About Me

picture of sam in the joshua tree desert at sunset, in a hat, smiling

I’m a researcher, a mountain frolicker, and a helmswoman. 

My research interests are in human-computer interaction, representative democracy, and civic tech. I seek to understand the ethical, political, and cultural implications of designing technical systems for civic engagement.

I received my Ph.D. in Informatics from the University of California, Irvine in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. I worked under the advisement of Dr. Melissa Mazmanian. My dissertation explored theories of representative democracy, deliberative democracy, civic technology, and the U.S. Congress. I used techniques from deliberative democracy to test asynchronous forums to improve the value and impact of constituent voice in the U.S. Congress. The simple Version of my dissertation is that I look at how computers can help people in power talk with the people they work for, to find, learn, and understand all sorts of stuff that can help them make important choices.

I was an NSF GRFP Fellow in the Labroratory for Ubiquitous Computing Interaction (LUCI) with graduate affiliation with the Jack W. Peltason Center for the Study of Democracy. I am an alumna of the The College of Engineering and Information Technology at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and the Prototpying and Design Lab (PAD) run by Dr.Amy Hurst.

I’m also the founder of the VoteLikeIts2020 fundraising campaign for voter equality in America, and a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the Orange County foster care system. 


Recent updates:

February 2024 – I published a paper entitled “Configurations of Digital Participatory Budgeting” in collaboration with colleagues Victoria Palacin, Pablo Aragón, and Matti Nelimarkka. We explored different participatory budgeting cases across Europe.

February 2023 – I left my position at Meta to take a multi-year ‘sea’batical with my partner. We are living on our 37ft sailboat, exploring the waters of the Pacific and beyond.

September 2021 – Started working for Meta as a UX Researcher in the field of monetization and analytics.

April 2021 – Successfully defended my dissertation “Constituent Communication in Representative Democracy: Testing Platforms for Deliberation in the U.S. Congress.”

March 2021 – My research was mentioned during testimony for the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (51:03). I joined the POPVOX Foundation for a four-month consultantship to create civic metrics for participatory government. 

January 2021 – I joined Dr. Emily Roberts on her podcast, Personal Finance for PhDs, to discuss owning your worth financial worth in grad school.

November 2020 – Just dissertating and teaching, a position I am very grateful to have.

October 2020 – I’ve accepted a job at Facebook as a UX Researcher starting late summer 2021.

March 2020 – I started teaching ICS 3 – Internet Technology and Society during the Spring quarter. My first class ever!

February 2020 – I’ve accepted a UX Summer Internship at Facebook during the summer.

Fall 2019 – My first journal article has been published! Communications Technology as Symbols of Institutional Legitimacy in the U.S. Congress. April 2020. Journal of Information Technology & Politics. 

Fall 2019 – I have a news article with over 4,400 views. How Congress turns citizens’ voices into data points. The Conversation. September 2019.