Semi Ryu, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Kinetic Imaging, School of the Arts

Associate Professor, Department of Internal Medicine, School of Medicine (Affiliate)

Affiliated Faculty, MATX (Media, Art and Text PhD program), College of Humanities and Sciences

Department of Kinetic Imaging

Semi Ryu is a media artist exploring experimental 3D animations, Avatar, and Extended Reality (XR) projects, inspired by Korean healing rituals. Currently holding the position of a full professor at VCU Arts in the Kinetic Imaging department, she also serves as an associate professor of Internal Medicine at VCU Medicine as an affiliate.

Ryu earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree from Korea National University of Arts, followed by a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from Carnegie Mellon University. Her pursuit of knowledge culminated in the highest honor, a Ph.D., which she obtained from the Doctoral program in Humanities and Communication at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Barcelona, with her doctoral thesis titled ‘Embodied Avatar Performance, Han Healing Ritual, and Life-Review: Intersections of Art, Health, and Virtual Reality.’

Dr. Ryu’s work has made a significant impact on the global stage, with her art featured in 23 countries through international screenings, exhibitions, and performances. Her articles have been published in prestigious journals, including the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, Journal of Palliative Medicine, and Arts & Health. She’s been invited to contribute a chapter on ‘the Arts and Palliative Care and End of Life’ to the Routledge Handbook of Arts and Health. Dr. Ryu’s achievements include winning the 2020 Hamilton International Arts in Health award (first place in Arts for Innovation) and the VCU Arts Faculty Award for Distinguished Achievement in Research in 2017. She’s also been a TEDxRVA speaker with her talk ‘Virtual Reality for Han.’

Her research initiatives have received substantial support from various grants, including those from the VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund, VCU Breakthrough, Massey Cancer Center, NEH, NSF, and most recently, the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI). The CCI Grant supports her project titled ‘SentimentVoice: Integrating Emotion AI and VR in Performing Arts,’ a live VR performance art endeavor that harnesses emotion-tracking AI technology to amplify the narratives of immigrant populations. This project explores two critical facets of AI: surveillance and empathy. For more details, please visit

Recent Work

Performing Virtual Bodies

International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media Jun. 16 2020

Feasibility of Delivering Avatar Facilitated Life-review Intervention for Patient with Cancer

Co-authored with Malisa Dang, Egidio del Fabbro, Danielle Noreika
Journal of Palliative Medicine Sep. 2020

Embodied Storytelling and Meaning-Making at the End of Life

Co-authored with Sarah Price, Associate dean, Social Work
Arts & Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice 2021