Nora S Willett

I am a PhD student at Princeton University working with Prof. Adam Finkelstein as a part of the Princeton Graphics Group.  I am interested in making animation more accessible to novices.

Before starting my PhD at Princeton, I worked on the film "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" at DreamWorks Animation.  Prior to that, I studied at Stanford University, working with Dr. Pat Hanrahan, Dr. Vladlen Koltun and Dr. Marc Levoy.

In my spare time, I enjoy painting, cooking, practicing aikido and social dancing.



UI Research Intern

Autodesk, Summer 2017

Coming soon...

Research Intern

Adobe Systems, Fall 2016

Worked towards designing an intuitive UI system to animate 2D characters with multiple pieces of artwork. Designed 6 different touch layouts which allow users to animate a 2D character’s hand poses in a live performance animation environment. Completed a user study to gain feedback for future improvements.

Research Intern

Adobe Systems, Summer 2015

Developed techniques for adding secondary animation to 2D characters. Worked within the environment of Adobe Character Animator to create test characters, design movement of parts, and explore behavior reactions. Selected to present my research to the CEO at the internship’s conclusion.

Animation Technical Director

DreamWorks Animation/SKG, 2012-2013

Worked with animators to provide support for the film “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” Developed new tools in Python to make the pipeline process flow smoothly. Created a technique for animators to see complicated transitions between two shots. Solved the problem of animation and final layout overwriting the same models when simultaneously rendering a shot by creating independent staging areas for each render job.

Software Engineering Intern

NVIDIA, Summer 2011

Upgraded the context creation attribute support to include context priority support as well as indicate proper extension support. Added regression testing for the same functionality. Completed a large port of GLSL feature tests to the OpenGL ES driver revealing several bugs.



Princeton Univerity

PhD in Computer Science, 2014 - ...

Coursework: Advanced Computer Graphics, Advanced Networking, Advanced Algorithm Design

Stanford University

BS in Computer Science, 2008 - 2012

Coursework: Image Synthesis Techniques, Interactive Computer Graphics, Computer Graphics and Imaging, Math and CS behind Special Effects, The Science of Art, Digital Photography, Introduction to Animation

New York Film Academy

3D Computer Animation Certificate, Summer 2008

Wrote, storyboarded, modeled, textured, rigged, animated, lighted, and rendered an animated film with Autodesk Maya.



Machine Learning for Characterization of Insect Vector Feeding

PLOS Computational Biology

Willett DS, George J, Willett NS, Stelinski LL, Lapointe SL

By connecting insects and their food source via an electrical circuit, computers, using machine learning algorithms, can learn to recognize insect feeding patterns involved in pathogen transmission. In addition, these machine learning algorithms can show us novel patterns of insect feeding and uncover mechanisms that lead to disruption of pathogen transmission.



Secondary Animation for Illustrated Characters

Silver Research Talk Award, Princeton Research Day 2016

Gave a 10 minute talk to a general audience decribing my research on adding secondary animation to illustrated characters via physical simulation.

Maya Animation Seminar

Princeton, March 2016

Gave a 1.5 hour seminar about the animation production pipeline using Autodesk Maya.  Students created a short animation of a ball bouncing.

Research Assistant

Stanford - Pat Hanrahan, Spring 2012

Implemented the ability to save a deformed mesh in the Liszt language, a domain-specific language for constructing mesh-based PDE solvers. Applied this new technique to a biological cell simulation.

Adaptive grids

Bilkent University - Ugur Gudukbay, Fall 2011

Implemented the creation of a Delaunay Triangulation from a mesh in Matlab. Compared results with the Adaptive Grid method, an image-based approach to generate navigation meshes for simulating large crowds in C++.

Cherry Pie

Stanford CS 348b, Spring 2011

Second Prize Rendering Competition

We used volumetric photon mapping with multiple scattering to render the cherry sauce in a cherry pie.


3D Model of Schaffhausen

Stanford - Vladlen Koltun, Summer 2010

Created a 3D model of Schaffhausen, Switzerland to be used in a large-scale renderer. Used CityEngine to procedurally populate the houses using street data from OpenStreetMap. Created detailed facades for the houses using Autodesk Maya and Adobe Photoshop. Used Vue XStream to create the terrain. Used Dryad to create the trees and wrote programs in C++ to place the trees.

Animation Production Pipeline

Stanford CS 448x, Spring 2010

This project explores the production pipeline used to create a short or feature film in animation studios. Each part of the process is described with examples from industry and from the animated short "Croak," which we created with Autodesk Maya and Final Cut Pro. The short can be found here.

Interactive Digital Photography Illustrations

Stanford - Marc Levoy, Summer 2009

Designed and programmed Flash applets to supplement course material for Introduction to Digital Photography so that students gain a deeper understanding of the technical aspects of photography. Used Flex Builder, Pixel Bender, and Adobe Dreamweaver to create the applets and a web page to house them. Applets focused on phase and contrast detection autofocusing, Maxwell’s color matching experiment and gamut mapping. Applets can be found here.



COS426: Computer Graphics

Teaching Assistant

Princeton, Spring 2016

This course studies topics in computer graphics, covering methods in image processing, modeling, rendering, and animation.

COS226: Algorithms and Data Structures

Teaching Assistant

Princeton, Fall 2015

This course surveys the most important algorithms and data structures in use on computers today. Particular emphasis is given to algorithms for sorting, searching, and string processing. Fundamental algorithms in a number of other areas are covered as well, including geometric and graph algorithms.



Code Day Speaker

Upper Elementary School - Wrightstown, NJ, Fall 2015

Talked with a class of 30 fifth grade students to inspire them to continue to learn about computer science. Answered their questions about 3D computer animated films.

Girls Who Code Mentor

Adobe Systems, Summer 2015

Met with a middle school girl every week to talk about her career goals and offered advice on how to achieve them.



Secondary Animation for Illustrated Characters

Silver Research Talk Award, Princeton Research Day 2016

Won second place amoung graduate student presentors for my talk.

Presidential Fellowship

Princeton University, 2015


Tau Beta Pi

Member, 2012


Rendering Competition

Second Prize, Spring 2011

Our cherry pie rendering won honorable mention in the rendering competition for Stanford's CS 348b class.

Google Games

Second Place, 2010

My team of four won second place during the annual Stanford vs Berkeley Google Games in Mountain View, CA.