Graduate School

Research Matters 2023

Watch the videos from the Graduate School's Research Matters event, which was held on April 19, 2023. The brief talks showcase excellent student scholarship and foster intellectual exchange across disciplines.

Tassallah Abdullahi

The Burden of Limited Labeled Data for Diagnostics
Ph.D. Student in Computer Science

Tassallah Amina Abdullahi is a second-year doctoral student and a fellow with the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on High Performance Computing. She has always had a keen interest in developing solutions that would benefit the rural and global community. As a researcher, she has observed the devastating effects of diseases on impoverished communities but also the positive impact of data in flattening the curve. Her research uses information retrieval and natural language processing systems to proffer solutions to healthcare needs. Her long-term goal is to utilize electronic health records to build systems that can help advance clinical diagnostic decision support.

David Arango

Caring for Adolescents with Tuberculosis
Master’s Student in Public Health

Originally from Medellin, Colombia, David Arango is a second-year MPH student concentrating in global health. He is writing a master’s thesis on adolescent-friendly tuberculosis (TB) services in Lima, Peru. David is interested in infectious disease and behavioral health research. He earned a bachelor of science in public health from the University of South Florida. Currently, he is an intern at ChildFund International and a research assistant at the Brown University School of Public Health. Outside of research, he enjoys traveling, listening to music and spending time with family and friends.

Sarah Blau

The Stories We Tell about Food Insecurity
Master’s Student in Public Health

Sarah Blau is a second-year public health student in the interdisciplinary concentration, focusing on the causes and consequences of food insecurity among families. Her research interests include federal food policy, child health, and the impact of the climate crisis on food systems. Sarah received her B.A. in environmental science and education studies from Barnard College where she studied the work of Paulo Freire and developed a passion for community-engaged research approaches. Her thesis explores food insecure families’ experiences of discrimination in food assistance programs. Outside of public health, Sarah has studied dance and voice for many years.

Juniper Cocomello

Using Math to Understand Network Dynamics
Ph.D Student in Applied Mathematics

Juniper Cocomello is a fourth-year doctoral student in applied mathematics. Their research focuses on using probabilistic tools to study stochastic dynamics on large networks. Their most recent work is on analyzing SIR and SEIR epidemics on random networks through the framework of local convergence. Juniper earned their bachelor’s degree in math in 2018, and their master’s degree in mathematics in 2019, both from New York University. 

Yiran Hua

On Being Good Friends with Bad People
Ph.D. Candidate in Philosophy

Yiran Hua is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate. She researches normative ethics and moral psychology. She also has broad interests in feminist philosophy, aesthetics and Buddhist philosophy. Yiran’s dissertation explores moral questions about friendships and other intimate relationships. In her free time, Yiran loves sitting and cooking for people’s dogs, cats and babies (you may email her at if you need a reliable sitter!). She is fluent in doggo and baby, but is still working on the feline languages. Both animals and humans enjoy her cooking. Yiran writes fan fiction, sci-fi and nonfiction. She is also a mediocre poet. 

Rachel Kalisher

What Death Can Teach Us about Ancient Kinship
Ph.D. Candidate in Archaeology

Rachel Kalisher is a sixth-year doctoral candidate in archaeology, as well as a master’s student in ecology, evolution and organismal biology (through the Open Graduate Education program). Prior to coming to Brown, Rachel earned her undergraduate degrees in anthropology and classics from the University of Florida, and a master’s degree in human skeletal biology from New York University. She is an active field and lab archaeologist, currently working at several major excavations in modern-day Israel. There, she analyzes ancient human skeletal remains at the macro- and micro-scale to interpret matters of kinship, maternity and disease.

Rachel McLaughlin

Testing Stroke Treatments in a Dish
Ph.D. Candidate in Neuroscience

Rachel McLaughlin is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Neuroscience. For her dissertation work, she is developing and characterizing an ischemic brain injury model using three-dimensional brain cultures. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she double-majored in biology and biotechnology and biochemistry, and earned her master’s degree at the Harvard Extension School in bioengineering and nanotechnology. Outside of the lab, Rachel enjoys baking, running and entertaining her 6-month-old.

Farha Mithila

Fighting Infection: The Role of Estrogen Beyond Sexual Identity
Ph.D. Candidate in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry

Farha Mithila is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry. Farha is a first-generation immigrant from Bangladesh. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston where her research focused on synthesizing dyes for novel bioimaging techniques. Her doctoral research is identifying the role of estrogen, the major female sex hormone in CD8 T cell mediated antiviral immunity. At Brown, she is an advocate for graduate students through her leadership in Graduate Students of Color in STEM and the Graduate Student Council. Outside Brown, Farha enjoys reading, gardening and volunteering with local organizations.

Traci Picard

“One Live Hog, Sold as He Stood”
Master’s Student in Public Humanities

Traci Picard is a master’s student in public humanities, a public historian and researcher. Born in Providence, Traci works on a number of public history projects here in Rhode Island. Always enthusiastic about archival boxes tagged “ephemera” and “miscellaneous,” she is constantly on the lookout for details that help tell stories about people and places, with a focus on labor, natural history, daily life and maritime medicine. Traci’s great passions include walking, urban nature and pâte de fruits: how do they get it so fruity?

Meg Shieh

Mapping Cardiovascular Disease
Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry

Meg Shieh is a second-year Ph.D. candidate in Ming Xian’s lab in the Department of Chemistry. She graduated from Duke University in 2019 with a B.S. in chemistry with a concentration in pharmacology. Before Brown, she worked on malaria research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and advised on the development of serological testing for COVID-19 at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Her research interests are to develop chemical tools and cost-efficient, large-scale screening methods that can lead to a better understanding of human diseases.

Aditi Singh

An Economic Take on the Power of Thoughts
Ph.D. Candidate in Economics

Aditi Singh is in her sixth and final year of graduate studies. Her research interests focus on behavioral economics and labor economics. In her work, she explores how people interact with the economy and what factors affect these interactions. Born and raised in India, Aditi completed her undergraduate and master’s studies from the University of Delhi. She also holds a master’s from the University of Virginia. Outside of research, she enjoys running, traveling and drawing cartoons.

Kathryn Thompson

Black Women and the Medicaid Safety Net 
Ph.D. Candidate in Public Health

Kathryn Thompson is a fifth-year doctoral candidate of health services research in the School of Public Health. In her research, she leverages economic frameworks to quantitatively study how social, demographic and policy contexts shape health and disparities for women, people of color and Medicaid populations. Her research provides evidence that social identities — like race/ethnicity — and social positions — like socioeconomic status — combine in unique ways to structure health care access, health service utilization and health outcomes among vulnerable populations. Outside of Brown, Kathryn loves to travel to new and exciting places, cook, read and spend time with her family and friends.

Event Program | April 19, 2023

Graduate Students Talks: Celebrating Ideas and Discoveries.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023, 4-6 p.m.

The Graduate School is delighted to host Research Matters: Celebrating New Ideas and Discoveries. Research Matters bolsters intellectual exchange among graduate students, offering a public forum for presenting research and developing presentation skills.

With short talks aimed at an interdisciplinary audience, Research Matters showcases exceptional graduate student scholarship taking place at Brown. The first Research Matters event in September 2014 was part of Brown’s 250th Anniversary Fall Celebration. 

This year, we continue this tradition of celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of our graduate students. Each speaker is contributing to the academic excellence and advancement of knowledge that makes Brown unique and bold. 

Our speakers range across all disciplines and stages of graduate study at Brown, from archaeology to neuroscience to economics to public health. They include students at the beginning of their studies and those about to receive their degrees. After a general call for nominations, our student speakers were selected from among 20 semifinalists to present their research today. Our event celebrates the distinctive nature of Brown graduate education. 

Our speakers are eager to showcase their research with the broader community. 

We hope you enjoy the talks!

Thomas A. Lewis
Interim Dean of the Graduate School

Vanessa Ryan
Senior Associate Dean of Student Development

Introductions 4-4:15 P.M.

Vanessa Ryan Organizer and Senior Associate Dean, Graduate School
Thomas A. Lewis Interim Dean, Graduate School
Lawrence E. Larson Interim Provost, Professor of Engineering 

Session One 4:15-5 P.M.

  • Kathryn Thompson | Black Women and the Medicaid Safety Net
  • Farha Mithila | Fighting Infection: The Role of Estrogen Beyond Sexual Identity
  • Tassallah Abdullahi | The Burden of Limited Labeled Data for Diagnostics
  • Juniper Cocomello | Using Math to Understand Network Dynamics
  • Meg Shieh | Mapping Cardiovascular Disease
  • Sarah Blau | The Stories We Tell about Food Insecurity

Break 5-5:15 P.M.

Session Two 5:15-6 P.M.

  • Rachel Kalisher | What Death Can Teach Us about Ancient Kinship
  • Rachel McLaughlin | Testing Stroke Treatments in a Dish
  • Aditi Singh | An Economic Take on the Power of Thoughts
  • David Arango | Addressing Adolescents with TB
  • Yiran Hua | On Being Good Friends with Bad People
  • Traci Picard | “One Live Hog, Sold as He Stood”

Master of Ceremonies

Cooro Harris

Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry

Cooro Harris is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Professor Shouheng Sun’s lab in the Department of Chemistry. They graduated from Haverford College with a bachelor’s in chemistry and a minor in Japanese. Their research currently focuses on reducing captured CO2 from air using green heterogeneous catalysis via nanoparticles made from earth-abundant metals. Cooro aims to take the complex problem-solving skills developed through doctoral-level research into the consulting industry after Brown. They are also an avid practitioner of aerial silks, a fan of Japanese language and culture and an intermediate learner in the fighting game community.

Coordinating Team and Selection Committee Members

  • Vanessa Ryan Senior Associate Dean, Graduate School
  • Susan Ely Communications and Special Events Manager, Graduate School
  • Maija Hallsmith Assistant Director of Academic Diversity, Graduate School
  • Melissa Simon Director of Business Development, Brown Technology Innovations
  • Jessica Porter Assistant Director of Operations, Graduate School
  • Steven Radilla, Diversity Initiatives Program Coordinator, Graduate School
  • Byrd McDaniel Assistant Director of Student Development, Graduate School
  • Abigail Durmaz Events Manager, Office of University Communications

Filmed by Brown Media Services with Audiovisual Support by New England Showtime Productions.

Thank you!
We are grateful to the Music Department and Julia Craig, events coordinator, for their support of this program and for assistance with the Grant Recital Hall space. We are also grateful to the members of the selection committee, especially for their helpful feedback on speaker presentations.

Coming Attractions: Talk videos will be available on the Research Matters website later this spring.