Team Bios

Publisher and Editor Gabriel Kahn is a professor of professional practice at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. His research focuses on the economics of the media industry. He teaches classes on business reporting, economics and innovation. He drives an electric car, which he’s always eager to talk about, usually, for much too long.



Luciano Nocera is a computer scientist and Associate Director at the USC Integrated Media System Center where his research focuses on data analytics with applications in health, transportation and social media. He also teaches data visualization and develops educational games for various online programs. He is an avid rock climber, an activity that seem to consume too much of his time.



Yao-Yi Chiang is Crosstown’s Chief Technical Advisor and an Associate Professor (Research) in Spatial Sciences and Informatics at USC. Dr. Chiang received his Ph.D. degree in Computer Science from the USC in 2010; his Bachelor degree in Information Management from the National Taiwan University in 2000. His general area of research is artificial intelligence and data science, with a focus on information integration and spatial data analytics. He has a golden retriever named Bob and two young twins.


Former Crosstown managing editor turned project manager Lauren M. Whaley loves working with student reporters, designers and engineers. She is leading the team’s Google News Initiative Innovation Challenge to deliver weekly information to each of the 110 neighborhoods in the City of Los Angeles. She is also a health care reporter and photographer specializing in maternal health and mental illness. She once guided five 18-year-old women on a 45-day canoe trip in the Canadian Arctic. 



Hrushabh Bhadkamkar is a Master’s student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering with a computer science major from Indore, India. He loves making software applications for users to provide them with wide functionalities and making their life easier.


Data Scientist George Constantinou manages the crime and air quality data collection, and develops tools and products for their analysis and visualization. He is pursuing his Ph.D in Computer Science and is affiliated with the Integrated Media Systems Center at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. His research focuses on spatio-temporal location popularity, to identify the hotspots in Los Angeles. You might be wondering where his accent comes from. That’s because he is from Cyprus!


Shantanu Jhaveri is a freshman at the USC Iovine and Young Academy with a dual major in computer science with a minor in neuroscience. He is interested in furthering understanding the human-computer interaction and building tools to further enable people to maximize their potential for good. For Crosstown he’s working with both the design teams and the engineering teams to develop tools that make the data visualization of information easier for reporters to get a hold off, and to implement the designs that the design team is interested in implementing. He loves tinkering with machines and models; in fact, his parents, who had originally wanted him to study medicine after interning at countless clinics and research labs finally agreed to get him a 3D printer when he was 13 after he showed them he could make a cube with a primitive printer he built from scrap material laying around the garage.


Jean-Daniel LeRoy is a designer at Crosstown, focusing on story art and data visualization. He is currently studying the intersection of arts, technology and business at the USC Iovine and Young Academy but dabbles in UI/UX, cinematography and industrial design. He spends his free time rock climbing and making 35mm film gifs with his Nishika N800.


Engineer Product Manager Junyu Liu helps set the priorities of the products in the engineering team and works on products development. He loves making bridges between engineering and the rest of the world. He’s from Guanxi Province, China, but spent his high school years in Florida and Maine. He is a graduate student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering for Data Informatics.



Jaimin Patel is working on auto generating text on hate crime incidents for Crosstown. As a Computer Science graduate student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, he is interested in utilizing data science to tell the story of real world problems.



Kiera Smith is a designer at Crosstown and is a student at the USC Iovine and Young Academy. She focuses on illustrations for stories’ cover art. She is a native to Los Angeles County, as she was born and raised in Pasadena, California. She enjoys roaming around Downtown Los Angeles’ different districts.



Reporter Kylie Storm is from Portland, Ore. and is majoring in journalism at USC Annenberg School. Her specialities include multiple writing formats and reporting on issues that affect people from low-income backgrounds. She loves coffee and telling anyone who will listen about how much better Oregon is than California.



Data scientist Jiao Sun from Shanxi, China analyzes crime data from the past and tries to predict crimes which would likely happen in the near future. She is excited to see how Crosstown can use the power of journalists and computer scientists to help people and change the world!



Data scientist Luan Tran is a PhD student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. He is working on developing tools and products and data analysis. His research interest focuses on Database, Data Mining. His research interest is in anomaly detection in data streams, especially in traffic, spatio-temporal data.



Reporter Nisha Venkat is from Dubai, which is always hot and not full of flying cars (a surprisingly common misconception among Americans). Her interests include creative writing, watching Planet Earth, and exploring every brand and flavor of instant ramen there is. She is a junior studying journalism at USC Annenberg.


Social Media Editor Katherine Vlamis is helping to grow Crosstown’s social media presence and online engagement. A USC sophomore from Kansas City, Missouri (not Kansas!), she is a Music Industry major and Public Relations minor interested in all things music and social media. She drinks tea in the morning and coffee at night, and has an unexplainable obsession with avocados.


Lucy Wang is working on the maps feature at Crosstown, helping the people of Los Angeles better understand and visualize the data around them. She is pursuing her master’s degree in computer science and received her bachelors in computer science at USC Viterbi School of Engineering as well. Her favorite things in life are food, coffee and Parks and Recreation.



Reporter Ethan Ward  prefers writing about crimes rather than committing them. He is a senior majoring in journalism at USC Annenberg. He’s originally from Washington, DC and loves everything Beyoncé.



Engineer Jiefan Yang is from Jiangsu, China and is a junior studying Computer Science and Applied Mathematics. He is interested in deep reinforcement learning, video games and movies of all kind.


Johnny Zeng is an engineer at Crosstown, interested in backend technology. He comes from Jiangsu, China and is a master student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.


Lillian Zeng is a UIUX designer for crosstown and a student in the USC Iovine and Young Academy, where she is pursuing a future career in all things design. She is an avid video gamer who previously worked at Blizzard Entertainment and is also president of USC’s figure skating team.





Danielle Boyce, Joshua Chang, Amanda Curtis, Shirsho Dasgupta, Jake de Grazia, Darrell Florence, Racquel Fygenson, Lorraine Ge, Coco Huang, Shirley Huang, Andrew Hulin, Kate Lý Johnston, Ava Macha, Sarah Martin, Erick Moen, Naylee Nagda, Roy Pankey, Mara Pometti, Bulbul Rajagopal, Cyrus Shahabi, Heet Sheeth, Emily Stone, Dan Toomey, Ivy Tsang, Phoenix Tso, Sihan Wu, Zhuxin Xiong, Xinyi Xu, Juefei Yan, Mingxuan Yue and Lijie Zhao.

Portrait illustrations by Racquel Fygenson

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