Graduate School

Research Matters 2016

Watch the videos from the Graduate School's second Research Matters event, which was held on November 5, 2016. The brief talks showcase excellent student scholarship and foster intellectual exchange across disciplines.

Emily Contois

PhD Candidate in American Studies
Topic: Dude Food: Gender and Health in U.S. Popular Culture

Emily Contois studies food, the body, and identity in U.S. popular culture. She holds graduate degrees in Public Health Nutrition from UC Berkeley and in Gastronomy from Boston University. In addition to her doctoral work, she is the lead organizer of Food Studies at Brown, Editor-in-Chief of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies, and a food writer at Zester Daily. She blogs at and tweets @emilycontois.

Aditi Rawat

Master’s Student in Public Health 
Topic: Prescriptions, Perceptions, and Resistance

Born and raised in India, Aditi Rawat graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Dental Surgery from I.T.S. Center for Dental Studies & Research, Muradnagar, India. Moved by her experiences with the state of health care in India and by the burden of disease across the globe, Aditi is pursuing a Public Health degree, focusing on Global Health. Her research focuses on the qualitative analysis of public perceptions of antibiotic prescriptions and whether these perceptions may affect the development of antibiotic resistance.

Julian Saporiti

PhD Student in Ethnomusicology 
Topic: Think Twice It’s Alright: Street Performers and Public Space

Julian Saporiti was born in Nashville, TN. He toured in the rock band The Young Republic for many years after completing studies at the Berklee College of Music. He received a master’s in American Studies at the University of Wyoming and was then hired as a lecturer for the Honors Program and American Studies. A second-year PhD student, he studies street performers in addition to jazz bands that formed in WWII Japanese Internment Camps.

Nicosia Shakes

PhD Candidate in Africana Studies
Topic: Staging Their Purpose: Women’s Theatre and the Power of Performance

Nicosia Shakes is a Jamaican scholar-artist in her sixth year of doctoral study. She specializes in the study of gender and sexuality, theatre, performance and politics. Her dissertation examines women’s theatre and activism in Jamaica and South Africa. Nicosia’s play, Afiba and Her Daughters, was produced by Africana Studies/Rites and Reason Theatre in May 2016. She is an avid reader, traveler, cook, and lover of anything artistic.

Alexandra Stephan

PhD Student in Chemistry
Topic: Why Catastrophic Battery Failure is Still a Problem and What is Being Done

Alexandra Stephan, who grew up in southwest Florida, earned her B.S. in Chemistry from the University of Chicago. She is in her third year of doctoral studies and is a member of the Rose-Petruck lab. Her lithium-ion battery research is done in collaboration with the Sheldon lab, which assembles the lithium-ion batteries. Alexandra hopes to teach at a small college.

Jennifer Thum

PhD Candidate in Archaeology and the Ancient World
Topic: Rocks, Drones and Instagram: The Interactive Dissertation

Jen Thum holds a BA in Archaeology from Barnard College and an MPhil in Egyptology from Oxford. She studies Egyptian royal rock-cut stelae from the perspective of landscape archaeology and linguistics. She co-curated an exhibition at the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, Uncovering Ancient Egypt: Ancient Crafts, Modern Technologies, and has a deep commitment to teaching with artifacts. 

Kyle Trenshaw

Postdoctoral Research Associate, STEM Education, Science Center
Topic: Seeing Yourself as a Scientist: A Matter of Time and Space

Kyle Trenshaw received his BS in Chemical Engineering at the University of Missouri and his MS and PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research focuses on building community in STEM, as a means to both improve students’ learning outcomes and create a more inclusive climate where anyone can thrive.

Torrey Truszkowski

PhD Candidate in Neuroscience
Topic: Neural Circuits: How Brain Meets World

Torrey Truszkowski’s dissertation research uses tadpoles to study sensory processing by integrating cellular, neural network and behavioral experiments and analyses. Outside the lab, she advocates for science funding, including on Capitol Hill, studies and teaches scientific communication, and hosts Nerd Nite RI, a local opportunity for scientists to interact with the public. She is a member of the Extraordinary Rendition Band, an activist street band, and a six-time Tough Mudder obstacle course finisher.

Meghan Wilson

PhD Candidate in Political Science
Topic: How Monopoly Became Political

A metro Detroit native, Meghan earned a BA in Political Science from Spelman College and a master’s degree in Political Science at Brown University. Her research utilizes an interdisciplinary lens to focus on the impact of market forces on democratic practices. While completing her research on the impact of emergency management, Meghan moved within the Detroit city limits during the city’s restructuring. Meghan hopes to bridge the gap between academia and politics by helping people realize their political power. 

Xuan Zhao

PhD Candidate in Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences
Topic: Through the Eyes of a Robot

Xuan Zhao is a doctoral candidate in social psychology. She is an alumna of Zhejiang University and Semester At Sea. Her research focuses on perspective taking, empathy, prosocial behavior, and mind perception, and she teaches Leading with Empathy in the 21st Century in the summer. She considers social psychology as her way to both explore the world and to make the world a better place. At this moment, she wants “Curiosity. Imagination. Initiative.” on her tombstone.