Note: In 2013, Health Games Research completed its work. This web site is now an archive and will not be updated. Please visit the web site of the Center for Digital Games Research at UC Santa Barbara to find current information about health games and the broader field of digital games, and to use the Health Games Research online searchable database.

National Advisory Committee

Chair: Leighton Read, Alloy Ventures

J. Leighton Read, M.D., is a venture capitalist and a successful entrepreneur and CEO. His companies have created outstanding financial returns by delivering innovation to solve needs in discovery of new medicines, life science research and public health. For over two decades, he has also been interested in the psychological principles that underlie successful electronic games and is currently devoting substantial time to his role as Executive Chairman of Seriosity.

He has beenGeneral Partner in four Alloy Ventures funds. Alloy is a Palo Alto, CA, early-stage venture fund with over $1 billion under management. Before joining the firm in 2001, Leighton spent 14 years as a biotechnology entrepreneur and investor. He co-founded Affymax NV, under the direction of Dr. Alejandro Zaffaroni, setting the stage for two successful spin-outs: Affymetrix and Maxygen. He founded Aviron, a biotechnology company best known as the developer of FluMist™, the intranasal influenza vaccine, where he served as Chairman and CEO until 1999 and Director until its acquisition by MedImmune in 2002. While at Alloy, he funded a spin-out of Maxygen and served as the first CEO of Avidia, Inc, later acquired by Amgen.

Leighton received a B.S. from Rice University in Psychology and Biology (1973), an MD from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (1976) and completed internal medicine training at Duke and the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston where he held appointments at the Harvard Medical School and School of Public Health. His published research dealt with applications of decision theory in medicine, cost-effectiveness analysis, and policy regarding medical innovation. Based on a long-standing interest in computer-aided decision-making, he produced a successful interactive PC game in 1984 to promote healthy lifestyles based on text-based adventure games and behavior modification principles. He is a director of a number of young companies in the fields of biotechnology, medical devices, nanotechnology, cleantech, and software. He also serves as a trustee or director of The BeneTech Initiative, BioVentures for Global Health, The UC Berkeley Foundation and School of Public Health Council, and the Santa Fe Institute. He is an inventor on dozens of issued patents and his awards include Ernst & Young’s Northern California Life Science Entrepreneur of the Year and several as co-inventor of technology underlying the Affymetrix GeneChip™.


Steve Cole, HopeLab

Steve Cole, Ph.D., is Vice President of Research at HopeLab. He designs HopeLab’s research programs and oversees the HopeLab research staff as they conduct formative studies on product design and summative studies gauging product impact. He is charged with identifying new scientific opportunities and ensuring that HopeLab’s interventions are based on the latest medical and psychological information available.

Dr. Cole also serves as an Associate Professor in the Division of Hematology-Oncology at the UCLA School of Medicine. His research examines how social factors regulate gene expression in human, viral, and tumor genomes. He is an associate member of the Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, the UCLA Molecular Biology Institute, and the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Cole also serves as a consultant to the National Cancer Institute’s Basic and Biobehavioral Research Branch, and serves on the Editorial Board of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society journal, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

After receiving his Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University in 1992, Dr. Cole completed an NIMH Postdoctoral Fellowship in Health Psychology at UCLA, and a Norman Cousins Fellowship in Molecular Virology at the UCLA School of Medicine. He is a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society, and the American Statistical Association.

Dr. Cole has authored more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific publications, and his laboratory research is supported by grants from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Cancer Institute.


James Gee, Arizona State University

James Paul Gee, Ph.D., is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University. He is a member of the National Academy of Education. His book Sociolinguistics and Literacies (1990, Third Edition 2007) was one of the founding documents in the formation of the New Literacy Studies, an interdisciplinary field devoted to studying language, learning, and literacy in an integrated way in the full range of their cognitive, social, and cultural contexts. His book An Introduction to Discourse Analysis (1999, Second Edition 2005) brings together his work on a methodology for studying communication in its cultural settings, an approach that has been widely influential over the last two decades. His most recent books both deal with video games, language, and learning. What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (2003, Second Edition 2007) argues that good video games are designed to enhance learning through effective learning principles supported by research in the Learning Sciences. Situated Language and Learning (2004) places video games within an overall theory of learning and literacy and shows how they can help us in thinking about the reform of schools. His most recent book is Good Video Games and Good Learning: Collected Essays (2007). Prof. Gee has published widely in journals in linguistics, psychology, the social sciences, and education.


Muki Hansteen-Izora, Intel

Muki Hansteen-Izora is a Research Scientist and Senior Design Researcher with the Product Research and Incubation group within Intel Corporation’s Digital Health Group. A primary emphasis of his research is on the conceptualization, prototyping, and piloting of interactive technologies to support aging for the growing elderly populations in the US and Europe. An element of this research is an exploration of video games and gaming interaction metaphors as useful tools in designing technology based applications to support health and independence for the elderly and other segments of society. He serves as the Digital Health Group’s liaison to Intel’s Serious Games Applications Sub-Committee on the Intel Research Council. Muki’s other work explores the ways in which underserved communities in the developing world might harness digital tools to improve health and well being. Through ecosystem driven, user needs based research and collaborative human-centered design, this work focuses on identifying relevant and appropriate technology based solutions to health needs for those who most lack adequate access to care. Common to both research strands is an emphasis on employing anthropological methods to better understand the socio-cultural context of health needs and health work practices as a basis for identify relevant technology based design opportunities.

Muki has spent over 10 years investigating interactive technology applications and technology adoption in low resource settings from multiple perspectives: ethnographic research, experience and interaction design, content and service strategy, and product development. Prior to joining Intel, Muki served as a lead researcher at Philips Research Labs focused on the development of prototype mobile devices and associated software applications for emerging markets. Central to this work was the design of a novel platform for merging entertainment content (games, music, etc.) with socially relevant services (health access, training). At HP, he played a key role in the launch the worldwide e-inclusion initiative, and previously led similar initiatives in the non-profit sector in partnership with the US Govt., Microsoft, Cisco, Wired Magazine, and many others. He holds an undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California at Santa Cruz, and completed his graduate training in Learning, Design, and Technology at Stanford University.


Marguerita Lightfoot, UCSF Core Center for AIDS Prevention Studies

Dr. Marguerita Lightfoot, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist who conducts research within the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Fransico (UCSF). Her research specialization is in the areas of adolescents, intervention, and prevention. She has been involved in research interventions that included the recruitment and implementation of a research protocol with ethnically diverse populations of low-income women and men from health care settings, youth living with HIV, and seriously mentally ill women and men. In addition, she has worked as a Mental Health Clinician at a mental health clinic that served primarily low-income people of color. She's conducted psychotherapy with predominately African American and Latino adults, couples, and families infected and/or affected by HIV. She is particularly interested in developing cost-effective interventions that are easily translatable with utility in community settings and utilizes new technologies to engage disenfranchised individuals in health promotion activities.

Her work in HIV-prevention has included developing interventions for runaway/homeless youth, juvenile justice involved adolescents, and youth living with HIV, among others. She has a unique ability to determine the programmatic needs of the most vulnerable populations and develop programs that are cutting-edge and likely to successfully engage these populations to increase mental health functioning and well-being.


Rosalind Picard, MIT Media Lab

Rosalind W. Picard, Sc.D., is founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Laboratory, co-director of the Things That Think Consortium, the largest industrial sponsorship organization at the lab, and leader of the new and growing Autism Communication Technology Initiative at MIT. She holds a Bachelors in Electrical Engineering with highest honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and Masters and Doctorate degrees, both in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Prior to completing her doctorate at MIT, she was a Member of the Technical Staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories where she designed VLSI chips for digital signal processing and developed new methods of image compression and analysis. She has been on the faculty of the MIT Media Lab since 1991, where she rose from the rank of Assistant Professor to Full Professor.

The author of nearly two hundred scientific articles and chapters in multidimensional signal modeling, computer vision, pattern recognition, machine learning, and human-computer interaction, Picard is known internationally for envisioning and conducting research in the field of affective computing. Her award-winning book, Affective Computing, (MIT Press, 1997) lays the groundwork for giving machines the skills of emotional intelligence. Prior to starting work in affective computing, Picard pioneered research in content-based image and video retrieval, and was known internationally for her contributions to the Photobook system and to image and video modeling. She is recipient of a best paper prize for work on machine learning with multiple models (with Tom Minka, 1998) and is recipient of a best theory paper prize for work on affect in human learning (with Barry Kort and Rob Reilly, 2001). In 2005 she was honored as a Fellow of the IEEE. Picard and her students have designed and developed a variety of new sensors, algorithms, and systems for sensing, recognizing, and responding respectfully to human affective information, with applications in autism communication, human and machine learning, health behavior change, marketing, customer service, and human-computer interaction.

Dr. Picard has served regularly on international and national science and engineering program committees, editorial boards, and review panels, including (most recently) the Advisory Committee for the National Science Foundation's (NSF's) division of Computers in Science and Engineering (CISE), the Advisory Board for the Georgia Tech College of Computing, and the Editorial Board of User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction: The Journal of Personalization Research. She also served as chair of the NSF's Committee of Visitors for the Information and Intelligent Systems Division.


Nichole Pinkard, University of Chicago Urban Education Institute

Nichole D. Pinkard, Ph.D., is the Director of Innovation for the University of Chicago's Urban Education Institute (UEI) where she plays a leading role in UEI's engagement in creating optimal learning environments that span school, home and community. Dr. Pinkard has led efforts to implement 1:1 computing in urban schools, integrate new media into core instruction, and create new media learning opportunities outside of the school day.

Dr. Pinkard is a recipient of the Jan Hawkins Award for Early Career Contributions to Humanistic Research and Scholarship in Learning Technologies and an NSF Early Career Fellowship. She serves on the Advisory Board of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center.

Her current scholarly interests include the design and use of pedagogical-based social networks, new media literacy learning outcomes, and ecological models of learning. She holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, an M.S. in Computer Science from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University.


Kevin Patrick, University of California, San Diego

Kevin Patrick, M.D., M.S., is a Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego and Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. He directs the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2). His research focuses on how ubiquitous computing environments and mobile applications for real-time health behavior assessment and feedback can support improved health-related behaviors of individuals and populations. His current research focuses on physical activity and diet, depression, successful aging, diabetes prevention, and methods to improve gene/environment exposure biology research. He is a Senior Advisor to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Active Living Research program. Dr. Patrick is Co-founder of Santech, Inc. of La Jolla, California, which is developing mobile applications for real-time health behavior measurement and improvement.


Elsie Taveras, Harvard Medical School

Elsie M. Taveras, M.D., M.P.H. is an Assistant Professor of Ambulatory Care and Prevention at Harvard Medical School and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston.

She received her bachelor of science and medical doctor degrees at New York University in New York City. After receiving her MD, she did her internship, residency, and chief residency at the Boston Combined Residency Program in Pediatrics, a joint program of Boston Medical Center and Children’s Hospital Boston. In 2001, Dr. Taveras joined the Harvard Pediatric Health Services Research Fellowship Program and received her Master’s in Public Health with a concentration in clinical effectiveness from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Dr. Taveras is the Associate Director of the Obesity Prevention Program at the Department of Ambulatory Care and Prevention, a joint department of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Taveras is also on staff at Children’s Hospital Boston where she directs a multidisciplinary childhood obesity prevention clinic in General Pediatrics.

Dr. Taveras’ main focus of research is understanding determinants of obesity in children and adolescents and developing interventions to prevent obesity in young children, especially in underserved populations. Dr. Taveras’ publications have examined diet, activity, and weight determinants in later childhood, such as fast food intake, family dinner, and aspects of mass media. One of her current research projects involves developing and pilot testing an innovative, culturally tailored intervention to prevent obesity among 2- through 5-year-old, low income, minority children. This intervention will use an integrated information system (Internet, telephone, and e-mail) to support parents in preventing obesity and in making healthy nutrition and physical activity behavior changes in their overweight children.


James Watt, University of Connecticut

James Watt, Ph.D., is  Emeritus Professor of Communication Science and Affiliate Researcher at in the Center for Health, Intervention, and Prevention at the University of Connecticut. He was formerly Chair of the Department of Language, Literature, and Communication and Director of the Social and Behavioral Research Laboratory at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he helped create one of the first undergraduate degree programs in Games and Simulation.

He is the author of two books, Research Methods for Communication Science and Cycles and Dynamic Patterns in Communication Processes, as well as 53 articles, book chapters and published proceedings, and over 50 conference papers and technical reports covering a range of new communication technology and human-computer interaction research areas, as well as traditional media effects research. He has received six research paper awards and was awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialist fellowship to consult on new media technologies research and education at the University of South Australia in 2006.

He has been Principal Investigator or co-PI on 24 research grants and contracts from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, National Institutes of Health, National Association of Broadcasters, and corporate sponsors including IBM, AT&T, CBS Research, and Children’s Television Workshop.


Nick Yee, Palo Alto Research Center

Nick Yee, Ph.D., is a research scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). His research interests focus on self-representation and social interaction in virtual environments. At Stanford's Virtual Human Interaction Lab, Nick examined how rules of social interaction could be broken productively in immersive virtual reality environments. Over the past 8 years, he has also surveyed over 70,000 online gamers on a wide variety of issues, such as demographic differences, motivations for play, and relationship formation. In his work at Sony Online Entertainment and PARC, Nick has also used data-mining techniques to explore server-side data from online games. Nick's work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Business Week among other places.


Program Advisor: Robin Nabi, University of California, Santa Barbara

Robin L. Nabi, Ph.D., is an associate professor of communication at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received her Ph.D. from the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylania. Her research interests focus on discrete emotions’ influence on message processing and decision making in response to media messages that concern health or social issues. She has published over 40 articles and book chapters, and she has served on the editorial boards of several journals, including Journal of Communication, Human Communication Research, Communication Theory, Communication Research, and Social Influence. She has chaired the Mass Communication Division of the International Communication Association and the Communication and Social Cognition Division of the National Communication Association. She currently serves as a co-editor of Media Psychology and is co-editor of the forthcoming Handbook of Media Processes and Effects.