Willie Payne

Assistant Professor at UNC-Chapel Hill


Creative Expression • Accessibility • CS Ed

Comics • Coffee • Running • New Music • New Fiction

Reach Me

william [dot] payne [at] unc [dot] edu

Chapel Hill, NC

Skinny Jewish dude with short curly hair and transparent, silver glasses.

About Willie

I am an Assistant Professor of User Experience / Design at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science (SILS).

I study how technology can facilitate creative expression and open pathways for people to express themselves on their own terms. I build accessible musical instruments and creative coding environments. I use a participatory approach to research in which I work closely with end-users throughout a design process and situate interventions in authentic learning and art making environments.

I have published work at highly selective HCI conferences. I recently won Best Technical Paper at Web4All '22 and Best Paper Honorable Mention at CHI '21. I regularly co-author with undergraduate students. My mentorship efforts received recognition at NYU, and my students won 3rd place at the NYU Engineering Research Expo.

I hold a PhD in Music Technology at NYU. From 2020–2023, I was the research assistant for Dancing Across Boundaries (DAB!) and the Accessible Music Technology Fellow at FMDG Music School. I was advised by Amy Hurst, and mentored by Yoav Bergner, Kayla DesPortes, and R. Luke DuBois.

I also hold a BS/MS in Computer Science and a BM in Music Composition from CU Boulder. I attended CU on a Boettcher Scholarship (full-ride to any Colorado university) and was the Outstanding Graduate of Engineering. At CU I performed in new-music ensembles like the Boulder Laptop Orchestra (BLOrk), studied with Shaun Kane, Clayton Lewis, and Michael Theodore, and lived in the Engineering Honors Program.

Selected Projects


2022 / accessible music technology
Text-based music notation software for writing braille and print scores.


MusEDLab VIP, FMDG School, Amy Hurst, R. Luke DuBois



2020 / culturally relevent, creative coding, cs ed
Domain specific programming language for building animations that react to movement.


2019 / accessible music technology
Eye controlled synthesizer with sequencing and effects automation.

Single-Input Instruments

2019 / accessible music technology
Series of audio-visual interactives that can be played with one button.

Non-Visual Beats

2019 / accessible music technology
Drum sequencer exploring non-visual interactions through keyboard nav, text-to-speech, and sonification.


2018 / creative coding
Javascript API for interacting with BLE Tinkamo blocks in the browser for rapid physical computing prototypes.


2016 / experimental, iPads
Boulder Image and Sound Network - multimedia performance ensemble.

Electromagnetic Dulcimer

2016 / new instrument for musical expression
Networked, ambient strings. Part of the Solid Noise Robot Ensemble.

Guitar Processor

2015 / guitar effects
Multi-effects patch with standard and experimental sounds. Built in Max.


Mentorship is important to me. Undergraduate research assistants are marked with † while Masters students I mentored for thesis credit are marked with ‡.

Conference Proceedings

Posters and Demos

Features and Talks


githubSILSAbility ProjectFMDG Music School
Willie Payne - 2024