Graduate School

Research Matters 2019

Watch the videos from the Graduate School's Research Matters event, which was held on April 9, 2019. The brief talks showcase excellent student scholarship and foster intellectual exchange across disciplines.

Benjamin Bradlow

PhD Candidate in Sociology
Topic: Governing Cities: The Building Blocks of Democracy.

Benjamin Bradlow was trained as an NSF-IGERT fellow in development and inequality at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. His dissertation research compares the urban governance of public goods (housing, sanitation, and public transportation) in São Paulo and Johannesburg after transitions to democracy. His research has received external funding from the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and the Brazilian Studies Association. He earned his master’s in city planning from MIT and a BA in history from Swarthmore College.

Apoorvaa Deshpande

PhD Candidate in Computer Science
Topic: Decentralizing Trust through Cryptographic Proofs

Apoorvaa Deshpande is in her fifth year of doctoral studies. Combining her love for mathematics and passion for secure systems, she is pursuing research in cryptography. Her dissertation is on privacy-preserving tools in the current era of blockchain. Born and raised in India, Apoorvaa completed her undergraduate studies at BITS Pilani University. Along with research, music is an integral part of her life and she is a trained vocalist in classical Indian music.

Benjamin Fancy

PhD Candidate in French Studies
Topic: Beautiful Interiors: Narrating the Mind in Early Modern French Fiction

Benjamin Fancy is a fifth-year PhD candidate and his dissertation focuses on narration and interiority in seventeenth-century French fiction. Through his research, he seeks to reveal how the ways in which authors narrated their characters’ interior thoughts, feelings and emotions through means other than an omniscient narrator nuance and ultimately enrich our understanding of interiority. His research interests also include fairy tales and folklore from the French-speaking world, and he is thrilled to have the opportunity to share his passion for each of these topics through his talk at this year’s Research Matters

Shekinah Fashaw

PhD Student in Health Services Research
Topic: My Grandmother Prefers Her Home, but Does Her Health?

Shekinah Fashaw is a second-year doctoral student with interests in racial- ethnic- disparities and home and community-based services. She serves on several different research projects and papers under the supervision of professors in the School of Public Health. Before attending Brown, she attended the University of Central Florida for her bachelor’s degree and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for her master’s in health policy. She has had multiple poster accepted for presentation and in 2018 gave her first podium presentation during a plenary conference session. She is a passionate scholar who is always hoping to share knowledge beyond the ivory tower.

JJ Lomax

PhD Candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Topic: My Mother Calls Me a Fish Dentist

Jeremy “JJ” Lomax is a 3rd year Ph.D candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Fueled by a general interest in the biodiversity found in the over 32,000 species of vertebrate fishes, JJ left his hometown of Memphis, TN to pursue an undergraduate degree in Marine Sciences at the University of South Florida. Here at Brown, he continues his studies of any and all things fish through an integrative approach. From his early research on catfish, to his current work with piranhas and their relatives, JJ combines principles of engineering with biology to explain how biological task, such as breathing, adherence, or feeding work in various fish species.

Byrd McDaniel

PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology
Topic: The Power of Play: The Air Guitar World Championships

Byrd McDaniel’s research and teaching interests include popular music reception, sound studies, digital media, and disability. His recent work appears in Ethnomusicology and American Quarterly, and he has an upcoming co-authored article appearing in Disability Studies Quarterly. He holds master’s degrees in American studies and ethnomusicology, and he has taught courses at Brown University, Tufts University and the University of Alabama. He is currently working on a book project that features case studies on karaoke, lip syncing apps, air guitar competitions and popular music reaction videos online.

Michelle Muzzio

PhD Candidate in Chemistry
Topic: Putting Together Chemical Puzzles

Michelle Muzzio is a fourth-year PhD candidate in Professor Shouheng Sun's lab in the department of chemistry. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and English from Iona College in her home state of New York. Currently, she is the Head Teaching Consultant at the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, where she does teaching observations and engages in seminars for best teaching practices. Michelle has designed and taught a course for Summer@Brown about nanomaterials for environmental applications and hopes to continue fostering her passion for science communication in her future career.  

Mira Nikolova

PhD Candidate in Slavic Studies
Topic: How Russian Poetry and a Little Bit of Physics Can Remind Us to Be Kind

Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Mira is in the penultimate year of her Slavic Studies doctoral program. Her research interests focus on twentieth-century Russian poets of exile, the construction of poetic space in their works as well as Russian language pedagogy. She is committed to exploring the ways in which Russian literature and poetry, in particular, resonate beyond the literary world. She believes that incorporating poetry into an interdisciplinary curriculum could be very beneficial to the academic, cultural and holistic learning process.

Ashley Palumbo

PhD Candidate in Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences
Topic: Oceans on Early Mars

Ashley Palumbo is a fourth-year PhD candidate and is a NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow. In her research, she uses numerical models to better understand what the climate was like on Mars around 3.7 billion years ago. She enjoys taking part in public outreach, specifically teaching young students about exciting careers in the sciences. Outside of science, she enjoys dancing, running, writing poetry and spending time with family and friends.

Jess Sevetson

PhD Candidate in Neuroscience
Topic: Using Minibrains to Model Brain Injury

Jess Sevetson is a neuroscientist studying activity in three-dimensional brain cultures. She enjoys working with bioengineers to push the boundaries of what can be done ‘in a dish.’ She received her bachelor’s in behavioral neuroscience from Lehigh University, then spent a couple of years exploring properties of electrical synapses between thalamic neurons before starting her PhD at Brown. Outside of the lab, she is an avid reader, furniture refinisher and occasional backpacker. A longtime advocate of scientific communication, Jess currently serves as co-editor for Ursa Sapiens, Brown’s student-run science blog (

D'Ondre Swails

PhD Candidate in Africana Studies
Topic: Racism: An American Fairy Tale

D’Ondre Swails is a PhD candidate in the department of Africana Studies. He specializes in African-American political theory, expressive cultures and resistance histories. A native of Vallejo, CA and alumnus of Morehouse College, he completed his bachelor's degree in philosophy and sociology and holds a master's in Africana Studies from Brown.

Leah Siegel-Reamer

Master’s student in Public Health
Topic: Impacts of the Economic Recession on Health Insurance and Induction of Labor

Leah is a second-year MPH student. She is writing two master’s thesis papers on the association between health insurance and labor induction. Leah currently works at Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island and Women & Infants Hospital. She is also a supplemental teaching assistant in the School of Public Health. Before starting at Brown, Leah earned her bachelor’s degree at Clark University and worked as a research associate in plastic surgery at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Leah grew up in Pawtucket, RI, and now lives in Providence with her boyfriend and Jack Russell Terrier.