Graduate School

Research Matters 2024

Graduate Students Talks: Celebrating Ideas and Discoveries
Thursday, April 18, 2024, 4-6 p.m.
Grant Recital Hall

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. 

Each year, we continue this tradition of celebrating the accomplishments and contributions of our graduate students. We are delighted to showcase the ways graduate students are contributing to the academic excellence and advancement of knowledge that makes Brown unique and bold. 

Our speakers range across disciplines and stages of graduate study at Brown, from chemistry to English to mathematics 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 speakers are eager to showcase their research with the broader community. 

We hope you enjoy the talks!



Vanessa Ryan Organizer and Senior Associate Dean, Graduate School
Thomas A. Lewis Dean, Graduate School


Amanda Ruiz
Parasites, Poverty, and Pathology: Insights Into Schistosome Immune Evasion Strategies

Goutam Piduri
Owning Poverty: Non-Possessive Empire in the 17th Century

Jason Xinyu Liu
AI, Robots, and Human Language

Alexander Brown 
Combating Prostate Cancer With a Theragnostic Approach

Jawaher Al-Shamari
Women’s Lived Experiences and Policy in Qatar

BREAK 5-5:15 P.M.


Peter Van Katwyk
Understanding and Improving Sea Level Projections with AI

Harley Elias
Performing Plague

Kevin Hu
Structure and Complexity in High-Dimensional Systems

Munachimso Ugoh
The Interplay Between E-Cigarettes and Traditional Cigarettes

Karyn Mota 
Unpacking the Pages: Symbolic Reparations in Latin America and the Caribbean

Alexia Rojas
Lead Absorption in Zeolites and Community Science


headshot of Jawaher Al-ShamariTalk: Women’s Lived Experiences and Policy in Qatar

Jawaher Al-Shamari is actively engaged in research and advocacy endeavors. With a background in culture and politics and a bachelor of science in foreign service from Georgetown University-Qatar, she focuses on understanding the intersection of women's experiences and law in Qatar. Committed to shaping future leaders, she serves as an academic at Qatar University. Her research interests include climate change, women's issues, policy, ethnography and various intersectionalities. Her dedication extends to public outreach and community engagement initiatives as she strives to foster awareness and drive positive change in her areas of research.

Alexander Brown headshot with an outside backgroundTalk: Combating Prostate Cancer With a Theragnostic Approach

Alexander Brown is broadly interested in the field of bioinorganic chemistry. He received his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Bridgewater State University where he studied electron transfer pathways in small iron-sulfur proteins. He is a strong proponent for community outreach and routinely works to support STEM education in local schools through project-based learning. Outside of the lab, he can be found reading, playing games and exploring Providence.

Harley Elias headshot with a white backgroundTalk: Performing Plague

Harley Elias is in his final year of his MFA in playwriting at Brown. Originally from New York City, he earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in history from Stanford University. He often writes about history, seeking new ways to dramatize the past. Before coming to Brown, Elias completed a Fulbright fellowship in India for playwriting, focusing on 19th century Indian history. His upcoming plays include “Scourge” at Leeds Theater, Brown University, May 2-5, and “The Handless King” at Amphibian Stage in Fort Worth, Texas, opening July 26, 2024.

Kevin Hu headshot with a black backgroundTalk: Structure and Complexity in High-Dimensional Systems

Kevin Hu is studying probability theory and mathematical physics. His research focuses on the analysis of interacting particle systems. His recent results include propagation of chaos for systems driven by fractional Brownian motion and the characterization of the longtime behavior of sparsely interacting diffusions. Hu obtained his bachelor's degree in mathematics in 2019 from New York University. Outside of research, he enjoys playing ultimate frisbee, spending time with friends and napping on his couch.

Peter Van Katwyk with a white backgroundTalk: Understanding and Improving Sea Level Projections with AI

Peter Van Katwyk is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow whose research lies on the intersection of AI and Earth sciences, focusing on using AI to study sea level changes related to climate change. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in geology from Brigham Young University, he chose to explore how AI can enable scientific advancement and discovery. Specifically, his work involves using AI to understand how the evolution of ice sheets will affect future sea levels, while also delving into those AI models to quantify the uncertainties of future projections. Outside of his research, he enjoys sports, cooking and beach days with his wife and two daughters.

Jason Xinyu Liu headshot with a white backgroundTalk: AI, Robots, and Human Language

Jason Xinyu Liu’s research is driven by the development of intelligent robots that assist people. His doctoral research lies at the intersection of artificial intelligence, robotics, and natural language processing. At the Humans To Robots Lab at Brown, he is developing robotic systems that understand natural language commands from humans to solve complex tasks effectively and safely. He earned his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley. His research has received generous support from the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Graduate Scholarship Program.

Karyn Mota headshot with a grey photo backgroundTalk: Unpacking the Pages: Symbolic Reparations in Latin America and the Caribbean

A journalist, Karyn Mota holds a master’s in Africana studies and Portuguese and Brazilian studies from Brown through the Open Graduate Education program and also completed her master’s in communications from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Mota has served as a visiting research fellow at Brown, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Université Paris 8. She has presented her work at academic conferences in Brazil, the U.S., Portugal, Israel, France, England and Greece. Her research interests include contemporary Brazilian literature and culture, Africana studies, Latin American and Caribbean studies, communications and digital humanities.

Goutam Piduri headshot with a window in the backgroundTalk: Owning Poverty: Non-Possessive Empire in the 17th Century

Goutam Piduri holds a bachelor's degree in English from Ashoka University. His dissertation focuses on an inquiry into the mechanisms by which non-possession — a cultivated indifference to material goods — is allied to imperialist thought in the 17th century. The research examines the ascetic's claim that the abandonment of material ownership in favor of spiritual renunciation is a path of nonviolence or resistance to imperialism. Piduri’s academic and translation work has appeared or is forthcoming in Borrowers and Lenders, Denver Quarterly and Asymptote Journal.

Alexia Rojas headshot with white backgroundTalk: Lead Absorption in Zeolites and Community Science

Alexia Rojas is a graduate student in residence at the Gem and Mineral Hall in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. She studies the mechanisms, rates and timing of long-term tectonic events like faulting and mountain building. She is passionate about outreach and uses her background in three-dimensional imaging to study lead absorption and get involved with community science in East Los Angeles. Rojas also leads activities centered around Earth science knowledge with L.A. schools and the community.

Amanda Ruiz headshot with blue photo backgroundTalk: Parasites, Poverty, and Pathology: Insights Into Schistosome Immune Evasion Strategies

Amanda Elyssa Ruiz is an immunoparasitologist studying the protective immune responses to schistosomes, the etiological agents of the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis. By leveraging epidemiological approaches, molecular biology techniques and immunological assays, she seeks to understand the host-parasite interface and identify schistosome targets for vaccines and diagnostics. Her research interests include zoonotic diseases, vaccine development and microbial pathogenesis. She earned her bachelor of arts from Barnard College of Columbia University, where she majored in cellular and molecular biology. Beyond her research, Ruiz is committed to addressing inequalities in educational access and fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment in academia.

Munachimso Ugoh headshot with a grey photo backgroundTalk: The Interplay Between E-Cigarettes and Traditional Cigarettes

Munachimso Ugoh is a first-year MPH student with a concentration in epidemiology. He earned his bachelor of science degree from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2023, majoring in public health, chemistry and international relations. His research interests lie in infectious diseases, substance use disorders, the challenges vulnerable populations face due to these disorders, and global health systems, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa. Ugoh currently works as a research assistant with the Tobacco Harm Reduction and Use Lab at Brown University. Additionally, he is interested in health economics and outcomes research. When not engaged in research, he enjoys traveling to different countries, reading books and attending live plays and musicals.

Meg Shieh headshotMeg Shieh is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in Jesse Houghton Metcalf Professor of Chemistry Ming Xian’s lab in the Department of Chemistry. She graduated from Duke University in 2019 with a bachelor of science 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. Currently, she is developing detection methods and chemical tools to study reactive sulfur species that play critical regulatory roles in the physiology and pathology of diseases. Her research interests include developing chemical tools and cost-efficient, large-scale screening methods that can lead to a better understanding of human diseases. Meg presented at Research Matters 2023 in a talk titled “Mapping Cardiovascular Disease.


Coordinating Team and Selection Committee Members

  • Vanessa Ryan Senior Associate Dean, Graduate School
  • Byrd McDaniel Assistant Director of Student Development, Graduate School
  • Melissa Simon Director of Business Development, Brown Technology Innovations
  • Meg Shieh Ph.D. Candidate in Chemistry
  • Shuyuan (Joy) Liu Assistant Director for English Language Support
  • Annabeth Faucher Lifelong Learning Coordinator, Office of Alumni Relations
  • Susan Ely Communications and Special Events Manager, Graduate School
  • Sunjidmaa Sukhbaatar Event Specialist, Event and Strategy Management
  • José Mendoza Event Specialist, Event and Strategy Management


We are grateful to the Department of Music 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.

The event will be recorded and live-streamed by Brown Media Services with audiovisual support provided by New England Showtime Productions.