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Our Team

ILLEST Lab Group Photo

The ILLEST Lab is made up of a diverse group of faculty, students and staff all dedicated to advancing learning science research and creating inclusive STEAM focused environments for the West Philadelphia community.

Some of the major research topics include; building a shared knowledge network to integrate STEAM learning opportunities and resources available city-wide and country-wide, engaging more students in STEAM learning, researching how students learn and distill information from person to virtual, using immersion learning  to cultivate the relationship between STEAM learning, self-advocacy, and self-expression. Read more about our team and research below!


Dr. Christopher Wright

Assistant Professor - Drexel University, School of Education

Dr. Christopher Wright

Christopher G. Wright is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education’s Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum Program at Drexel University. Dr. Wright’s research deploys critical perspectives while engaging in design-based research. Utilizing critical perspectives to explore how young people think, learn, and participate, Dr. Wright calls attention to the cultural and political contexts within which these constructs emerge, as well as the consequences for engaging in design work. Informed by his teaching experiences with young people from historically marginalized communities, Dr. Wright’s work explores opportunities for privileging the voice of minoritzed individuals in efforts of collaboratively reimagine STEM learning spaces that affirm, cultivate, and build upon the intellectual and linguistic resources of research partners.

Dr. Kareem Edouard

Assistant Professor - Drexel University, School of Education

Kareem Edouard, PhD is an Assistant Professor for Drexel University's School of Education. His research focuses on bridging the digital divide, providing equal and equitable access to internet and computer technology to minority students in underserved communities. Through this access, students can develop the necessary cognitive and social skills to become productive and contributing members of an emerging digitally connected community.


Jillian Reilly

Academic and Student Program Manager, Drexel University, ExCITe Center

Jillian Reilly

I currently hold the position of Academic and Student Programs Manager within the Expressive and Creative Interactive Technology (ExCITe) Center at Drexel University. I received my Master of Education degree from Temple University in Educational Leadership, Higher Education & Student Affairs and completed my undergraduate coursework both at Université Paul Cézanne Aix-Marseille III and West Chester University receiving a Bachelors of Science in Education and French. I am a passionate supporter of STEAM principles and a firm believer in the possibilities offered by transdisciplinary research in the university setting. Prior to joining the ExCITe Center, I worked at Temple University at the Fox Business School and with several Philadelphia nonprofit organizations. I am thrilled to be a part of the ILLEST community!

Mariya (Masha) Zharova

Graphic Designer, Drexel University, ExCITe Center

Mariya Zharova

Masha is the in-house Graphic Designer at the ExCITe Center, assisting with a variety of print and digital media. She has a B.S. in Graphic Design from Drexel University. Previously she was a Learning Innovation Fellow at the ExCITe Center, researching how internet memes can contribute to informal and active learning practices as well as educational communication. More about her research can be found on her website.

Hannah Kim

Makerspace Lab Assistant

Hi, my name is Hannah Kim and I recently graduated from Drexel University with a Bachelors in Business and Engineering with a Minor in Management Information Systems and an Electrical, Computer Engineering concentration. My role at the ILLEST lab is to provide support in various programs and events. I am passionate about music, arts, and technology! When it comes to music, I love playing piano or violin, listening to a wide range of genres from jazz, R&B, rap, pop - the list goes on, and attending live concerts of all sorts. I am a huge foodie and love discovering hidden gems of all different cuisines, and drinking coffee at the cutest coffee shops I can find in any city! I hope to find a career where I can bridge technology and business, while keeping my passions for music and arts active as well.

Emre Fischer

Creative Technologist

Emre Fischer

A recent graduate of Drexel University with a B.S in Computer Engineering, Emre has been with the ExCiTe for Co-ops, research, and educational positions. He finds great joy in making technologies that better the quality of life and wants to share that with passion with others. Emre has served as an instructor for the CSEA program in the ILLEST Lab and continues to stay involved as a resource for technical professional development and technology related pieces. Emre believes that in the modern-day technology informs culture and by being involved in bleeding-edge tech anyone cant influence new and upcoming cultures.

Graduate Researchers

Andrew Bennet Jackson

Educational Specialist, Drexel University, ILLEST Lab

andrew bennett-jackson

Andrew is currently a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in the Materials Science and Engineering department at Drexel University and studies a new class of materials for efficient solar energy conversion. In addition he is a member of the ILLEST lab, and his work focuses on developing effective teaching strategies and curriculum using hands-on learning. He is interested in researching how students learn and distillation of information from person to person. In addition, Andrew strives to provide under-represented students with skills and access to professional level manufacturing tools and creative software.

Neisha Young

Graduate Research Assistant

Hi, I am Neisha Young. I am a first-year PhD student in Drexel’s School of Education, and my research interests center around issues of educational equity, with a focus on influencing policy and curriculum in order to improve the experiences of immigrant teachers and students in the classroom. I am interested in exploring ways in which cultural competency can be promoted and leveraged, thereby positively influencing teacher and student outcomes. I operate in a research capacity in the ILLEST lab, aiding in the collection and analysis of data in order to support various ongoing projects.

Sinead Meehan

Graduate Research Assistant

Hello, my name is Sinead Meehan. I am a first year PhD student in Drexel’s School of Education with a focus on STEM education. My research explores the structure of science education and investigates how our knowledge of child development and scientific thinking can improve the manner in which scientific knowledge is presented at the elementary level. Through my research efforts, I aim to design coursework that supports pre-service teachers who will be working in a wide-range of educational environments post graduation. My role in the ILLEST lab is to support ongoing research projects.

Mikhail Miller

Graduate Research Assistant

My name is Mikhail Miller. I’m a third year PhD student at Drexel University’s School of Education. I’m interested in research pertaining to the educational experiences of Black male students and teachers in mathematics and engineering and the use of quantitative reasoning as a pedagogical approach for mathematics education.

Undergraduate Students

DJ Dawkins

Lead Engineering Project Manager

DJ Dawkins

DJ is a second-year Chemical Engineering student. He is currently the Lead Engineering Project Engineer at the Excite center. 

Skills: CAD Modeling, AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, Python, Abelton Live, Fruity Loops, Unity, Adobe Suite

Interests: Music Production, Sports, Anime, Gaming, Movies, TV


Panote Nuchprayoon

STEAM Education Assistant


Panote Nuchprayoon

Note is a third year student pursuing a game design undergraduate degree and a digital media graduate degree. Having worked at ExCITe Center during the STAR Program, Note returned to the ExCITe Center as the STEAM Education Assistant to continue her passion in technology and education. As a game developer, Note focuses on transformative games, having previously worked on an award-winning obesity prevention game and prior co-op experience with PXL Lab working on a research exergame.  Note also keeps herself involved in Drexel’s digital media community, serving as the event coordinator for the Drexel University ACM SIGGRAPH Student Chapter and is a President of Drexel Animation Group.

Ololade “Olo” Bello

Makerspace Lab Assistant

Hello, My name is Ololade but most people call me Olo. I am a chemical engineering undergraduate student in my senior year at Drexel University.

Serenity Baruzzini

Civic Technologist and STEAM Education Co-Op

Serennity Baruzzini

Serenity is a second year student pursuing a BS in engineering and a minor in STEM education. She intends to get her teaching certification in high school math and an entrepreneurship certification during her undergraduate experience. She spent the Summer of 2021 working as a STAR Scholar drafting a STEAM program focused on cycles and trauma informed learning for low-income area middle school students. Her overall career focus is making STEM education accessible and sustainable for minority students, as well as bringing the joy of engineering into grade school classrooms. Serenity is a first-generation college student, as well as a Liberty Scholar, and intends to pay forward the support she received in following her dream to other young women.


Wei Wei

Lab Research Assistant, Drexel University, ILLEST Lab

Hello, I’m Wei Wei. I’m currently working as a research assistant at ILLEST. My research focus is to better understand how ILLEST can be integrated in the Philadelphia community and support a broader community to gain meaningful STEAM learning experiences. My efforts focus on building a shared knowledge network to integrate STEAM learning opportunities and resources available city-wide and country-wide and to engage more students in STEAM learning. My research interest is about supporting underserved students to conduct culturally responsive making and learning by designing open STEAM learning environments.

Dara Bright

Graduate Researcher

Dara Bright

Hello, My name is Dara Bright. I am currently a first year Ph.D student in the Education Department.  At the ILLEST Lab, I am focused on curriculum development and policy assessment, as well as actionable techniques, to ensure minority students are equipped with the tools to grow holistically (academically, interpersonally, and interpersonally).

My research interests include:

  • Opportunity Gap
  • Equity Gap in STEM for minoritized students and students with disabilities
  • Inequities in educational technology policy
  • Culturally Responsive Education Assessments
  • Educational Technology

Jinsong (Bryan) Li

Lab Research Assistant, Drexel University, ILLEST Lab

Jinsong (Bryan) Li is currently working as a research assistant and curriculum facilitator in the ILLEST Lab. His research focuses on immersion learning, educational games, and cultures. He is currently designing a board game that can help students stay engaged when learning a second language and gain better understanding of the culture in the language at the same time. His goal is to build up mutual understanding and acceptances among people from different backgrounds with the usage of collaborative games and cutting-edge technologies.