About DFP

The Designing for People Research Cluster is concluding in April 2024. The information provided here is for archival purposes.

The DFP Challenge

Our society’s dependency on computationally intensive systems, in our lives and work, has become absolute. Today’s 20 billion connected “devices” (computational elements that permeate the systems, tools and media that we interact with on a daily basis) reached 30 billion in 2020. In the 2010-2020 decade, the world’s data grew by 50x and spending on IOT technologies will reach $6Tr.

These systems have potential for enormous net benefit for humanity: we gain power and connectedness from access to smart buildings, medical and assistive robots, connected vehicles, health informatics and behavioural support, and education tools. However, they also involve complexity, nuances, and intractable constraints, that can lead to deep inequity, alienation, and harm. Their developers are rarely prepared for the messy human-facing side of system design. Furthermore, academic research that supports society’s most vulnerable often becomes isolated within the academic community, lacking viable commercial pathways.


UBC's Designing for People Research Cluster aims to address complex human-facing design problems by accelerating creativity at the nexus of social and technical problem-solving. We promote intensely interdisciplinary teamwork and methods, strive to understand the diverse abilities, needs, and values of users, create high-value resources for DFP researchers, and find new paths to societal impact by working closely with partners - users, domain experts, communities and companies.


DFP began in 2003 as a peer network (HCI at UBC) primarily in Computer Science and Engineering. With higher critical mass, researchers from a broader cross-section of UBC (including the Information School, Architecture, Nursing and Psychology) renewed the concept in 2013 as a seminar series to foster connections for research in interactive technologies.

In 2016, 10 core DFP faculty identified common needs around knowledge translation practices, consolidating our fragmented graduate training programs, and external visibility; and began to organize and grow. We applied and received a CREATE training grant, and launched our new DFP grad training program in September 2017.

DFP was recognized in 2017 as one of the first UBC VPRI-funded research clusters and given support to expand its activities. We organized into several complementary pillars of activity (below), and set out to develop them. We identified three research themes aligning research and societal urgency, to achieve common cause through joint aspirations, collaboration, shared resources, and methodological cross-fertilization. Our initial themes were designing for diverse and marginalized communities, for patients and healthcare practitioners, and for students and educators.

Today DFP has 30 core faculty members and more "on deck", as well as a large, active and highly entangled student community. Our disciplines range from Computer Science, Nursing, and Mechanical Engineering to Psychology, Information Studies, and Occupational Therapy.

Meet Our Multidisciplinary Team

Organization and Initiatives

DFP is organized into five mutually reinforcing pillars of focus: CommunityGrad Training, Research, Translation and Partnerships - illustrated in the regions of this website. These are supported by events that include our DFP@UBC seminar series, our CREATE grad training program, research and translation stimulus initiatives, and ongoing outreach to our partners. We are always experimenting - just ask to learn more about any of these pillars or with your ideas. 

DFP's organization and initiatives


DFP's Management Org Chart 

Key Leadership Roles

Cluster Leadership and Oversight 

 DFP Cluster General Director Karon MacLean (Computer Science)
 DFP Cluster Co-Director Liisa Holsti (Occupation Science & Occupational Therapy)
 DFP CREATE Co-Director Luanne Sinnamon (iSchool)  July 2021
 Ian Mitchell (Computer Science)  Sep - Dec 2020


Staff Support

 DFP Research Facilitator Aline Silva June 2022 - present
 Jocelyn McKay Sep 2018 - Apr 2022
 CREATE Program Manager Laura Ballay Sep 2020 - 2021
 DFP Finance & Operations Coordinator Rana Haji Mohammadi May 2022 - Nov 2023
 Zahra Fatemi Oct 2020 - May 2022
DFP Admin & Communications Assistant Clarice Yeung  June 2023 - Feb 2024
 Meredith Mitchell Sep 2022 - May 2023


Seminar Steering Committee

 Chair Dongwook Yoon (Computer Science) Sep 2020 - present
 Liisa Holsti (Occupation Science & Occupational Therapy) Sep 2018 - Aug 2020
Member Ben Mortensen (Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy)

Soodeh Ahani (Electrical and Computer Engineering)

 Member Aline Silva (DFP Research Facilitator)
 Member Rana Haji Mohammadi (DFP Cluster Coordinator)
Member Clarice Yeung (Admin & Communications Assistant)
 Past Members  Jocelyn McKay (DFP Research Facilitator)
 Kerry Neil (DFP Admin)
 Zahra Fatemi (DFP Admin)
 Meredith Mitchell (DFP Comms Assistant)
 Sabrina Hauser (DFP Postdoc)
Julia Bullard (Information School)
Naznin Virji-Babul (Physical Therapy)
Mike Van der Loos (Mechanical Engineering)


DFP CREATE Graduate Training Program (AY 2022-2023)

 CPSC 544: DFP Fundamentals

 Karon MacLean (Computer Science) 
 CPSC 554K: DFP Project
Antony Hodgson (Mechanical Engineering) 
 Faculty Consultants Luanne Sinnamon
 Stephanie Glegg & Liisa Holsti
 Suzanne Huot
 Tim Oberlander, Katelynn Boerner & Karon MacLean










Previous Leadership & Committees

Cluster Director  Ad Hoc Advisors
Karon MacLean
(Computer Science)
 Prof. James Landay
 (Computer Science, Stanford University)
 Dr. Barry Po
 (VP: AI Solutions, Universal mCloud, UBC CS Alumni)








CREATE Management Committee (now retired)

 Chair Karon MacLean (Computer Science)
 Member Luanne Sinnamon (Information School) 
 Member  Kosta Beznosov (Electrical & Computer Engineering)
 Member  Sabrina Hauser (DFP Postdoc)
 Coordinator  Kerry Neil









CREATE Graduate Training Program Curriculum Development

 Chair & DFP Fundamentals   Representative Joanna McGrenere (Computer Science)
 CREATE Management   Representative Karon MacLean (Computer Science)
 DFP Project Instructor   Representative Mike Van der Loos (Mechanical Engineering)
 Member  Sabrina Hauser (DFP Postdoc)
 Coordinator  Kerry Neil


DFP Core Course Instructors (AY 2020-2021 and 2021-2022)

 CPSC 544: DFP Fundamentals Heather O'Brien (iSchool)
 CPSC 554K: DFP Project  Laura Ballay
 Antony Hodgson (Mechanical Engineering)  (2021-2022 only)
 DFP Project Mentors: Luanne Sinnamon, Tim Oberlander, Katelynn Boerner, Karon MacLean, Suzanne Huot, Stephanie Glegg


DFP Core Course Instructors (AY 2019-2020)

 CPSC 544: DFP Fundamentals Joanna McGrenere (Computer Science)
 Leila Aflatoony (DFP Postdoc)
 CPSC 554K: DFP Project Mike Van der Loos (Mechanical Engineering)
 Dongwook Yoon (Computer Science)
 Sabrina Hauser (DFP Postdoc)
 DFP Project Mentors:  Robert Xiao, Alan Kingstone, Mike Van der Loos, Luanne Sinnamon


DFP Core Course Instructors (AY 2018-2019)

 CPSC 544: DFP Fundamentals Joanna McGrenere (Computer Science)
 Leila Aflatoony (DFP Postdoc)
 CPSC 554K: DFP Project Mike Van der Loos (Mechanical Engineering)
 Dongwook Yoon (Computer Science)
 Eric Meyers (Information School)
 Leila Aflatoony (DFP Postdoc)
 DFP Project Mentors: Tamara Munzner 
 Joanna McGrenere
 Karon MacLean