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Nan Zhao is a PhD student at MIT Media Lab, where she works on interfaces and devices that enable sustainable behavior while also improving user experience. Her work spans indoor lighting design to smart urban furniture, and borrows from a variety of fields, including psychology, sensor technologies, and wearable computing technology.

Before joining the Media Lab, Nan conducted research in smart grid and vehicle-to-grid technology. As a fellow of RWE AG, a leading electricity and gas company in Germany, she was closely involved in the development and kick-off of a smart grid project in collaboration with IBM. She is a graduate in Electrical Engineering from RWTH Aachen University in Germany.

Nan Zhao’s work has been covered by The Boston Globe, CNN, MIT News, Engadget, Home and Garden TV, and others.


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Halo Mindful Photons Perception and Lighting bench Adaptive Lighting Relight Customizable Sensate Surface for Music Control Better Building Competition Ferro Tale EMI Spy 2012 MIT Media Lab India Workshop 2012 Interactive Design Profit Based Optimization for Vehicles To Grid Scheduling


N. Zhao and J.A. Paradiso. "HALO: Wearable Lighting", presented at UbiComp/ISWC '15 Adjunct, September 7-11, 2015, Osaka, Japan.
N. Zhao, G. Dublon, A. Dementyev, N. Gillian, and J.A. Paradiso. "EMI Spy: Harnessing Electromagnetic Interference for Low-Cost, Rapid Prototyping of Proxemic Interaction", presented at IEEE Conference on Body Sensor Networks (BSN), Cambridge, MA, 2015.
Random Walk and Lighting Control.,Aldrich, M., Badshah, A., Mayton, B., Paradiso, J.A., in in Proceedings of the IEEE Sensors Conference, Baltimore, MD, 2013.
WristQue: A personal sensor wristband.,Mayton, Brian D., Zhao, N., Aldrich, M., Gillian, N., Paradiso, Joseph A. in Body Sensor Networks (BSN), 2013 IEEE International Conference on , vol., no., pp.1,6, 2013.
A Customizable Sensate Surface for Music Control, Gong, N-W, Zhao, N., and Paradiso, J.A., in Proceedings of NIME 2012, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2012, pp. 417-420.
Nan Zhao, Xiang Cao, and Jaturont Jamigranont. 2012. Ferro tale: electromagnetic animation interface. In CHI '12 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI EA '12). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1447-1448.
Energy-efficient control of solid-state lighting, Paradiso, J.A., Aldrich, M., Zhao, N., SPIE Newsroom, March 25 2011.
Energy Efficient Control of Polychromatic Solid-State Lighting Using a Sensor Network, Aldrich, M., Zhao, N., and Paradiso, J.A., in Proc. SPIE (OP10) 7784 , San Diego CA, August 1-5, 2010.

Awards and Fellowships:
2013-2014 MIT Energy Fellow
2012 Department of Energy Better Building Case Competition
2011 RWTH Aachen Springorum-Denkmuenze
2007 Nokia Siemens Networks Frauenfoerderpreis Nokia Siemens Networks Women’s Prize
2007 RWE Studienfoerderung RWE Industry Fellowship
2006 Ideenwettbewerb: Wohnkomfort 2020 Ideas Competition: Living Comfort 2020
2005 DPG-Buchpreis German Association of Physics Book Prize

Work Experience:
2014 Co-founder of Changing Environments Inc, venture backed start-up providing smart city technology
2011 Internship at Microsoft Research Asia HCI Group
2010 Internship at RWE Deutschland AG Neue Technologien (New Technology)
2009-2007 Research Assistant at Laboratory of Machine Tools and Production Engineering RWTH Aachen University

2015 DOE Lighting Workshop in San Francisco
2014 Panel Keynote at Data Days 2014 in Berlin
2013 Tencent's WE summit in Shenzhen, China
2013 Boston Design Exchange in Boston

other things:
smartphone homunculus