My research seeks to understand creative process and build novel computational creativity support tools to enhance creative work across domains including writing, CS education, and design. I apply a computational lens to creativity research, drawing on technical skills from computer science and design in combination with other disciplines, including the humanities, to expand the communities, values, and ways of working that our software tools support. I lead the Process, Interaction, and Creativity Lab (PICL) at UIUC.

I received my PhD in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley, where I worked in human computer interaction with Eric Paulos in the Hybrid Ecologies Lab at UC Berkeley. I received an MS in Computer Science and a BS in Product Design from Stanford University.

For prospective students:

If you are a prospective graduate student interested in HCI, creativity, or education, apply to UIUC Computer Science and mention me in your application!


Diagram of design space.

A Design Space for Intelligent and Interactive Writing Assistants

Mina Lee, Katy Ilonka Gero, John Joon Young Chung, Simon Buckingham Shum, Vipul Raheja, Hua Shen, Subhashini Venugopalan, Thiemo Wambsganss, David Zhou, Emad A. Alghamdi, Tal August, Avinash Bhat, Madiha Zahrah Choksi, Senjuti Dutta, Jin L.C. Guo, Md Naimul Hoque, Yewon Kim, Simon Knight, Seyed Parsa Neshaei, Antonette Shibani, Disha Shrivastava, Lila Shroff, Agnia Sergeyuk, Jessi Stark, Sarah Sterman, Sitong Wang, Antoine Bosselut, Daniel Buschek, Joseph Chee Chang, Sherol Chen, Max Kreminski, Joonsuk Park, Roy Pea, Eugenia Ha Rim Rho, Zejiang Shen, Pao Siangliulue

CHI 2024

In our era of rapid technological advancements, the research landscape for writing assistants has become increasingly fragmented across various research communities. We seek to address the challenge by proposing a design space as a structured way to examine and explore the multidimensional space of intelligent and interactive writing assistants. Through community collaboration, we explore five aspects of writing assistants: task, user, technology, interaction, and ecosystem. Within each aspect, we define dimensions and codes by systematically reviewing 120 papers while leveraging the expertise of researchers in various disciplines. Our design space aims to offer researchers and designers a practical tool to navigate, comprehend, and compare the various possibilities of writing assistants, and aid in the design of new writing assistants.
screenshot of feedback interface for a sketch artifact

Kaleidoscope: A Reflective Documentation Tool for a User Interface Design Course

Sarah Sterman, Molly Nicholas, Janaki Vivrekar, Jessie Mindel, Eric Paulos

ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2023

Presents Kaleidoscope, a novel tool for documenting and interacting with design history in studio HCI courses. We deployed this tool in an upper-level HCI course during the COVID-19 pandemic to support student learning through feedback, reflection, and interactions with project histories.
Best Paper Award
three stages of designing a violin scroll

Towards Creative Version Control

Sarah Sterman*, Molly Nicholas*, Eric Paulos

ACM Conference On Computer-Supported Cooperative Work And Social Computing (CSCW), 2022

Explores how creative practitioners use version control tools and history information in creative process, and introduces four key considerations for version control in creative work: using versions as a palette of materials, providing confidence and freedom to explore, leveraging low-fidelity version capture, and reflecting on and reusing versions across long time scales. We discuss how the themes present across this wide range of mediums and domains can provide insight into future designs and uses of version control systems to support creative process.
diagram of mode switching

Creative and Motivational Strategies of Expert Creative Practitioners

Molly Nicholas*,Sarah Sterman*, Eric Paulos

ACM Conference on Creativity & Cognition (C&C), 2022

Explores how creative practitioners intentionally manage their creative process, for example by developing strategies to break out of ruts or stay motivated through uncertainty. Understanding the way experts engage with and manage creativity-relevant processes represents a rich source of foundational knowledge for designers of creativity support tools. We identify four strategies for managing process and discuss implications for the design of process-focused creativity support tools.
Best Paper Award
Visualization of text style.

Interacting with Literary Style through Computational Tools

Sarah Sterman, Evey Huang, Vivian Liu, Eric Paulos

ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2020

Presents a computational technique to surface style in written text. We collect a dataset of crowdsourced human judgments of style, derive a model of style by training a neural net on this data, and present novel applications for visualizing and browsing style across broad bodies of literature, as well as an interactive text editor with real-time style feedback. We study these interactive style applications with users and discuss implications for enabling this novel approach to style.
Laser Cutter Tags

Guardians of Practice: A Contextual Inquiry of Failure-Mitigation Strategies within Creative Practices

Cesar Torres, Sarah Sterman, Molly Nicholas, Richard Lin, Eric Pai, Eric Paulos

ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS), 2018

Outlines the design space of "guardians", or elements of a creative practice that mitigate the psychological effects of failure to create cultures of resiliency and perseverance. Through contextual inquiry, we contribute an inventory of failure-mitigation strategies from a variety of creative disciplines. We synthesize guidelines for the design of new guardians and present a preliminary exploration of guardians for the lasercutting practice.
User fixturing wood into joinery CnC

MatchSticks: Woodworking through Improvisational Digital Fabrication

Rundong Tian, Sarah Sterman, Ethan Chiou, Jeremy Warner, Eric Paulos

ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), 2018

Presents a novel digital fabrication system tailored for joinery. Combining a portable CNC machine, touchscreen user interface, and parametric joint library, MatchSticks enables makers of varying skill to rapidly explore and create artifacts from wood. Our system embodies tacit woodworking knowledge and distills the distributed workflow of CNC tools into a hand tool; it operates on materials existing machines find difficult, produces assemblies much larger than its workspace, and supports the parallel creation of geometries.
Best Paper Honorable Mention

HäirIÖ: Human Hair as Interactive Material

Christine Dierk, Sarah Sterman, Molly Nicholas, Eric Paulos

ACM Conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI), 2018

Presents an exploration and working prototype of hair as a site for novel interaction, leveraging hair's position as something both public and private, social and personal, malleable and permanent. We develop applications and interactions around this new material in HäirIÖ: a novel hair-based technology that combines capacitive touch input and dynamic output through color and shape change.
diff of story text revisions

Mechanical Novel: Crowdsourcing Complex Work through Reflection and Revision

Joy Kim, Sarah Sterman, Allegra Argent Beal Cohen, Michael S. Bernstein

ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW), 2017

Introduces a technique for achieving interdependent complex goals with crowdsourcing, such as fiction writing. We embody this approach in Mechanical Novel, a system that crowdsources short fiction stories on Amazon Mechanical Turk. In a field experiment, Mechanical Novel resulted in higher-quality stories than an iterative crowdsourcing workflow.


- Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, UC Berkeley
- UC Berkeley Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

  • Instructor
    Fall 2023
  • CS 160: User Interface Design and Development
    UC Berkeley
    Summer 2019
  • Graduate Student Instructor
    UC Berkeley
    Spring 2019
  • Graduate Student Instructor
    UC Berkeley
    Spring 2018
  • CS 101: Introduction to Computing Principles
    Teaching Assistant
    Stanford University
    Spring 2016
  • CS 247: Human-Computer Interaction Design Studio
    Teaching Assistant
    Stanford University
    Winter 2016
  • CS 105: Introduction to Computers
    Head Teaching Assistant
    Stanford University
    Winter 2015
  • CS 122: Artificial Intelligence – Philosophy, Ethics, and Impact
    Teaching Assistant
    Stanford University
    Fall 2014
  • CS 142: Web Applications
    Teaching Assistant
    Stanford University
    Spring 2014
  • CS 181: Computers, Ethics, and Public Policy
    Teaching Assistant
    Stanford University
    Fall 2013; Winter 2014
  • CS 103: Mathematical Foundations of Computing
    Teaching Assistant
    Stanford University
    Summer 2013
  • CS 106a: Programming Methodology
    Section Leader
    Stanford University
    Spring 2012
  • CS 2C: Introduction to Multimedia Production
    Section Instructor
    Stanford University
    Winter 2012
  • CS 1C: Introduction to Computing
    Section Instructor
    Stanford University
    Fall 2011