J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira

I am a 5th-year PhD Student studying joint human/AI systems, using a systems HCI approach. I'm advised by Björn Hartmann at UC Berkeley, supported by a Chancellor's Fellowship; I also work closely with John DeNero and Narges Norouzi at Berkeley, and with Qian Yang at Cornell.

My career has been driven primarily by one question: how do we help more people do more with computing—collaboratively? In recent years this work has focused on understanding and overcoming the challenges people face working with large pre-trained models and the systems we build with them.

I also spent years teaching programming & electronics, and launching a minor in Computational Practices at CCA. Previously, I studied human-robot interaction at Stanford, and was the founder & CTO at EtherPad, an early YC company acquired by Google.


My recent research falls into three core areas: Designers (visual arists, chatbot designers, writers) working with and through AI and LLMs; visual, physical, and cognitive aids for CS education; and other intersctions of HCI + ML.


Why Johnny Can't Prompt

How non-AI Experts Try {and Fail) to design LLM Prompts

Prompting for Discovery

Flexible Sense-Making for AI Art-Making with DreamSheets

Berkeley 61A TA-bot

Deployed AI assistant to 3000+ students in Berkeley's intro CS course

Herding AI Cats

Lessons from Designing a Chatbot by Prompting GPT-3

HCI + AI: LLMs, Large Pre-trained Models + Design

Prompting for Discovery: Flexible Sense-Making for AI Art-Making with DreamSheets CHI 2024 [preprint]

Shm Garanganao Almeda, J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Kyu Won Kim, Pradeep Mani Rathnam, Bjoern Hartmann

Existing Text-to-Image (TTI) models are typically wrapped in a limited single-input few-output paradigm.

DreamSheets embeds Stable Diffusion in Google Sheets, alongside a set of LLM-based functions also turns concepts (“colors”) into columns (“red”, “blue”, “green”, etc.). This enables:

  • ...artists' custom interfaces to explore gigantic design spaces of prompts and images, creating “axes” to help organize
  • ...rich history-keeping to track the impacts of prompt changes over far longer timeranges than the typical chatbox TTI interaction

An earlier version of this work also appeared at UIST—

Towards Image Design Space Exploration in Spreadsheets with LLM Formulae UIST 2023 demo track [pdf]

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Shm Garanganao Almeda, Kyu Won Kim, Bjoern Hartmann

Rambler: Supporting Writing With Speech via LLM-Assisted Gist Manipulation CHI 2024 [preprint]

Susan Lin, Jeremy Warner, J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Matthew G. Lee, Sauhard Jain, Michael Xuelin Huang, Piyawat Lertvittayakumjorn, Shanqing Cai, Shumin Zhai, Björn Hartmann, Can Liu

Why Prompting is Hard August 8th, 2023Data Skeptic Podcast

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, hosted by Kyle Polich

Iterative Disambiguation: Towards LLM-Supported Programming and System Design ICML 2023 AI&HCI workshop [pdf | poster]

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Bjoern Hartmann

Generative AI Salon #1: Human Rights Hopes & Concerns March 23rd, 2023Fight for the Future & Amnesty International [video]

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Shirin Anlen, Ken Mickles, and others

Why Johnny Can't Prompt: How Non-AI Experts Try (and Fail) to Design LLM Prompts CHI 2023 [pdf]

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Richmond Wong, Bjoern Hartmann, Qian Yang

LLMs promise to universalize natural language input for computing systems. But is this true? How effective are non-experts at prompting LLMs to get what they want? What intuitions do they bring to prompting, and where do those get in the way?

We built a prompt-only no-code chatbot design tool (BotDesigner, but think “GPTs”) and observed participants successes and struggles, finding that people:

  • ...bring expectations from human-human instructional interactions, and these are hard to let go of.
  • ...overgeneralize from single positive or negatve examples of a prompt + input + LLM output.

An earlier version of this work was selected to present at a NeurIPS workshop—

Towards End-User Prompt Engineering: Lessons From an LLM-based Chatbot Design Tool Human-Centered AI Workshop @ NeurIPS 2022 Presented

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Richmond Wong, Bjoern Hartmann, Qian Yang

Herding AI Cats: Lessons from Designing a Chatbot by Prompting GPT-3 DIS 2023 [pdf]

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Heather Wei, Amy Xiao, Kitty Gu, Grace Jung, Matthew G. Lee, Bjoern Hartmann, Qian Yang

How effective are experts at prompting LLMs to get what they want? Our expert team used BotDesigner to build a cooking-instruction chatbot inspired by Carla Lalli's charming personal style in Bon Appetit's Back-to-Back Chef.

We ran in to brittleness at many levels:

  • ...individial prompts for specific behavior often work, but effectivness is highly sensitive to phrasing and location within the overall prompt.
  • ...prompts do not always combine in intuitive ways.
  • ...getting GPT to say when it didn't know something was very hard.

Together, these led to highly prescriptive prompts—in many ways counteracting the purported flexibility of using an LLM to design a chatbot in the first place!

Democratizing Design and Fabrication Using Speech: Exploring co-design with a voice assistant CUI 2021 [pdf]

Andrea Cuadra, David Goedicke, J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira

How can we make design and fabrication more accessible to non-experts? We built a Wizard-of-Oz voice assistant to help people design and fabricate a holiday ornament, and observed how people used it; seeing a preview of design-work-in-progress lowered expectations but increased satisfaction with the final fabricated orgnament.

CS Education + Support

Conversational Programming with LLM-Powered Interactive Support in an Introductory Computer Science Course Generative AI in Education workshop @ NeurIPS 2024 [pdf]

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Laryn Qi, Bjoern Hartmann, John DeNero, Narges Norouzi

We deployed an LLM-based AI tutor for CS 61A, Berkeley's introductory CS course; in this workshop paper, we decsribe our process, preliminary results, and lessons learned.

Heimdall: A Remotely Controlled Inspection Workbench for Debugging Microcontroller Projects CHI 2019 [pdf] Best Paper Honorable Mention

Mitchell Karchemsky, J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Kuan-Ju Wu, François Guimbretière, and Bjoern Hartmann

Rudy the Red Dot

Rudy is a web-based IDE for learners of programming.

Intended to complement a course or workshop, Rudy helps teach the introductory concepts of procedural programming.

  • Levels are designed to dispel common misconceptions about programming.
  • Execution is highlighted to help students internalize the program counter and call stack.
  • Global variables and function scopes are shown to help students see how execution changes state.
  • Expression evaluation is illustrated by replacing subexpressions with evaluated values in real-time.

HCI + ML, HRI, Design

Detecting Disparities in Police Deployments using Dashcam Data FAccT 2023 [pdf]

Matthew Franchi, J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Wendy Ju, Emma Pierson

COVID-19 Non-pharmaceutical Interventions: data annotation for rapidly changing local policy information Nature Scientific Data, March 2023 [paper]

Benjamin Hurt, Oishee Bintey Hoque, Finn Mokrzycki, Anjali Mathew, Maryann Xue, Luka Gabitsinashvili, Haile Mokrzycki, Ranya Fischer, Nicholas Telesca, Lauren Aurelia Xue, Jacob Ritchie, J. D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Michael Bernstein, Mark Whiting & Madhav Marathe

Trucks Don't Mean Trump: Diagnosing Human error in Image Analysis FAccT 2022 [pdf]

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Jerry Chen, Emily Wen, Allison Koenecke, Nihkil Garg, Emma Pierson

Fake It to Make It: Exploratory Prototyping in HRI alt.HRI 2021 [pdf]

J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, David Sirkin, David Goedicke, Ray LC, Natalie Friedman, Ilan Mandel, Nik Martelaro, Wendy Ju

Tracking Urban Mobility and Occupancy under Social Distancing Policy Digital Government: Research and Practice, October 2020 [pdf]

Wendy Ju, Sharon Yavo-Ayalon, Ilan Mandel, Federico Saldarini, Natalie Friedman, Srinath Sibi, J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, Jorge Ortiz

How People Experience Autonomous Intersections: Taking a First-Person Perspective AutoUI 2019 [pdf]

Sven Krome, David Goedicke, Thomas J. Matarazzo, Zimeng Zhu, Zhenwei Zhang, J.D. Zamfirescu-Pereira, and Wendy Ju