Staff Spotlights

Alex Fliflet
Alex Fliflet is a master’s student in the Department of Kinesiology at Illinois and a Graduate Research Assistant in the Disability, Participation, and Quality of Life Lab. His research interests include the development of assistive devices for non-ambulatory individuals, promoting healthy behavior changes for non-ambulatory and elderly individuals, and rehabilitation of injury and disease. On TechSAge, Alex is working on the Monitoring and Managing Falls project, assisting with research and development of a falls detection device and alert system for wheelchair users. He has been actively involved creating the protocol, running the fall trials, and analyzing data. After completing his Master’s Degree, he plans to apply to get his Doctorate in Physical Therapy and is interested in continuing work in the disability community. Alex enjoys spending his time with his dogs, hiking, cooking, kayaking, working out and playing basketball.
Harshal Mahajan
Harshal Mahajan, Ph.D. is a Research Assistant Professor at the College of Applied Health Sciences at Illinois and serves as the Assistant Director of Research for the McKechnie Family LIFE Home. Harshal has training in Biomedical Engineering and Rehabilitation Science. As a part of the Monitoring and Managing falls project, Harshal is involved with clinical assessment of wheelchair falls and assists with developing algorithms that will help develop a wheelchair fall detection system. Previously, he was involved with the Smart Bathroom project with clinical assessment of bathroom transfers. His research interests span across understanding barriers and facilitators that influence health and function in individuals with disabilities and developing intervention strategies involving smart, assistive technologies and robots to encourage function. His pre-TechSAge research involved projects such as developing a smart kitchen for individuals with cognitive impairments, developing a virtual reality rehabilitation intervention for wheelchair driving, and clinical validation of assessment instruments. Away from work, he enjoys practicing yoga and meditation, listening to podcasts, and spending time with friends and family. 
Brian Pastor serves as the Site Coordinator for TechSAge at the University of Illinois. In this role he ensures that that all administrative items are handled correctly, specifically anything involving compliance with IRB and other research related regulations. Brian is the Program Coordinator for CHART: Collaborations in Health, Aging, Research, and Technology and the Research Laboratory Coordinator for the Human Factors & Aging Laboratory at the University of Illinois. His research interests are the patterns of dissemination and educational resource sharing of relevant health information to the LGBTQ+ population, stress factors on quality and duration of life among first response professions, the design and adaptability of workflow systems within a clinical healthcare environment. When Brian is not at work he enjoys spending time outside, particularly with his son, daughter, and dog Missy. He is an accomplished classical dancer, who previously served as Director of the Marching Illini Color Guard for five seasons.
Kara Cohen is a Research Technician II at the Center for Inclusive Design & Innovation (CIDI) at Georgia Tech. Kara brings several years of research and clinical experience to the TechSAge team, including neuroimaging, cognitive assessments, and inpatient rehabilitation. As part of the Telewellness Technologies project, Kara has been actively involved in design and materials development for the Tele Tai Chi intervention study for older adults with long-term mobility disabilities. She recently became a certified instructor in Seated Tai Chi for Arthritis and will be serving as a moderator for the interactive, small group classes, delivered via Zoom video conferencing, when the study kicks off in the coming months. Kara works on a variety of projects focused on technology design for aging and technology acceptance among older adults. Outside of research, Kara enjoys exploring Decatur’s parks, listening to podcasts, and trying to catch up with what seems like an endless list of television shows to watch.
Tina-Qiong Nie
Qiong (Tina) Nie is a doctoral student in the Department of Applied Health Science at Illinois, where she is a Graduate Research Assistant in the Human Factors and Aging Laboratory. Her research interests include promoting health-related behavior change with smart technologies, human factors in health care, health self-management activities, and technology design for older adults. Working alongside Dr. Wendy Rogers, Tina has been involved in a number of TechSAge research activities, assisting with analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data to identify the needs and challenges of older adults with disabilities in managing their health and aging-in-place and to provide guidance in the design of supportive technologies for these individuals. When she’s not working on her research, Tina likes to spend her time running, swimming, playing piano, reading, and hanging out with friends.
Libak Abou
Libak Abou is a Doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at Illinois. He is a physical therapist with a master’s in neurological physical therapy. As a research assistant in the Disability Participation and Quality of Life laboratory, Libak has been involved in the D2. Monitoring and Managing Falls project, assisting with data collection for the development of a falls detection & alert for wheelchair users. His research interests are geared toward rehabilitation among people with disabilities, principally people with Spinal Cord Injury, Multiple Sclerosis, and Stroke. He is specifically interested in educational and task-oriented approaches to adjust motor control and prevent secondary impairment. When he is not working on research and papers, Libak is playing or watching soccer, reading books, grabbing a drink with friends, or camping.
Tracy Mitzner
Dr. Tracy Mitzner is the Principal Investigator on R3 Telewellness Technologies project, in which the research team is translating an in-person evidence-based Tai Chi Intervention to tele-technology for persons with mobility disabilities. She is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI) at Georgia Tech. Dr. Mitzner’s research interests focus on how technology can help older adults with disabilities stay physically and socially active, specifically understanding support needs and preferences of older adults with disabilities for social, health, and wellness activities, and assessing the efficacy of technology interventions to support those needs. In her free time, she loves yoga, walking, hiking, being outdoors, traveling and spending time with family and friends, particularly her husband, two children, and a beloved dog, named Romeo. Their favorite family activities are badminton, creek hikes and playing capture the flag.
Liz Persaud
Liz currently serves as the Program and Outreach Manager for Tools for Life (Georgia’s Assistive Technology Act Program) and the Pass It On Center (The National Assistive Technology Device Reutilization Coordination and Technical Assistance Center) at the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation within the College of Design at Georgia Tech. Liz provides online and in person training and public awareness for TechSAge 2, the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center focused on successful aging with a disability. In this role, Liz works to identify training needs, builds and conducts trainings, and provides educational and awareness opportunities through workshops, webinars, and podcasts. Additionally, Liz is providing support for the annual Design Competition where teams of students will work to develop prototypes of technologies for aging in place while living with a disability. This is one of many prime opportunities to connect the worlds of research and design directly to the real-time needs of individuals in the community. Liz is a nationally recognized keynote, public speaker, and advocate addressing the need to build bridges and solidify the gaps between individuals living with and without disabilities. She is a sought-after guest lecturer at numerous universities speaking on the power of assistive technology. Liz is an active advocate with the Muscular Dystrophy Association of Atlanta as well as the nonprofit group Living United with NMD, providing outreach and raising awareness to numerous groups and organizations across the globe. Her passion lies within education about generations of adults growing up and living independently and successfully with childhood neuromuscular diseases. She is also the proud two-time recipient of the Muscular Dystrophy Association Personal Achievement Award in Georgia. Liz has dedicated her life to increasing independence for individuals with disabilities by educating on self-determination and advocacy with a focus on technology and disabilities. She is a graduate of Georgia State University and lives in Alpharetta, Georgia with her hero of a husband and supportive family.
Kenneth Blocker
Kenny Blocker is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois and a Graduate Research Assistant in the Human Factors and Aging Lab. His research interests include promoting behavior change with ambient and/or environmental technologies, technology design and acceptance for older adults, health self-management, medical human factors, cognitive aging, educational technologies, and health care. Kenny’s role in TechSAge includes assisting with projects by iteratively developing and testing an instructional protocol for the setup and continued use of Amazon Echo products and related connected technologies/applications, assisting with data collection and analysis regarding novice users of these technologies consisting of the target population (older adults with a long-term mobility disability), and additionally assisting with the installation and maintenance of the relevant technologies in our current smart apartment environment in a local life plan community for older adults (Clark-Lindsey Village). When he’s not working on his research, Kenny likes to spend his time cooking, hiking, reading, caring for his dog, and exploring astronomy, astrophotography, and home automation.
Gudur Raghavendra Reddy
Gudur Raghavendra Reddy (Raghu), is a visiting scholar from the School of Design at the University of Canberra, where he is an assistant professor and Design program director. Currently at Illinois, he is working with the TechSAge team to analyze findings from our qualitative user needs studyto identify opportunities for technology innovation. Raghu received an M.Des in visual communication from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT) and, a PhD in Interaction Design from the Queensland University of Technology. His research focuses on making contemporary technological products accessible for older and people with diverse capabilities.He is specifically interested in design for ubiquitous computing and ambient technologies for ageing in place.In addition, Raghu teaches courses related to User-experience design, Physical interaction design, visual communication, and design management. Raghu took to academics after extensive industry and research work experience in interactive multimedia, online distributed virtual environment games and medical visualization. When not doing things related to his work, Raghu likes to travel to pursue his passion for Black & White photography. And, on those gloomy days, Raghu can be found on his electronic bench building, what his partner calls useless, gadgets to create a safer and much lazier world.
Maurita Harris
Maurita Harris is a graduate student in the Department of Community Health at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a graduate research assistant in the Human Factors and Aging Lab. She is interested in the intersection of human factors, health, and design and her research focuses on the design and acceptance of technologies to support older adults' health self-management. Maurita serves as a graduate student researcher on the TechSAge ACCESS Study. When she is not busy with research, you can find her practicing circus arts or reading a good book.
Jenay Beer
Dr. Jenay Beer is a consultant for the project R3 Telewelllness Technologies which focuses on translating an evidence-based Tai Chi intervention to televideo for persons aging with long-term disabilities. She assistsin the development and review of experimental materials, data analysis, and dissemination of findings.Dr. Beerhas a background in Engineering Psychology and is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Gerontology (IoG), at the University of Georgia where she researches assistive technology to help older adults maintain their independence and age-in-place.Her work focuses on human-robot interaction, telehealth, and technology. Outside of her research and work, Dr. Beer likes to spend time with her husband and toddler daughter, work on perfecting herchocolate chip cookierecipe, refinishing furniture, and traveling internationally.As a child, she fell in love with the original Star Wars trilogy, specifically the character of R2D2. Dr. Beerremainsin awe of how a fictional droid can capture the hearts of millions by socially communicating with only “beeps and boops”and it was this early interest that fueled her future research endeavors with assistive technologies.
Jake Sosnoff
Jacob Sosnoff’s professional background and training are in motor control and gerontology. He earned his Ph.D. in Kinesiology from Pennsylvania State University, where he was a National Institute of Aging pre-doctoral fellow. His current research focuses on predictors, consequences, and prevention of walking, mobility and balance impairments in clinical populations including individuals with multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, and older adults. This research naturally segued into falls prevention. This research has made him acutely aware that older adults are frequently unaware of their individual fall risk and lack knowledge on how to prevent falls. Based on this understanding he founded the Illini Fall Prevention Clinic, a community resource for identifying people’s individualized fall risks and developing personalized strategies to reduce those risks. Realizing that the clinic was not scalable, Sosnoff and his colleagues have begun to develop, evaluate and implement technology-based solutions for fall risk assessment and prevention. Within TechSAge, he leads a project focusing on the refinement and implementation of a fall risk assessment and prevention mobile health app for older adults who utilize wheeled mobility. He also contributes to the project developing technology to monitor falls in wheeled device users. When not researching innovative solutions to various mobility-related problems, Jake enjoys walking his dogs, trying not to lose in connect-four or card games to his wonderful wife, and discussing soccer, Star Wars, and superheroes with his three sons.
Sofia Soto
Sofia Soto is a Communications Intern working on bringing increased online awareness to the innovative research being done here at TechSAge. In particular, Sofia helps run the TechSAge Twitter and helped startup the TechSAge Facebook page.  Sofia is an undergraduate business student with a concentration in marketing and minor in economics in the Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In her spare time, Sofia enjoys embroidering and loves to upcycle thrifted clothes. She also loves baking, “How I Met Your Mother”, and spending time with friends. Sofia is an avid sunset chaser and will travel anywhere for a good view of the sunset.
Laura Levy
Laura Levy is a human-factors psychologist working on D1.1, “Tools to Enhance the Adoption, Acceptance, and Utilization of Connected Home Technology for Users with Long Term Mobility Impairment.” For this project she informs the design of technology, creates research methodologies, run sessions, and performs data analyses.  Laura is a Research Scientist II, Interactive Media Technology Center (IMTC) at the Georgia Institute of Technology and her research interests are in augmented and mixed reality, serious game design, and support aids for Internet of Things devices. In her spare time Laura enjoys video games, especially “Overwatch,” which aligns wells with her research interests of esports. She was loves cycling, sailing, and spending time with her two rescue guinea pigs, Ruby and Daisy.
Laura Rice
Dr. Laura Rice is the Principal Investigator on the D2 project: Monitoring and Managing Falls as a Secondary Condition among Long-Term Wheelchair Users. She's an Assistant Professor in Kinesiology and Community Health at UIUC, where her research focuses on disability and health. She is specifically interested in the management of secondary impairments associated with disability, such as such as pain, mobility limitations, secondary injury and poor quality of life. She is very interested in advocating for the profession of Physical Therapy through her involvement in the Illinois Physical Therapy Association and a board member of the Therapy Leadership Group within the Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals. During her free time, Laura enjoys spending time with her husband and three-year-old twin boys.
Su Jin Lee
Su Jin (Susan) Lee is a licensed occupational therapist working as research scientist at the Center for Inclusive Design and Innovation (CIDI) at Georgia Tech. Broadly, her research interests include the design of products, technologies, and the built environment to support the performance of activities of daily living of individuals with limited functional abilities. She is particularly interested in the “physically demanding” activities, such as transferring, toileting and bathing, and the contributions of well-designed environments in maximizing functional independence in these activities and reducing caregiver burden. On TechSAge, Susan is an investigator on the Smartbathroom Technologies project. She is actively involved in national and state OT associations. In her spare time, she enjoys improving her skills in 2D/3D design tools and meeting new people & their pets.