Social Media Analytics Research Team (SMART) Lab at Ohio University


Core Research Team: 

  • Dr. Laeeq Khan [Director, SMART Lab]

laeeqkhan.jpgDr. Laeeq Khan (PhD, Michigan State University) is the Director of the Social Media Analytics Research Team (SMART) Lab in the Scripps College of Communication. He is also an Assistant Professor in the School of Media Arts & Studies at Ohio University.

He received his Ph.D. in Media and Information Studies from Michigan State University. Dr. Khan has years of teaching, research, and consulting experience. Besides big data and analytics, his research investigates new media effects on society in general and on organizations and businesses in particular. More specifically, his work focuses on user engagement in social media in terms of online participation and and how content affects attitudes, opinions, and behaviors. He also studies communication and development for social change in a global context.

  • Dr. Howard Welser

Dr. Howard T. Welser (PhD, University of Washington) is an associate professor of Sociology at Ohio University.  He investigates how micro-level processes generate collective outcomes. His published work studies these dynamics across a diverse range of settings:  role playing and diffusion of innovation among Wikipedia editors, emergence of social roles in online discussion, how cooperation emerges among competing teams, and how forms of protest and organization emerge online and spread into real world groups.   

Dr. Welser applies quantitative analysis of structural dynamics across a wide range of social settings, but with special emphasis on inequality and social change.  He is increasingly interested in studying how technological developments that affect social interaction and alter people’s capacity for collective action are changing the nature of social groups, organizations, sub-cultures and institutions.  

  • Dr. Aimee Edmondson

Aimee_mugAimee Edmondson is Professor and Graduate Director at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She received her undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University (1990), her master’s degree from the University of Memphis (1998) and her Ph.D. from the University of Missouri (2008). She was a newspaper reporter for about a dozen years in Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, spending most of her professional career at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. She has received numerous reporting awards and has published scholarly articles about libel law as well as state sunshine laws in the Journal of Media Law & Ethics, Communications Law & Policy, the First Amendment Law Review, American Journalism and Journalism History, among others. She considers herself to be a “pracademic” who works to bridge gaps between the academy and the newsroom. She is a frequent instructor at the annual conferences of the Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) and the National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting (NICAR). Edmondson has taught data journalism skills to educators and journalists across the globe, including China, Germany, India, Kazakhstan and Kenya, as well as holding regular training sessions the United States for the U.S. State Department.

Research Associates:

  • Dr. Scott Titsworth


Scott serves as the Dean of the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University, a position that he has held since 2010. Scott has published over 50 articles, books, and edited chapters in the field of communication, with most exploring connections between classroom communication and student learning.


  • Dr. Greg Newton


Greg’s research interests include radio/TV programming and promotion; free speech and the regulation of electronic media; and management and leadership in media businesses. He has published journal articles in the International Journal on Media Management, Journal of Media Business Studies, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Journal of Radio Studies, Journal of Communication, Journal of Applied Communication Research, and Journal of Promotion Management. He has also authored or co-authored textbook chapters on programming and promotion; prepared comments in Federal Communications Commission proceedings; and has frequently been invited to speak on the regulation of offensive media content.

  • Dr. Karen Riggs

karenAn expert on social media, politics, identity, and the digital divide, Dr. Karen E. Riggs founded the Scripps College of Communication Social Media Certificate program in 2013. It was one of the first such programs in the United States and, with more than 200 students now enrolled, speedily became one of Ohio University’s largest certificate programs. Certificate students gain high-demand, emergent career skills and critical social media literacy from faculty teaching in all five Scripps College schools.

Riggs’ passions lie in understanding the cultural transformation that social media has spurred. She continues to develop new courses, such as Content Curation — a course that leads students through an emergent and intensifying field where practitioners innovatively filter, organize, present, and maintain aggregated web content — that trail-blaze this popular skill-set in higher education. Riggs has published two books on media technologies and older users: “Granny @ Work: Age and Technology on the Job in America” and “Mature Audiences: Television in the Lives of Elders.” In “Granny @ Work” Riggs analyzes how older people in the workplace deal with challenges presented by technological change.

  • Dr. Anahita Sanandaji

Anahita Sanandaji received a PhD degree in computer science from Oregon State University in 2018. Her research interests are Human Computer Interaction (HCI), data visualization and analytics, social computing, and User Experience (UX) research and design. As a researcher in the field of HCI, she focuses on designing innovative user interfaces and technologies that improve human interaction with computers. Her research methodology is a mix of theory, Human-Centered Design (HCD), implementation, and evaluation. She enjoys studying and analyzing how people interact with computing technologies and social spaces.

Dr. Sanandaji has worked as a graduate teaching assistant and instructor at Oregon State University during her PhD studies. Her teaching interests include usability engineering, UX/UI design, data visualization and analytics, and web programming. In 2014, her service was recognized with Vice Provost’s Award for Excellence in Innovation, Online–teaching–Credit, EECS degree in computer science at Oregon State University.

  • Dr. Saumya Pant

Saumya Photo

Dr. Saumya Pant has a PhD and Masters from Ohio University, focusing on communication for social change and interpersonal communication. She has scholarly interests in gender and health communication, communication for social change, critical cultural inquiry, transnational feminisms, and entertainment-education. She uses participatory and feminist methodologies to study social change. Recently, Dr. Pant has been looking at the role of social media in social change and has been studying social media activism by creating a series of social media campaign, Bring a Smile, which works to bring happiness among street children in India. She believes that social media activism differs from other form of activism in its reach, strength of networks and efficiency of operationalization.

  • Eli Flournoy

eli-flournoy_3Eli Flournoy is a 21-year veteran of  CNN’s news gathering operations in the United States and internationally, is charged with overseeing a 24/7 team of assignment editors and managers dedicated to serving more than 220 affiliate broadcasters outside the United States.


PhD Students:

  • Laura Harbert

LauraLaura Harbert is a Ph.D. candidate in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University, School of Media Arts & Studies. Her research interests include media and social change, digital documentary/storytelling, and gender, race, and class in the media. She is also interested in the way media works in rural contexts, specifically in Appalachia.   Her qualitative study on the experiences of women in U.S. public media was recently published in the Journal of Radio and Audio Media. Her work as a journalist and storyteller has been published across a range of media platforms, including print, web, and podcast/broadcast on West Virginia Public Broadcasting, Inside Appalachia, 100 Days in Appalachia, Scalawag, and Freakonomics Radio, among others.   Before returning to pursue her Ph.D.  Laura worked for nearly 20 years in public media and strategic communications, as a public radio general manager, program director, and producer; and as a non-profit communications director and media consultant.

  • Jessie Roark

JessieJessie is a doctoral student in the journalism program in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. She has an M.A. in Journalism from Ball State University, 2019; M.A. Digital Storytelling, Ball State University, 2008; and B.A. with majors in Theater and Telecommunications, Ball State University, 2005. Jessie’s research interests revolve around the representation of mental illness and disability in the media, and the effects of this representation on stigma and the larger conversation surrounding mental health and disability. Jessie has explored these effects in areas ranging from social isolation, treatment seeking behaviors, and economic implications. Jessie teaches Multiplatform Reporting and Writing at Ohio University. Jessie also has nearly a decade of experience in faculty research development involving workshops, classes and individual working sessions with faculty from all disciplines.

  • Aggrey Willis

AggreyAggrey Willis Otieno is a Communication for Development specialist. In 2011, he received a Master of Arts in Communications and Development and a graduate certificate in African Community Health from Ohio University. He is currently a PhD student at the School of Media Arts and Studies, Ohio University.

In development practice, Aggrey has over 16 years of resourceful work experience and skills in designing and facilitating participatory planning, monitoring, evaluation and learning protocols and processes in child protection, health communication & good governance promotion. Aggrey has worked and consulted for international development organizations in Child Rights, Social Accountability, and Health promotion.

  • Ghanem Elhersh

GhanemGhanem Elhersh is a Ph.D. candidate in the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University, School of Media Arts & Studies. His research interests include animation film industry, entertainment industry, stereotypes, and Radio and Television Production. He is also interested in Arab and Muslim media-related studies. Elhersh is a member of Kappa Tau Alpha, the National Journalism and Mass Communication Honorary 2018. He is also a member of Phi Kappa Phi by the election of the Chapter at Arkansas State University and is hereby granted the honors and privileges pertaining to membership in the society. Before returning to pursue his PhD, Elhersh worked for 3 years as a TV presenter, cameraman, reporter, and editor. 

  • Claudia Cisneros

claudiaClaudia Cisneros is a second year Master student in the Communication and Development program at Ohio University, as well as a first-year Master Journalism student in the same university. She received a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from The Pontificia Universidad Católica in Lima, Perú. She is a renown journalist in Peru who has also worked for various international news organizations. Her main areas of research interest are the Internet & Society, Social Media, Mass Media, Communication, Development, and Minorities’ Justice. She was awarded a National Human Rights Journalism award in Peru in 2014.


Former Members:

  • Dr. Stephanie Tikkanen
  • Dr. Jessica Ford
  • Dr. Irfan Kanat

Former Graduate Students:

Bowen Gao
Zulfia Zaher
Elizabeth Jenkins
Ika Idris
Nune Grigoryan
Nala Edwin
Zeyu Zhang

Former Undergraduate Students:

Alayna Hutchinson
Matt Lopreste
Haley Kennedy