The Neubauer Family Initiative for Excellence in Graduate Education is intended to recruit the most talented doctoral students from around the world by providing competitive fellowships to the University of Chicago’s Humanities, Social Sciences, and Physical Sciences Divisions. The inaugural cohort of Neubauer Family Distinguished Doctoral Fellows includes fifteen gifted students whose outstanding academic accomplishments thus far demonstrate their promise as scholars and teachers capable of making important contributions to their fields.
Name: Jake Butts PhD Program: PhD program in Psychology Hometown: Springfield, PA Education: Williams College; B.A., Psychology Research: My research explores conceptual development with a focus on mathematical symbols and notations. Specifically, I am interested in how linguistic input and spatial representations impact children’s understanding of mathematical concepts. Through this research, I hope to better understand the basic cognitive processes that drive learning and identify mechanisms to close achievement gaps in mathematics.
Name: David Cerny PhD Program: PhD program in Geophysical Sciences Hometown: Prague, Czech Republic Education: University of California, Los Angeles; B.S., Ecology, Behavior and Evolution Research: Since high school, I have been interested in the evolution of animals with backbones and in evolutionary processes taking place above the level of species. I took part in paleontological fieldwork in Krasiejów, Poland; conducted ecological and behavioral field research in French Polynesia; and worked as a computational biology research intern at the Centre de Regulació Genòmica in Barcelona, Spain. At UCLA, I had the opportunity to work in the Alfaro Lab on several projects involving molecular dating (a technique that combines paleontological information with DNA sequence data to infer the ages of origin of various groups of organisms), resulting in two published papers and several others still in preparation. In the Slater Lab at the University of Chicago, I hope to contribute to the development of methods that integrate fossil and molecular data in order to help us develop a deeper understanding of the evolution of Earth’s biosphere.
Name: Binglu Chen PhD Program: PhD program in Mathematics Hometown: Ningbo, Zhejiang, China Education: University of Chinese Academy of Sciences; B.S. Research: My undergraduate thesis is a very basic survey related to K-stability of Fano varieties, which itself is an active math branch. Now I’m trying to get into the research area of Algebraic Geometry and Representation Theory.
Name: Basil Dababneh PhD Program: PhD in Cinema and Media Studies Hometown: Buffalo Grove, IL Education: Vanderbilt University, BA, Cinema and Media Arts Research: Basil Dababneh is a PhD student in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. He holds a BA in Cinema and Media Arts from Vanderbilt University, where he also minored in Women’s and Gender Studies. His research coalesces around theories of cinematic temporality, the politics and aesthetics of queer theories of time, and the anachronisms of horror cinema in the digital age. He is also interested in postcolonial theory and Arab cinema.
Name: Daniel Epstein PhD Program: PhD Program in Political Science Hometown: Cape Elizabeth, ME Education: Harvard College, Cambridge, MA; A.B. Social Studies Research: My interests include restorative justice and prison abolition; relationships between politics, ethics, and law; 20th century social and political thought; phenomenology; and the politics of time. During the 2020-2021 academic year, I will be completing a Master of Legal Studies degree at the University of Chicago Law School.
Name: Zehua Lai PhD program: PhD program in computational and applied mathematics Hometown: Quanzhou, Fujian, China Education: Tsinghua University, BA in mathematics and economics Research: I am a first-year Ph.D. student at Committee on Computational and Applied Mathematics. Prior to coming to Chicago, he received his bachelors degrees in Economics and Mathematics at Tsinghua University. I have broad interests in machine learning, partial differential equations and image processing.
Name: María D. Hernández Limón PhD Program: PhD in Geophysical Sciences Hometown: Waukegan, IL Education: Brown University, Providence, RI; B.S., Geology-Biology;
Columbia University, New York, NY; Post-Bacc. Earth Science Research: Maria became the first in her family to graduate from college when she earned a B.S. in geology-biology in 2014 from Brown University. As a junior, Maria helped to assess hypoxia in Narragansett Bay, which led to her interest in aquatic ecosystems. After graduating, Maria worked with the Schuler Scholar Program which prepares underserved students to excel in college. In August 2016, Maria joined the Dyhrman laboratory at Columbia University, which focuses on understanding the interaction between phytoplankton and their environment. In 2017, María’s research focused on comparing data from phytoplankton grown at ambient and increased CO2 to elucidate how increases in CO2 influence phytoplankton physiology. The results were published in Frontiers in Microbiology. María’s current research aims to describe patterns of important process in Emiliania huxleyi from samples collected in the Pacific Ocean. At University of Chicago Maria hopes to explore the microbial diversity of the Great Lakes.
Name: Carol Medina PhD Program: PhD in Psychology Hometown: Charleston, SC Education: Brown University, Providence, RI; B.S. Psychology Research: Having been a summer camp counselor, babysitter, and pediatric health researcher, working with children has been a lifelong passion, but my interest in children’s cognition is a more recent discovery. In college, I discovered my fascination with the human mind and all that makes humans such extraordinary learners. This incredible capacity is most evident in toddlers as in only a few years, they go from knowing little about the world to being able to walk, talk, and recite the ABC’s! As a developmental psychologist at UChicago, I plan to study how children learn to navigate their world, when they learn from others, and how they generate hypotheses as such processes may be the foundation for children’s later science abilities. In addition to psychology, I am also passionate about music. I sing (mostly to myself) and played the sousaphone throughout college as a member of the Brown University Marching Band.
Name: Solomon Quinn PhD Program: PhD program in Computational and Applied Mathematics Hometown: New York, NY Education: University of Richmond, Richmond, VA; B.S., Mathematics and Physics Research: Solomon’s current research interests include physically motivated problems, particularly in quantum mechanics and applications of partial differential equations. At the University of Richmond, Solomon conducted research in cosmology with Prof. Ted Bunn, examining the possibility of extracting multi-wavelength maps from single-filter observations of the cosmic microwave background. Solomon and Prof. Bunn presented their results at the 231st American Astronomical Society Meeting in January, 2018. Solomon’s undergraduate work also included a project in game theory, under the supervision of Prof. Michael Kerckhove. Aside from mathematics and physics, Solomon enjoys playing the piano, sports, chess and hiking.
Name: Nicolás Torres-Echeverry PhD Program: PhD program in Sociology Hometown: Bogota, Colombia Education: Stanford Law School, Stanford, J.S.M. (Master of the Science of Law); Universidad de los Andes, Colombia, LL.B. (Law) and B.A. (Economics) Research: I am interested in political and economic sociology, specifically in how social interaction on the Internet is shaping people’s political and economic ideas. During my time at UChicago, I would like to reflect on the way the Internet and data are changing political and economic processes and the organizations behind such changes. My research adopts an interdisciplinary approach and combines quantitative and qualitative methods. Before coming to Chicago, I was at Stanford conducting socio-legal research as a JSD fellow and a research assistant at FSI’s Global Digital Policy Incubator. My previous research was on political sociology, in particular on state-building challenges in post-conflict settings, with a focus on Colombia. Before that, I worked as a researcher at the Center for the Study of Law, Justice, and Society (Dejusticia), and as a consultant for the Ministry of Justice in Colombia. I love cooking and swimming!
Name: Hai Tran Bach PhD Program: Statistics Ph.D. Hometown: Bucharest, Romania Education: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; B.S. , Mathematics & Data Science Research: My research interests are in Machine Learning, Network Analysis, and High Dimensional Inference. At the Big Data Summer Institute, I have worked in identifying the relationships between financial and private entities in the Panama Papers to unveil the world’s hidden wealth. Later at Chenope, I had the opportunity to build a statistical model which reveals the interaction of political clusters on Twitter over time. During my PhD program, I plan to further my understanding of the underlying structure of real big data sets. I am also interested in the socio-politico-economic history of the 20th century and trying new culinary recipes.
Name: Emily Willson PhD Program: PhD in Computer Science Hometown: Appleton, WI Education: Wheaton College (IL); B.S. Mathematics and Physics Research: I graduated from Wheaton in 2016 and was employed for several years as an applied research mathematician for the Department of Defense. My work there touched a variety of areas ranging from quantum computing to machine learning to blockchain technology. In my PhD studies at UChicago, I will pursue my research interests in applied machine learning and blockchain technologies through my work with Dr. Ben Zhao. Once I graduate, I hope to serve as a leader in a government, corporate, or academic research institution. In my spare time, I enjoy running, reading, and searching for the best pancake restaurant in the Chicagoland area.
Name: Chih-Hsuan Wu PhD Program: Statistics Hometown: Taiwan Education: National Taiwan University, Taiwan, MA, Mathematical Statistics; B.A., Mathematics Research: During my graduate school study, I accumulated research experiences by probing into a robust regression method, Self-Updating Process (SUP), with Dr. Ting-Li Chen. In the future, I hope to do more research on high-dimensional data and robust methods with faculties in UChicago.
Name: Angela Zorro Medina PhD Program: PhD program in Sociology Hometown: Bogota, Colombia Education: B.A. Economics Universidad de los Andes, LL.B Universidad de los Andes. LL.M. Yale Law School, JSD Candidate Yale Law School Research: My research focuses on the criminal justice system and the way it produces and reproduces inequality in Latin America and the United States. For the Latin American case, I study the impact of carceral outcomes in inequality, and the factors that influence the prison population. For the U.S. case, I study the impact of non-carceral outcomes in inequality at the sub-felony justice level.
Name: Chris Batterman Cháirez PhD Program: Ethnomusicology Hometown: Detroit, MI Education: Emory University, Atlanta GA; B.A. in Music and Latin American Studies Research: Generally speaking, I am interested in music and sound’s intersection with the political, broadly defined. More specifically, my work examines questions of race/ethnicity, nationalisms and cosmopolitanisms, post-coloniality, and modernity in Latin American sonic contexts (especially in Brazil and Mexico). I am a proponent of collapsing disciplinary boundaries and blurring lines of inquiry. My research, then, draws upon music studies, sound studies, critical theory, ethnic studies, history, and anthropology to consider music/sound’s aesthetic, affective, and material functions in society. To that end, much of my past work has interrogated questions of subjectivity, racialization, indigeneity, and constructions of identity and community in Brazil and greater Mexico. Past contexts for this research have included: Brazilian opera and ideologies of race and nation; hip-hop, language, and racialized communicative aesthetics; community, nationalism, and political militancy in Chicana/o music; and opera, early ethnography, indigenous language, and racialized listening in 19th c. Mexico.
Name: Avigail Ben-Gad PhD Program: Egyptology Hometown: Haifa, Israel Education: Research: I am a first-year PhD student in the Egyptology program with research interests focusing mainly on Egyptian interactions with the Near East during the New Kingdom, particularly under the Ramesside kings of the 19th and 20th dynasties. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Egyptology and Assyriology at Cambridge University, where my dissertation investigated parallels between Ancient Egyptian and Semitic literary texts in order to reconstruct possible models for the cross-cultural spread of ideas. My non-academic interests include reading science fiction and fantasy, attempting to garden, and playing the violin.
Name: Sthira Bhattacharya PhD Program: South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC) Hometown: Dhanbad, India. Education: BA English, Delhi University (2014); MA English, Jawaharlal Nehru University (2016); MPhil English, Jawaharlal Nehru University (2018) Research: I hope to explore how different actors imagined what it meant to lead ‘public’ lives in late 19th-early 20thcentury eastern India; how and why certain print and oral genres as well as forms of associational life gained popularity in this context; and processes of subject-formation and self-fashioning specific to actors’ location within social-linguistic hierarchies.
Name: John Burden PhD Program: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Hometown: Harrisonburg, Virginia Education: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va: B.A. in Foreign Affairs; University of Oxford, Oxford, UK: MPhil in Islamic Studies and History Research: I am a PhD student focusing on Islamic Thought. My research interests include Islamic Law, particularly medieval and early modern legal reasoning, as well as Sufism and its role in the construction of religious orthodoxy in the medieval period. My graduate thesis, entitled “The ‘Real’ Uṣūl al-Fiqh? The Role of Qawāʿid Fiqhiyya in Late Medieval and Early Modern Islamic Legal Reasoning,” explores the function of Islamic legal maxims in the interpretation and extension of legal precedents identified in canonical handbooks of positive law. I have worked, studied and travelled throughout the MENA region. I spent a year working at the Casablanca American School in Morocco, followed by two summers studying Classical Arabic at Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman, Jordan. I have also worked for a peace-building NGO in Israel/Palestine. In my free time, I enjoy reading (especially 19thcentury Russian and 20thcentury American literature), cooking, and playing ultimate frisbee.
Name: Irina Cristali PhD Program: Statistics Hometown: Bucharest, Romania Education: Duke University, Durham, N.C.; B.S., Mathematics and B.S., Statistical Science Research: Finding rigorous proofs and explanations has always challenged me and it motivated me to expand my mathematical foundation. At Duke University, I deepened my background in computational analysis and probability theory and used it to pursue exciting research in both pure and applied mathematics. My two projects in probability were focused on investigating the limit behavior of random structures. I also used dynamical systems to study the renal blood flow autoregulation and model time-series processes, and I understood the important role real data plays in model design. As a Statistics PhD student, I plan to combine theoretical probability techniques with data-driven modeling and inference, and discover new estimation and uncertainty quantification methods. I am currently interested in theoretical high-dimensional and statistical learning problems, motivated by real world applications.
Name: Yue Deng PhD Program: Geophysical Sciences Hometown: Shenzhen, China Education: Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA; B.A., Biological Sciences / Classics (minor) Research: I became interested in evolutionary biology after a class my first year of college. Then I stumbled upon a most bizarre group of bivalves– the watering pot shells, which I wrote an undergrad thesis on, and which dragged me into the world of bivalves. I’m now interested in further understanding the evolution of bivalves combining paleontological data with the biology of living species.
Name: Daniel Ehrlich PhD Program: Economics Hometown: Boston, MA Education: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; B.A., Economics Research: My research explores the determinants of economic growth in developing countries, particularly through the lens of regional variation and spatial distributions of economic activity. Joint work with Professor Robert Townsend (MIT) examines the spatial effects of scaling up financial interventions in rural Thailand and how individuals migrate in response to changes in access to financial services. My other projects including examining the effects of geographic location on entrepreneurship in Ghana and the joint responses of regional trade-financial linkages in the US to economic shocks. I am excited to be back at UChicago to start my PhD. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, backpacking, and window shopping at farmer’s markets.
Name: Cristina Esteves-Wolff PhD Program:Hispanic and Luso-Brazilian Studies Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico Education: B.A. Literature, Yale University; J.D., Fordham University School of Law; M.A. Comparative Literature, University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras Research: My research focuses on identity politics of peripheral subjects, those on the margins of discourses of power. I work primarily with 20thand 21stcentury Caribbean and Latin American literature with a focus on postcolonial and decolonial theory. As a scholar of law and literature, I am also interested in exploring how the judicial and political fictions of modernity intersect with identity formation and cultural production. My Master’s thesis focused on the Puerto Rican case study, and I will now broaden the scope of my work towards a comparative analysis of the colonial experiences of peripheral subjects throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. My research looks for points of correspondence and dissonance across empires, as well as how imperial formations endure and reproduce themselves in modern territories and nation-states.
Name: Jane Gordon PhD Program: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Cuneiform Studies) Hometown: Ardmore, PA Education: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; BA, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations;University College London, London, UK; MA, Ancient History Research: I study the textual record of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Syria), with a particular focus on literary development and cultural exchange during the second millennium B.C.E. While I was an undergraduate at Chicago, I wrote a thesis on the narratological use of physical spaces in the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. I then pursued an MA in Ancient History from University College London, where my master’s thesis analyzed emotional expression and discussion of emotion in Assyrian merchants’ letters. My research interests include Mesopotamian narrative literature and literary history, the rhetoric of letter-writing, and ancient Near Eastern conceptions of social space and landscape, particularly during the Middle and Late Bronze Age. In my free time, I like to read novels, bake almond-based desserts, and go to art museums.
Name: Jenny Harris
PhD Program:Art History Hometown: Chicago, IL Education: Wellesley College, B.A. Art History Research: I focus on 20th century art with particular interests in performance, intersections of dance and visual arts, and the status of decoration and craft in postwar American art. Prior to arriving at the University, I worked in The Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Painting and Sculpture where I participated in the reinstallation of the collection galleries and contributed to exhibitions including The Shape of Shape, Artist’s Choice: Amy Sillman(2019), The Long Run (2017-18) and Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends(2017).
Name: Bret Klein Hart PhD Program: Cinema and Media Studies Hometown: Santa Monica, CA Education: B.A., UC Berkeley, Statistics, Media Studies Research: My research concerns the experiential qualities of data collection and algorithmic prediction – how it looks and feels to be within surveillance computational apparatuses such as social media, video games, and digitally monitored everyday life. Interested in industrial, technical, and aesthetic analyses of machine learning processes, I work to make legible how behavioral data processing and prediction define contemporary experience. In my free time, I sing in the Rockefeller Chapel Choir and enjoy discussing esports and digital culture.
Name: Peng Hui How PhD Program: Mathematics Hometown: Selangor, Malaysia Education: Stanford University, Stanford, CA; B.S., Mathematics; M.S. Computer Science Research: Among pure math, I have scratched the surface of Lie theory, algebraic number theory, topology, and geometry throughout my years at Stanford and Bonn. I am also highly intrigued by physics, both observables and unobservable ones, as mathematical inspiration and as a subject on its own. At UChicago, I am looking into topology/geometry for now, but am always open-minded to other things, since I strongly believe that mathematical study originates from motivating problems, and separation of mathematical field is artificial.
Name: Tejas Kannan PhD Program:Computer Science Hometown: Palo Alto, California Education: University of California at Berkeley, B.A. Computer Science; University of Cambridge, MPhil Computer Science Research: Tejas is a computer science student who works at the intersection of computer systems and machine learning. His master’s thesis involved designing a machine learning technique to solve traffic routing problems in cities. Currently, his research focuses on adaptive and energy-efficient computing. In particular, he is interested in techniques to execute machine learning models on low-power devices. Outside of computer science, Tejas is an avid sports fan (football, basketball, and soccer), and he enjoys distance running and traveling.
Name: Olivier Kooi PhD Program: Economics Hometown: Rotterdam, Netherlands Education: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; M.A., Social Sciences Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, Netherlands; Bsc., Economics Research: My research interests are in public finance, macroeconomics and political economy. For my undergraduate and master theses I studied how government can redistribute income most effectively through social insurance and tax instruments. During my time at Chicago I would like to expand my interest in optimal government policy to the study of growth enhancing policies and policies to mitigate the adverse effects of economic fluctuations. In addition to studying features of optimal policy I hope to improve our understanding of how our political institutions result in the policies we see. When I am done studying I enjoy doing Judo and reading books on history and political philosophy.
Name: Lex Ladge PhD Program: Art History Hometown: Los Angeles, CA Education: Reed College, Portland, Oregon; B.A., Classics Research: I study Greek and Roman art with a particular focus on the cultural and political environment of the Hellenistic period. I am especially interested in how material culture and space interact with concepts of power, memory, and perception. While at Reed, I wrote a thesis entitled “Memory Objects: a Study of Attalid Memory and Object Creation under Philetairos and Attalos I.” In my free time, I enjoy cooking and baking and practicing calligraphy.
Name: Carol Lewis PhD Program: Committee on Social Thought Hometown: Greenville, SC Education: Furman University, Greenville, SC; B.S., Mathematics Research: I’m interested in unhappiness, human nature, education, and love of one’s own. I particularly enjoy discussing Plato, Aristotle, Pascal, Austen, Tocqueville, and Nietzsche in seminars, around dinner tables, and on long walks or runs. I most attentively studied and wrote on Plato’s Symposiumas an undergraduate. My less-academic loves include camping, singing, playing board games, tackling home improvement projects, and spending time with my family.
Name: Xinyi (Camilla) Liu PhD Program: Geophysical Sciences Hometown: Shenzhen, China Education: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA; B.S., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Research: My undergraduate research projects involved 1) evaluating tectonic and climatic effects on long-term chemical weathering rates and 2) earth’s oxygen and phosphorus cycle and the evolution of animal life. During my PhD program at UChicago, I look forward to exploring the interaction between these processes on early Earth using primarily isotope geochemistry techniques. I enjoy all sorts of outdoor recreation, especially backpacking. I’m also a German speaker and a badminton player.
Name: Nadia Lucas PhD Program: Economics Hometown: Bellevue, WA Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; B.S., Mathematical Economics and Computer Science Research: Coming from a computationally heavy undergraduate background, I began my post-graduate career working at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. It was here that I learned to synthesize a mathematically and computationally rigorous set of tools to analyze human behavior and social issues. My goal in working towards a PhD in economics is to develop the skillset for sound policy analysis. My interests broadly encompass the economics of energy and environmental policy. Specifically, I am interested in looking at energy and environmental policy through the lens of sustainable growth of industries and firms on a microeconomic level. In my free time I enjoy being a part of the running community in the Chicago area and taking every opportunity I can to travel.
Name: John Muller PhD Program: Social Thought and Philosophy Hometown: Santa Monica, CA Education: Dartmouth College, B.A., History and Economics; Yale Law School, J.D.; University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, M.A., Philosophy Research: My academic interests center on self-deception, ambivalence, and privation. I work on these issues in philosophy, drawing as well on law, literature, and psychoanalysis. My initial training, as an undergraduate at Dartmouth, was in history and economics. I then studied law at Yale. After law school, I clerked for a pair of federal court of appeals judges in the northeast, spent a couple of years as a fellow and lecturer at Harvard Law School, and then practiced law in Los Angeles. I come to UChicago from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where I completed a master’s in philosophy. In addition to my academic work, I write occasional essays and book reviews for a non-academic audience.
Name: Quynh-Anh Nguyen PhD Program: History Hometown: Thanh Hoa, Vietnam Education: Earlham College, Richmond, IN; B.A., History Research: Informed by Critical Theory’s critique of modernism, colonialism, and nationalism, my current research concentration lies at the intersection of print culture, urban politics, gender, and emotion in modern Asia. I have found my research engaging with two sets of questions. The former concerns the condition of freedom: the encounter with the Other, forms of agency in tragedies, and the possibility of politics (as a verb) in everyday life. The latter confronts the condition of historical writing: concept work, the possibility of writing world history and history in the plural, and positionality. I’m recently interested in questions about spatial history and capitalism, which may have to do with my summer weekend exercise: getting on the CTA and getting off at a random unexplored stop.
Name: Clara Nizard PhD Program: English and Theatre and Performance Studies Hometown: Aix-En-Provence, France Education: Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, MFA; McGill University, BA Research: In my research, I rehearse questions of social bonds, affiliations, and fractures via frameworks of affect or ‘feeling-labour’ present in performance at large. I focus particularly on paradoxes of the body raised by contemporary dance practices and feminist and queer performance practices. My work finds a foothold in the tensions between theory and practice both in performance studies, aesthetic theories, and psychoanalytic approaches to text(s). As a practitioner, I explore queer poetics and embodiment in writing and performance, working with and against – among other things – notions of camp, ‘the personal as political’, esoteric and pastoral modes of writing, as well as interrogations on the choreographic potential of desire.
Name: John Peterson PhD Program: Chemistry Hometown: Menomonie, WI Education: Hope College, Holland, MI; B.S. Chemistry Research: I have been broadly interested in the natural sciences for most of my life and decided on formally studying chemistry as a way to interact, or at least understand as much about the other sciences as possible. My research interests have evolved over time along with my ever-increasing desire for quantitative results. At Hope, I did bioinformatics research studying how bacterial communities interact for a couple of years before I had had enough of staring at a computer screen and worked at some inorganic synthesis of cobalt complexes. At the graduate level, I intend to study physical chemistry. Because my interests are broad, the exact research project I work on during my PhD is not my major concern. Having the chance to rigorously explore the physics of chemical systems and getting a tangible result in the end is what matters to me
Name: Jacob Reed PhD Program: Music Theory and History Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC Education: Yale University, New Haven, CT; B.A. Music, Mathematics; M.A. Music; M.M. Organ Performance Research: I’m an organist and music theorist, focusing on interactions between music and words: historical discourses on music, musical responses to lyrics, and musical effects of sung and spoken language. Recently, I’ve been studying how lyrics are used to produce and disturb rhythms in pop music traditions, with an eye to similar interactions between rhythm and harmony/melody. Otherwise, I’m fascinated by writing on music (literary and theoretical) in pre-modern China, and continue to perform on a variety of early and modern keyboard instruments.
Name: Dominiquo Santistevan PhD Program: Sociology Hometown: Pueblo, Colorado Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA; B.S., Computer Science Research: I would really like to understand how we communicate and use language to make sense of the world, especially in places where mobile technology has, almost overnight, increased the access to information by orders of magnitude. During undergrad, I worked with Human Dynamics Lab at the MIT Media Lab to study call detail records to better understand the relationship between social networks and physical spaces. I then spent a couple years working in Uganda, Chile, and most recently, Myanmar, as a Luce Scholar. In each of these countries, I worked in some variant of the technology/society intersection whether it was via an academic lab, government consultant, or NGO. In my free time, I like to run, watch movies, and see live music.
Name: Lily Scherlis PhD Program: English Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA Education: Harvard University, Cambridge, MA; A.B., Comparative Literature and Visual and Environmental Studies Research: Broadly, I’m interested in how everyday encounters with contemporary literature and media let us feel emotionally plugged into a community, cause, or place. My research involves working in video and sculpture as well as writing.
Name: Arthur Schott Lopes PhD Program: History Hometown: Curitiba, Brazil Education: Harvard College, Cambridge, MA; A.B. History Research: My research explores the intersection of race, nationalism, and democracy in early twentieth century Brazil. My undergraduate senior thesis interpreted Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre’s Casa-Grande & Senzala (1933), perhaps Brazil’s most emblematic work of social science, as a work of literature that employed the rhetoric of science and myth to postulate Brazil as a Western nation on the world stage. My current research focuses on early-twentieth-century Brazilian understandings of democracy and democratic culture, particularly in relation to the United States. I spend most of my free time following Brazilian and American politics obsessively or watching the Great British Baking Show (even though I am a terrible cook).
Name: Audrey Jane Slote PhD Program: Music History & Theory Hometown: Meadville, PA Education: St. Olaf College (Northfield, MN) B.M. Cello Performance, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN) M.M. Cello Performance, M.A. Music Theory Research: As a music theorist, I am interested in using techniques of musical analysis in service of broad philosophical questions. My work centers around music as a site of resilience and an object of political resistance particularly for people in marginalized groups. Recent projects have focused on Mahler’s unfinished Tenth Symphony and the music of Janelle Monáe. My article, “Deconstruction as Political Discourse in Janelle Monáe’s ‘Q.U.E.E.N.,’” was published in the Music and Politics special issue of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) Student News. In my free time, I enjoy practicing cello, perusing the galleries at The Art Institute of Chicago, and watching TheGreat British Bake Off.
Name: Sofia Smith PhD Program: Political Science Hometown: Seattle, WA Education: Denison University, Granville, OH; BA Philosophy, Politics, and Economics; Johns Hopkins SAIS, Bologna, Italy and Washington, DC; MA in International Economics and Middle East Studies Research: My research comes from the four years I lived and worked in Jordan in the humanitarian aid and development sector. I hope to explore how Islamic religious education, everything from Quranic schools to da’wa on Instagram, affects women’s conceptions of themselves as political subjects and the kinds of political action they participate in within the Middle East. I am broadly interested in gendered politics of the every day, socialization, political media, and cross-cultural relationships. In my free time, I like to backpack, ski, cook, and watch reality TV.
Name: Hayoung Song PhD Program: Psychology, Integrative Neuroscience Hometown: Seoul, Korea Education: Sungkyunkwan University, MS in Biomedical Engineering and BA in Psychology Research: I am interested in the neural dynamics of high-level cognition, as we constantly interact with the external world and formulate our internal representation. Specifically, my research aims to understand the naturalistic process of story comprehension and storytelling, as our attentional states fluctuate on a moment-to-moment basis. I seek to understand how memory of the real-world events change accordingly, and how they interact with the creation of novel stories. I eventually hopes to bring the perspective of an artist in the scientific inquiry of human mind.
Name: Maya Van Nuys PhD Program: Political Science Hometown: Rapid City, SD Education: University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS; B.A. Global and International Studies/Humanities Research: I graduated from the University of Kansas (KU) in 2019. While at KU, I worked with Dr. Brittnee Carter to study religiously-motivated terrorist groups. My recent research continues this focus on ideologically-motivated political violence. I hope to continue in this topic area at the University of Chicago with a broad focus on ideological violence as it relates to religious, ethnic, and racial tensions in an international context. In addition to political science, I also greatly enjoy cooking, exploring Chicago, and playing violin.
Name: Veronica Vazquez-Olivieri PhD Program: Psychology Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico Education: Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; B.A., Psychology Research: I am a doctoral student in the Cognition program working with Dr. Boaz Keysar. I received my BA in Psychology with a minor in Sociology from Emory University in 2019. My research interests lie at the intersection of higher-level social cognition and decision making and how this affects the way we perceive the world, evaluate events, decide what actions to take, and how we interact with others.
Name: John Veillette PhD Program: Psychology (Integrative Neuroscience) Hometown: Alexandria, VA Education: University of Chicago; B.S., Statistics, B.A., Psychology, B.A., Economics Research: I am interested in bidirectional interactions between the neural mechanisms of sensorimotor control and higher level mental function. In particular, I am currently investigating how the timing relationships between neural structures involved in the control of our muscles and the perception of our sensory feedback enable the effective, coordinated control of our articulatory muscles during speech. Moreover, I am testing whether perturbations of these timing relationships impact certain elements of subjective experience, such as the experience of agency over one’s movements, and, in turn, the neural and cognitive processes supporting the acquisition of new motor skills.
Name: Christopher Williams PhD Program: Sociology Hometown: Chicago, IL Education: University of Missouri, BA; University of California-Irvine, JD Research: I am a proud Southside native. Before starting my PhD here, I completed my law degree where I worked on numerous race and law projects. More recently l have done in-depth work on legal education, race, and the law. Currently, I envision my research to turn towards policing, crime, race, and the law. I thoroughly enjoy basketball, music, podcasts, and being an avid foodie.
Name: Aaron Zhang PhD Program:Computer Science Hometown: New York, NY Education: Brown University, Providence, RI; B.S. Computer Science and Mathematics Research: I’m interested in theoretical computer science, including computational complexity, algorithms, and cryptography. At Brown University, I collaborated with self-driving car researchers to design algorithms and wrote a senior thesis in cryptography on proofs of sequential work. Outside of research, I love stargazing and playing chess.
Name: Yunning Zhang PhD Program: Comparative Literature Hometown: Beijing, China Education: University of Oxford, UK, MPhil in Modern Languages; Peking University, China, B.A. in Hispanic Philology Research: My research focuses primarily on Spanish Golden Age literature and Latin American writers from late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century, and especially, the theorization of Baroque and Neobaroque. I am also interested in critical theory, photography, performance studies and the dialectics of science and literature. An immanent concern for the discourse of “Other” (otherness) underlines all my works.
Name: Jinjin Zhao PhD Program:Computer Science Hometown: Ottawa, ON, Canada Education: Princeton University, BS Research: My area of research is in data systems and databases. As machine learning and complex statistical analyses become more popular, we are rapidly seeking out more volumes of data across disciplines, and shifting the way we interact with information as a whole. I want to explore what these trends mean for the underlying systems which store that information, and if there are ways such that those systems can guide researchers and developers to make their analyses easier to develop and more accurate.
Name: Richard (Licheng) Zhu PhD Program: Computational and Applied Mathematics Hometown: Vernon Hills, IL Education: Caltech, Pasadena, CA; B.S., Physics Research: Before coming to UChicago, I studied physics at Caltech. While there, I conducted research in fields ranging over planetary dynamics, condensed matter, and machine learning. I have also worked in Silicon Valley as a machine learning engineer. I am broadly interested in problems at the intersection of computation and biology. Outside of the lab, I can usually be found breaking a sweat at the gym, reading, or debating with friends.
Name: Melissa Adrian PhD Program: Statistics Hometown: Chicago, IL Education: University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA; B.S. Mathematics, B.S. Statistics Research: I was initially drawn to the field of statistics because I could see its applicability to a variety of fields. My undergraduate research spanned many different topics where I was able to utilize mathematics and statistics, such as breast cancer, the human gut microbiota, student enrollment data analytics, differential privacy, and 3D printing metal objects. Though these topics are seemingly unrelated, these areas of research all have benefitted from the application and development of statistical methodology. In graduate school, I plan to further explore statistics through applications in the environmental sciences. Particularly, I plan to focus my research on environmental and spatial statistics for climate modeling. In my free time, I enjoy watercolor painting, embroidering, and playing volleyball.
Name: Arshy Azizi PhD program: PhD program in Comparative Literature Hometown: Los Angeles Education: Vassar College, BA Philosophy Research: I am interested in Homer and Homeric receptions (from Milton to McCarthy), the quarrel between poetry and philosophy, and the epic as a literary genre. I also enjoy reading Virgil and the impassioned tragedies of Racine.
Name: Trevor Brandt Ph.D. program: Art History Hometown: Lansdale, Pennsylvania Education: Pennsylvania State University, BA; Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, MA Research: I study the material culture of immigration and multi-sensory objects within the early American home, especially interactive prints and objects that engage users in unexpected ways. My chapter within an edited volume (De Gruyter, March 2021) examines a genre of labyrinthene broadsides among German-Americans. Before joining UChicago, I was the curator of a Scandinavian museum in Philadelphia, where I organized shows on the intersections between Nordic folk textiles and women’s rights groups, art deco and midcentury glass, and works by Gustaf Tenggren for Disney, among others. Outside of school, I’m passionate about local history. I serve on the board of my hometown’s historic district and chair its collections committee. In my free time, I enjoy biking (both pedal and motor variety), reading, and attempting to cook.
Name: Naomi Harris PhD program: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Hometown: Los Angeles, CA Education: University of Chicago: B.A. English Literature; M.A. Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Research: My research explores literary tropes in Hittite texts from Late Bronze Age Anatolia (modern day Turkey), with a focus on metaphors and rhetorical organization. I am particularly intrigued by the intersection of metaphor and ritual objects and actions, which led to my MA thesis on apiary symbolism in Hittite myths and rituals. Other research interests include beekeeping in the ancient world, Hittite art and visual culture, and canon formation. Outside of literary adventures in Ancient Near Eastern texts, I teach academic writing at the UChicago Writing Program, and in my free time, I tremendously enjoy reading novels and attending operas.
Name: Nathan Katkin Program: PhD in Classics Hometown: Cincinnati, OH Education: BA Columbia University, 2018; MPhil University of Oxford, 2020 Research: Nathan studies the stories that ancient people told about their past, especially in Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit. He is also interested in prose style.
Name: Yan Jin PhD Program: PhD in Art History Hometown: Guangzhou, China Education: University of Chicago, Chicago, IL (M.A., Art History) & University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC (B.A., Art History) Research: Yan JIN studies East Asian art history, focusing on visual and material culture of late imperial China. Her research interests include cross-regional exchanges, negotiation between global and local artistic traditions, objects and agency. Her MA thesis examines the production and display of glass mirror table screens at Emperor Qianlong’s court.
Name: Kun Liu PhD program: PhD program in Mathematics Hometown: Shandong, China Education: Peking University, B.S., Mathematics and Applied Mathematics Research: My undergraduate research is about arithmetic duality theorem in which I mainly studied the basic case of Galois cohomology. I studied certain structures related to constructing moduli space in my undergraduate thesis. I hope to study number theory further at the University of Chicago.
Name: Megan MacGregor PhD Program: Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science; Anthropology Hometown: Denver, CO Education: University of Chicago, M.A. Social Sciences; University of Colorado, Boulder, B.A. Anthropology and Humanities Research: Broadly, I am interested in the relationships between science, technology, health, and sociopolitical spheres. My undergraduate thesis arose from an ethnographic study of politeness in Buenos Aires, while my more recent MA research examined scientific process and communication related to the microbiome. Currently, I am interested in exploring the relationships between genomics, microbes, medicine, and bodies in transnational contexts. Between my undergraduate and graduate careers, I worked in hospitality and as an educator, performer, and coordinator at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. In my free time, I enjoy hiking, cooking, watching musical theater, and working with ink and paper.
Name: Kaelan Doyle Myerscough PhD program: PhD program in Cinema and Media Studies Hometown: Toronto, Canada Education: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, MA, M.S. in Comparative Media Studies; McGill University, Montreal, QC, B.A. in East Asian Studies Research: I am a trans/non-binary scholar and critical creator interested in game design and worldbuilding. As an undergraduate at McGill University, I studied the context of media creation and wrote a thesis on competitive communities of the Pokemon video game series. Then, I studied Comparative Media Studies at MIT, where I worked as a research assistant for the MIT Game Lab and wrote a thesis on the close analysis of video games for intimate affects. I hope to bring together contextual understanding and close analysis in my research at UChicago, where I will consider the history and political stakes of the process of building fictional worlds. My work is heavily influenced by my game design practice, which takes up much of my free time; when I want to get away from a computer, I sew and knit gender-expansive clothing for my friends.
Name: Jeson Ng PhD Program: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Hometown: Singapore Education: University of Cambridge, BA Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Research: I am interested in understanding how the ambiguity of cross-cultural encounters was articulated and negotiated across the medieval Mediterranean through constructions and contestations of identity. Comparing twelfth-century Crusader-era texts in Old French and Arabic, my article in Al-Masāq (2019) explores how race and gender were intertwined in motifs of female whiteness and sensuality to sustain a religio-ideological conflict that was neither necessary nor inevitable in everyday life. Arabic literary production at this time was rich, eclectic and prolific; I seek to read these texts, particularly the poetry, as generative of their own critical apparatus and bring pre-modern Arabic literature into conversation with comparative fields of inquiry. I have had the opportunity to study in Beirut, Palestine and Amman but am still told I sound more Egyptian. I also have emerging interests in metaphor, analogy and allegory as epistemic sources in the Arabophone world.
Name: Phillip Sergio PhD Program: South Asian Languages and Civilizations (SALC) Hometown: North Carolina Education: Harvard Divinity School, MTS, South Asian Religions Research: My research focuses on the reception history of Sanskrit texts through premodern commentaries, adaptations, and translations into regional languages. Broadly speaking, I am interested in the journey of Sanskrit texts across space and time, the audiences that received these texts, and the intellectual and literary engagements that transformed them.
Name: Melani Shahin PhD program: PhD Program in Music History & Theory Hometown: San Jose, CA Education: Fordham University, Bronx, NY; B.A., Philosophy and Music Research: My research focuses on the history and historiography of music theory (especially Renaissance and early modern theory). I am particularly interested in thinking about the epistemological frameworks that structure theoretical discourses. I also have secondary research interests in the histories of philosophy and science, continental philosophy, and hermeneutics. At Fordham, I studied the rhetorical function of mathematical theories in the writings of eighteenth-century German theorists Andreas Werckmeister, Lorenz Mizler, and Johann Mattheson. My special interest in German theory and culture led me to teach English in Germany for two years on Fulbright and Pädagogischer Austauschdienst grants after college. As a graduate student, I hope to expand the scope of my research by exploring the history of music theory in broader global contexts. In my free time, I enjoy browsing used bookstores, exploring new cities, playing bass, and learning languages.
Name: Joseph Spellberg PhD program: PhD program in Chemistry Hometown: Highland Park, IL Education: Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO; B.A., Chemistry Research: My research interests are at the intersection of physics and chemistry and I am fascinated by how underlying physical properties give rise to the chemical phenomena that we observe. At Washington University, my research focused on computational modeling of electron dynamics in gas phase molecules. During my PhD at the University of Chicago, I am looking forward to continuing research in Physical Chemistry and to spending more time in the lab developing experimental techniques. Currently, I am most interested in using spectroscopy to probe the electronic properties of condensed matter systems. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, playing board games, and hanging out with friends.
Name: Chaoqi Wang PhD program: PhD program in Computer Science Hometown: Hangzhou, China Education: Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, B.Eng. Computer Science; University of Toronto, Toronto, M.Sc. Computer Science. Research: In the past, my research has been focused on Bayesian deep learning, understanding the training dynamics of neural networks, and neural network pruning. In the future, I will pursue these directions in more depth. In specific, I hope to design more principled algorithms with rigorous mathematical guarantees, and more importantly, fewer hyperparameters to tune, to address the problems remaining in the field. Apart from research, I enjoy playing soccer and skiing.
Name: Yiwen Wu PhD program: Joint Program in East Asian Languages & Civilizations and Theater & Performance Studies Hometown: Shanghai, China Education: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA; B.A., Drama, Media Studies; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL; M.A. Research: My interests in Chinese opera and the history of performance have emerged from one fundamental question: How do stories evolve across time and space? I want to explore the modality of Chinese opera across mediums, across decades, and across evolving national cultures. The dynamic interplay between performance and its medium fascinates me the most: How does media awareness affect our conceptions of performance? How does the experience of reading, listening, and watching enrich each other? I seek to explore performance as a living heritage–an amorphous assemblage of cultural conventions that continues to furnish the page, the stage, the screen, and our everyday life.
Name: Yuwei Zhou PhD program: East Asian Languages and Civilizations Hometown: Guangdong, China Education: University of California San Diego, CA; B.A., History and B.S., Mathematics. Research: My current research interest lies on the craft production system in Bronze Age China. More specifically, I am interested in investigating how craft production activities reveals the social and power relations. Another focus of mine is the development of early Chinese writing, as reflected in the oracle bone inscriptions and bronze inscriptions. Coming from an undergraduate background of math and computer science, I am very enthusiastic about using computational methods to quantify and visualize the late Shang elite social network as represented in the distribution of clan emblems, which are preserved primarily on bronze vessels.
Name: Rhya Moffitt Brooke PhD program: English Language and Literature Hometown: Piscataway, NJ Education: University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX (M.A., English); Northeastern University, Boston, MA (M.A., English); Southern Adventist University, Collegedale, TN (B.A., English) Research: My research focuses on the intersections of Blackness, gender, and (dis)ability/(un)wellness in anglophone literatures of the Black Diaspora. While the bulk of my work focuses on fiction of the 20th- and 21st centuries, my work is cross-historical in its considerations of Black interiority and the affective afterlives of slavery. I am also an educator with experience teaching at the secondary through undergraduate levels. My curriculum design centers historically marginalized voices and prioritizes accessible pedagogies.
Name: Ihsan Ul Ihthisam Chappangan PhD program: South Asian Languages and Civilization Hometown: Kerala, India Education: Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India (M.A., 2020); Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India (B.A., 2018) Research: I am interested in the early modern history of Malabar (modern Kerala) and Ma‘bar (Coromandel) in the ‘Indian Ocean World’ (IOW). My project aims to undertake a historical and anthropological study of the circulation of Sufi texts and sounds, and its reception across the IOW. I would read texts in Arabic, Persian, Malayalam, Arabi-Malayāḷam, Tamil and Arabu-Tamil; as primary sources for my research. I am also interested in the historical, political and sociological aspects of various performance traditions among the Māppiḷa Muslims of Malabar.