An ongoing game design blog created for Jesse Schell's ETC Game Design course
Click here to read.

10 Second Game

A game I made in Twine for fun for LURP (learn usable repeatable prototyping) at Schell Games.
Click here to play.

School Source

A fully functional app prototype designed for teachers and students to manage school information (e.g., grades, attendance, assignments, etc.). Made with a team during Intro to HCI Design (CS 147) at Stanford University.


Get in touch with me to learn more about my research.

Undergraduate and Masters students looking to get involved in this work (e.g., research, development, game design, data analysis, etc.) can get in touch with me via email in order to do an independent study in either of my advisor's labs, the OH! Lab (Dr. Jessica Hammer) or the eheart Lab (Dr. Geoff Kaufman).

Newell-Simon Hall
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA

CV: Download