Graduate School

Research Matters 2014

Watch the videos from the inaugural event, which was held as part of the 250th Anniversary Fall Celebration on September 27, 2014. The symposium featured short talks by graduate students and alumni.

Lauren Quattrochi

PhD Candidate in Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology
Topic: Long Flights, Bright Lights, and the Cells that Tuck You in at Night

Lauren Quattrochi obtained her BS from the University of Connecticut in 2006, while conducting research in an analytical chemistry laboratory to identify oil spill culprits alongside the U.S. Coast Guard. After graduation, she worked at Pfizer Inc., honing her skills in pre-clinical drug discovery. While working full time, she obtained her Master’s in Biology. Her current research focuses on visual neuroscience. 

Matthew J. Lyddon

PhD Candidate in Political Science
Topic: Crafting Citizens: Facing Controversy and Teaching Citizenship

While working on his dissertation, Matthew J. Lyddon also is a Teaching Fellow in Political Science. His research lies within normative democratic theory and his dissertation focuses on the role of the state in shaping and regulating civic education in liberal democracies. He is a past president of the Graduate Student Council at Brown. Originally from Wales, UK, Matthew attained his BA and MA degrees at Cardiff University.

Tara Mulder

PhD Candidate in Classics
Topic: Fetal Actors, Female Bodies: Ancient Texts and Modern Debates

Tara Mulder’s research interests include Greek drama, Roman comedy, performance theory, gender and sexuality studies, ancient medicine, and the philosophy of the body in antiquity. She is currently writing a dissertation entitled Fetal Actors, Female Bodies: Childbirth in the Roman Empire under the direction of John Bodel, and funded by an American Fellowship from the American Association of University Women. 

Vale Cofer-Shabica

PhD Candidate in Chemistry
Topic: Wandering Molecules, the Mysteries that Matter

Originally from South Carolina, Vale Cofer-Shabica received his ScB in Chemical Physics from Brown in 2009. He spent two years teaching high school math in Providence public schools. After graduate school, he hopes to teach and do research at the collegiate level. He lives on Providence’s South Side, where he cooks, tends garden, and chases his chickens and bees.

Sophie Lebrecht

PhD '12 (Cognitive Science), Co-founder and CEO of Neon Labs
Topic: Discovering the World Through Images

Sophie Lebrecht received her PhD in Cognitive Science at Brown University in 2012. She has continued to pursue her research on the neural basis of visual preference for everyday objects at Carnegie Mellon University and CMU Silicon Valley, eventually transitioning her research into the foundation of Neon Labs, where she is CEO and co-founder. At Neon, she works with teams of inventors, scientists, designers, and engineers to change the way images are selected online. Neon Labs has received The Edison Award for Innovation, received funding from by The National Science Foundation, and coverage by Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.

Ashley Bowen-Murphy

PhD Candidate in American Studies
Topic: Irritable Heart, Soldier’s Heart: What Medical History Can Tell Us About Broken Hearts

Ashley Bowen-Murphy's research focuses on the intersection of culture, medicine, and trauma in the 19th century. This past summer, she had a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. When she is not working on her dissertation she is doing improv with the Providence Improv Guild and training to run a marathon.

Eric James

PhD Candidate in Neuroscience
Topic: What Can Tadpoles Teach Us About Autism? 

After serving as a United States Marine, Eric James earned his BA in Psychology from St. John’s University. In the Aizenman Lab, his research uses tadpoles to study the effects of prenatal exposure to valproic acid on the developing nervous system. The aims are to identify how valproic acid causes neurodevelopmental disorders and interrogate potential therapeutic targets.

Jessica Tabak

PhD Candidate in English
Topic: When Stories Are Difficult

Jessica Tabak researches how English Renaissance writers communicate painful experience through literature. In 2012, she received a grant from the Folger Institute to participate in a seminar on sexuality in Renaissance drama. She presented papers on disability and pain at the 2014 Modern Language Association (MLA) and the Renaissance Society of America conferences and will co-chair a panel on “Touching Subjects in Early Modern English Drama” at the 2015 MLA conference.

Stephen Zins

PhD Candidate in Pathobiology
Topic: Are We Safe? Responding to a Globally Persistent Infection 

Stephen Zins was born and raised in Pawtucket, RI. He grew up around Brown, attending hockey, football and soccer games before fulfilling his dream of attending the University of Michigan. His research career began as an undergraduate and continued during stints in industrial, academic and governmental settings. He hopes to obtain a teaching-intensive career with additional roles in affecting science policy.

Shankar Prasad

PhD '06 (Political Science), Associate Director for Academic Programs and PlanningTaubman Center for Public Policy and the Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University
Topic: Exploring Non-Traditional Career Options, and Not Feeling Guilty About It

Shankar Prasad completed his PhD in Political Science at Brown University in 2006, having graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rutgers College (highest honors) with a BS in Finance and BA in French and Political Science. He recently returned to Brown, joining the Watson Institute and the Taubman Center as the Associate Director of Academic Programs and Planning and Lecturer in Public Policy. Previously, he served as the director of undergraduate studies and clinical professor of public policy at the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service at New York University. At NYU, Shankar co-founded the Governance Lab ( and was the 2012 recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Faculty award. After receiving his PhD, Shankar worked at a hedge fund and, in 2008, left to co-found and lead India’s largest provider of clinical health data systems.