List of Fellows

The Presidential Fellowship is funded by the President of the University and awarded by The Graduate School. This highly competitive award is the most prestigious fellowship awarded by Northwestern.

All recipients become members of the Northwestern Society of Fellows (which includes former members and distinguished faculty members). Presidential Fellows still completing their degrees are listed below. See the links at the top for Fellows listed by induction year.

Adebola Adeniran | Chemical and Biological Engineering
Adebola Adeniran

Adebola Adeniran is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering under the advisement of Professor Keith EJ Tyo. Her research examines the potential of using yeast-based biosensors as a low-cost option for healthcare diagnostics. Yeast-based biosensors have been used in a variety of fields, but have yet to be explored in this capacity. Yeasts have well studied mechanisms for detecting and responding to different molecules in their native environments. Adebola's research seeks to rewire these sensory pathways to instead detect molecules that are indicative of disease and found in easy to access human specimens, such as blood or urine. After detecting the molecule, the yeast can be genetically altered to respond by providing a visual readout to the user. Information gained from this work can provide further insights on how to better design yeast-based biosensors for the healthcare field.

Robin Bartram | Sociology
Robin Bartram

Robin Bartram is a PhD candidate in Sociology. Her main areas of interest are urban sociology, cultural sociology, and the sociology of knowledge. Informed by these subfields, Robin’s dissertation is a study of housing inspections and building code. Specifically, Robin investigates what matters – about buildings and their residents and owners - to building inspectors when they decide 1) what counts as a violation of the municipal code; and 2) what course of action to take from a range of possibilities, such as fines, court cases, demolitions, evictions, or allowing property owners time to improve housing conditions. This project combines observations of inspections-in-action with interviews, court room observations, and geospatial analysis of census data to reveal links between on-the-ground interpretive decisions and city-wide patterns in inequality. Overall, this project affords a theory of how social characteristics shape the interpretation and regulation of physical artifacts, as well as how physical characteristics enable or limit governance of people and places.

Daniel Case | Physics and Astronomy
Daniel Case

Daniel Case is a physicist researching networks and complex systems. Many things we encounter in our everyday lives such as the power grid, social groups, financial markets, and even materials can be viewed as networks of interacting components. Building models of these complicated networks that capture their observed behavior is an area in which excellent work has been done. Daniel’s research focuses on the inverse problem: constructing a network that exhibits a desired behavior. His primary research is on the design of microfluidic networks. A microfluidic system is composed of a network of tiny pipes embedded in a plastic chip the size of a small coin. The pipes are about the width of a strand of hair and carry only a few nanoliters of fluid. These systems are used widely to perform small scale experiments in chemistry and biology but also have a growing number of biomedical applications, including rapid bed-side diagnostic tests and wearable health monitoring devices. Daniel designs the network of pipes in these systems so that fluids flow through them in an automated or pre-defined way, removing the need for external control systems like pumps and computers. His work is theoretical and computational, and he combines techniques from network science with the physics of fluids. Daniel received Bachelor of Science degrees in physics, mathematics, and economics from Louisiana State University prior to coming to Northwestern to join Professor Adilson Motter’s research group. Visit his research group's website.

Anne d'Aquino | Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences (IBiS)
Anne d'Aquino

Anne d’Aquino received a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry from Western Washington University and is currently a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences (IBiS) Graduate Program. Under the advisement of Professor Michael Jewett, her thesis work focuses on understanding and engineering the ribosome’s active site. The ribosome is the cell’s machine for synthesizing proteins with high efficiency and fidelity. This speed and accuracy are what attracted Anne to study and understand the active site with the goal of engineering it for the efficient synthesis of products, such as medicines and materials. Despite decades of work studying the ribosome, there is very little known about the impact of changing the active site. This challenge is primarily due to the ribosome’s requirement to make proteins that sustain the life of the cell. To address this knowledge gap, Anne uses a cell-free platform that allows her to study the ribosome in a test tube without the need to maintain cell life. In her work, she has built and characterized every possible mutation point, generating the first and only comprehensive mutational map of the ribosome’s active site. Her results have shed light on basic biological translation, while forming the first stepping stone for engineering the active site. Visit her lab’s website.

Anya Degenshein | Sociology
Anya Degenshein

Anya Degenshein is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology and a Graduate Fellow in the Center for Legal Studies. Her dissertation research examines the practice and consequences of “entrapment” in post-9/11 counter-terrorism policing and punishment. In these cases, targets—largely Muslim men of color—are incited to commit acts of terrorism by FBI informants or undercover agents, despite little evidence to suggest any crime at all would have occurred without the FBI’s direct involvement. The project therefore draws upon Freedom of Information Act-requested trial transcripts, legal documents, original in-depth interviews, and media coverage to investigate how such an extreme method of policing is made tolerable, even when the tactics involved are contrary to some of our core constitutional values. Initial analysis reveals key technological, legal, and rhetorical mechanisms that work together to make criminal wrongdoing seem natural and inevitable in the presentation of evidence, and therefore necessary to prevent. Ultimately, Anya uses her research to build a theory of contemporary policing and punishment that is highly individuated and rooted in the desire to prevent risks before the risks themselves are known. View Anya’s research website. 

Bonnie Etherington | English
Bonnie Etherington

Bonnie Etherington is a PhD candidate in the Department of English. She studies Indigenous-authored poetry and novels from Oceania that challenge US and Eurocentric narratives of the trans-Pacific. While Oceania and its islands are regularly promoted as tourist paradises and used for military testing, Bonnie explores how the ocean is also a relational space of possibilities, offering ways to achieve not just local but global forms of Indigenous control over their histories, presents, and futures. While other scholars employ the term “trans-Pacific” to describe neoliberal economic or militaristic concerns, in a historical moment characterized by growing garbage patches and rising seas, Bonnie’s dissertation shows that Oceanic Indigenous authors theorize Indigenous-based ways of belonging in, reclaiming, and protecting the ocean. She examines novels and poetry by authors connected to the Pacific Northwest, French Polynesia, Samoa, Guam, Hawai‘i, Taiwan, and West Papua. When read collectively, these works allow a specific vision of the ocean to emerge as an avenue toward Indigenous sovereignty. Bonnie is president of the Colloquium on Indigeneity and Native American Studies at Northwestern. Her first novel, The Earth Cries Out (Penguin Random House NZ, 2017), is set in West Papua and intersects with many of her dissertation’s themes.

Chelsea Frazier | African American Studies
Chelsea Frazier

Chelsea Frazier is a PhD candidate in the Department of African American Studies and a fellow in the Science and Human Culture Program. Her primary research includes Black Feminist Literature and Theory, Visual Culture, Ecocriticism and Environmentalism, Political Theory, Science and Technology Studies, and Afrofuturism. Chelsea’s dissertation mobilizes Black feminist theory and ecocriticism to analyze Black women’s environmental writing, art, and activism. As a field, environmental studies is divided into several theories and disciplines that routinely erase or distort Black women’s voices. These erasures obscure that fact that when Black women make art, or write about, or organize around environmental issues, they typically communicate the ways racism, sexism, and classism underpin and reinforce environmental degradation. Chelsea’s research centers the voices of Black women environmental leaders from across the African Diaspora to investigate how and why environmental studies’ disciplinary and theoretical divisions contribute to this erasure, and to demystify the alternative ecological ethics that emerge when we center Black women’s writing, art, and activism in environmental conversations. Prior to Northwestern, Chelsea received her Master of Arts from the American Studies program at Purdue University and her Bachelor of Arts from the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College. Visit her research website.

Daniel Garcia | Chemical Engineering & Mechanical Engineering
Daniel Garcia

Daniel Garcia is a PhD candidate in the departments of Chemical and Biological Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. His research focuses on modeling, designing, and optimizing sustainable food, water, and energy systems. Some of his prior works investigated sustainable production of biofuels by identifying which biomass feesstocks to use, where to grow them, and which biofuels technologies to use to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. His current and future work will focus on appropriately valuing and considering ecosystem services in supply chain planning and design as well as considering the many wants and needs of stakeholders, including consumers, supply chain operators, and regulators. More sustainable energy, food, and water systems can be identified and implemented with the modeling, design, and optimization tools developed in this research.

Lauren Geary | Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences (IBiS)
Lauren Geary

Lauren Geary received a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Illinois Wesleyan University and is currently a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences (IBiS) graduate program. Her thesis work, under the advisement of Professor Carole LaBonne, focuses on understanding the unique behavior of stem cells, as they hold enormous potential for the treatment of disease. Stem cells are unspecialized cells that have the remarkable ability to either stay unspecialized, or to undergo cell specialization and form any different cell type imaginable. How a stem cell decides to stay a stem cell and how it begins the process of cell specialization, however, is not entirely clear. For this reason, Lauren’s dissertation research is aimed at determining the specific instructions needed to control stem cell decisions during development. Such information is imperative as scientists and physicians continue to work towards making stem cell-based therapies a reality. In addition to her scholarly work, Lauren is dedicated to education and community outreach, and is an active member of numerous outreach initiatives that provide youth mentorship and encourage scientific curiosity throughout the community. View the IBiS website.

Bethany Hughes | Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama
Bethany Hughes

Bethany Hughes is a PhD candidate in the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama program. Her research explores the relationship among performance, law, and racialization. Asking the question “How do you know when you see an Indian?” she identifies and analyzes an embodied repertoire of Indianness that marks a character as Native American on the theatrical stage and marks a Native American as Indian within the legal and juridical tradition of the United States. Using racial representation as a lens through which to interpret both performance and law she draws upon Theatre Studies, Native American Studies, and Cultural History. Drawing connections between significant shifts in federal Indian policy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and contemporaneous popular, theatrical entertainment she questions the ways in which Native Americans were constructed and circulated by Indigenous and non-Indigenous performers. Bethany co-founded and leads the Colloquium on Indigeneity and Native American Studies, a graduate student led colloquium dedicated to fostering interdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration among scholars of Native American and Indigenous Studies. Visit the Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre and Drama program's web page.

Marcos Leitão de Almeida | History
Marcos Leitão de Almeida

Marcos Leitão de Almeida is a PhD candidate in African History at Northwestern University. He is also part of the Program of African Studies. Marcos is a historian interested in exploring and developing new methodologies to study the early history of oral societies in the African continent. His work focuses on the long history of slavery in Central Africa and is methodologically situated at the intersection of global history of slavery, anthropology and historical linguistics. Using historical linguistic methods in conjunction with archaeology and documentary sources, his doctoral research traces the intellectual and social history of slavery in the Lower Congo between 500 B.C.E. and the nineteenth century. Marcos' dissertation, "Speaking of Slavery: Slaving Strategies and Moral Imaginations in the Lower Congo," will provide a detailed study of the construction and reconfiguration of this category over the longue durée in a specific region of the African continent. Before coming to Northwestern, Marcos specialized in the Social History of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade between Brazil and West-Central Africa during the 19th century. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History from Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio, 2006), and received an Master of Arts in Social History from State University of Campinas (UNICAMP, 2012). His M.A. Thesis, “Ladinos e Boçais: the Language Regime of the South Atlantic (1831 –c.1850)”, won The Palmares Foundation Award for the best research on Afro-Brazilian Culture (2011-2012).

Mollie McQuillan | Human Development & Social Policy
Mollie McQuillan

Mollie McQuillan is a PhD candidate in the Human Development and Social Policy program under the advisement of Professor Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach. Mollie’s current research uses qualitative and quantitative evidence produced by three interrelated studies to provide a more thorough understanding of the academic environment for gender variant youth and how their social environment influences their health, both areas of critical concern for educational policy. First, she is investigating whether gender dysphoria (i.e. distress from transgender identities), social stressors, and lack of social support contribute to poorer health in transgender populations through inflammation and immune deregulation pathways. Second, she is conducting a document analysis of the present policy landscape concerning gender variant youth using a representative sample of Illinois districts. By combining data collected from district documents with information about district demographics, she will be able to describe the extent of protective and affirming policies for gender expansive students, in addition to the kinds of districts that may be more likely to have protective and affirming policies in place. Finally, an interview study of school district administrators examines different strategies administrators use to address the needs of gender-expansive students and implementation barriers. Mollie has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and two master’s degrees, one in Teaching from the University of Saint Thomas and another in Human Development and Social Policy from Northwestern University.

Paul Ohno | Chemistry
Paul Ohno

Paul Ohno is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry in the research group of Professor Franz Geiger. He received an A.B. in Chemistry from Princeton University, where his interest in surface and interface science began. His current research focuses on both developing nonlinear optical spectroscopic techniques and applying them to the natural and technological interfaces that control our environment. By taking advantage of the symmetry rules that govern the exotic optical processes that occur when laser pulses become extremely powerful, these techniques are able to directly the measure the properties of interfacial layers that may be as thin as one molecule, no simple experimental feat. Armed with this level of molecular understanding from the mineral/water interface, we aim to move beyond simply describing how pollutants move through the environment and towards being able to predict and ultimately control this transport. Visit the Geiger group’s website.

Whitney Pow | Screen Cultures
Whitney Pow

Whitney Pow is a PhD candidate in the Screen Cultures program in the Department of Radio, TV, and Film. Their dissertation reframes histories of software and technology by focusing on the contributions of queer and transgender computer scientists, coders, and game designers. Historically, video games have been studied through their relationship to the military-industrial complex, emphasizing their origins in military research laboratories and their resulting incorporation of war strategy and the logics of domination and empire. Many video games made by queer and transgender designers, however, examine the experience of failure, frustration, and impossibility, pushing against the assumption that a player has complete control and experiences an empowering sense of liberation through software interactions and gameplay. Whitney’s research connects close textual analyses of video games to sociological studies, archival documents, and queer and transgender oral histories in order to uncover the intimate connections between the history of LGBTQ citizenship and the experiences, simulations and dynamics that are inherent to video games and software designed by queer and transgender people. In their work, Whitney analyzes how queer and transgender designers politically utilize the experience of in-game disempowerment to comment on an historical, and ongoing, social, legal, and medical struggle for queer and transgender human rights.

Kritish Rajbhandari | Comparative Literary Studies
Kritish Rajbhandari

Kritish Rajbhandari is a PhD candidate in the Program in Comparative Literary Studies under the co-advisement of Professor Evan Mwangi and Professor Nasrin Qader. His research takes the Indian Ocean as a framework to analyze contemporary novels from East Africa and South Asia alongside a body of historical archives to reflect on the relation between a past with porous borders and flexible identities and the present with more strict divisions between nations. The Indian Ocean has been a site of circulation of people, objects and ideas for several millennia, but the modern history of colonialism and nation-states have pushed aside these historically dynamic interchanges. Kritish’s dissertation argues that these novels engage in the production of an archive of counter-histories that enables them to answer back to the violence of various colonialist, nationalist, and patriarchal projects that have historically defined the Indian Ocean world. Using counter-historicism as method, his project analyzes the literary texts against different archival contexts to show how fictional reconstructions of the past open up memories and genealogies occluded in documented histories. Combining literary analysis with archival research, his dissertation illuminates the ways in which various forms of storytelling can be an important site for articulating transnational connections that radically alter and challenge our notions of identity, community and belonging. 

Jason Rosenholtz-Witt | Music
Jason Rosenholtz-Witt

Jason Rosenholtz-Witt is a PhD candidate in Northwestern University’s musicology program. His dissertation examines the mediation and circulation of music through social and professional networks in and surrounding the Venetian Republic from 1580-1630 with an emphasis on Bergamo, a thriving musical center during this period, inhabiting a key geo-political position on the border between the Republic’s territory and the Spanish Duchy of Milan. In so doing, Jason challenges established narratives of early modern music history that limit centers of influence to larger cities such as Florence and Venice. At the core of his dissertation stand newly rediscovered works of music that he located in civic and ecclesiastical archives and libraries. Jason’s discovery of scattered music from small northern Italian cities necessitates the collection and reassembly of separated print and manuscript partbooks so that he can understand and reevaluate the production and spread of music from forgotten musical centers to other parts of Italy and to German-speaking lands. By documenting the dissemination of a pan-Italianate musical style toward Graz and Ljubljana through the movement of both physical musical objects and ephemeral ideas, Jason’s research reveals a complex and international network of musicians, composers, artists, poets, patrons, religious figures, and diplomats engaged in musical production. 

Max Shepherd | Biomedical Engineering
Max Shepherd

Max Shepherd is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. His research focuses on the mechanical design and control of lower limb prosthetics, and how prosthetic foot behavior affects the biomechanics of walking. Modern prosthetic feet allow people with lower limb amputation to walk, but perform poorly in most other tasks, such as going up and down stairs or ramps. To address this limitation, Max designed a prosthetic foot with variable stiffness that can be adapted for different tasks. In his current research, he is using this prosthetic foot as an experimental platform to better understand how well people can sense changes in prosthesis stiffness, and how robotic prosthetic tools can improve the prescription process. Max is performing his research at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab (formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago), and is mentored by Professors Elliott Rouse and Todd Kuiken. Prior to coming to Northwestern, Max received a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering at the University of North Carolina.

Carolyn Wilke | Civil & Environmental Engineering
Carolyn Wilke

Carolyn Wilke is a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering where she is advised by Dr. Kimberly A. Gray and Dr. Jean-François Gaillard. She researches the environmental fate of nanomaterials, pieces of matter thousands of times smaller than the width of a hair. Specifically, she focuses on nanoscale silver and titanium dioxide, two commercially used nanomaterials with antimicrobial properties, and their chemistry in aquatic ecosystems and toxic effects to bacteria. She is currently investigating how chemical transformations of nanomaterial mixtures are mediated by environmental conditions, particularly light, which plays a critical role in controlling their toxicity. Her research has shown that such mixtures often yield unexpected toxic effects that are in some cases attenuated or synergistic relative to effects of the single nanomaterial. Prior to coming to Northwestern, Carolyn received her Bachelors’ degree in chemical engineering from Case Western Reserve University and a Masters’ degree in chemical engineering from Caltech. She is passionate about communicating science to the public and is a 2017 AAAS Mass Media Fellow placed at The Sacramento Bee.

Shuang Zhang | Driskill Graduate Program in the Life Sciences
Shuang Zhang

Shuang Zhang is a PhD candidate in the Driskill Graduate Program (DGP) under the advisement of Dr. Edward Thorp in the Pathology Department, Feinberg School of Medicine. She came to the U.S. as an exchange student from China . After finishing her undergrad in East Tennessee State University, she joined the DGP program in the fall of 2012. Her research focuses on the inflammatory response after heart attack. Cardiovascular disease has become the leading cause of death in the United States. Even though the advances in pharmacological treatments improved the survival for heart attack patients, the residual risk of post-heart attack heart failure remains high. This necessitates the development of complementary approaches to preserve heart function. During heart attack, the damaged heart muscle cells recruit macrophage, an important immune cell who is in charge of debris clearance, from the blood. The process of debris clearance by phagocytes is termed efferocytosis. Shuang’s research focuses on the reprogramming process within macrophages upon efferocytosis. The major respects of her work are: 1) trying to enhancing inflammation resolution in the heart by targeting the interaction between dying cardiomyocytes and macrophages. 2) elucidating the role of mitochondrial metabolism in efferocytosis mediated inflammation resolution. Her ultimate goal is to identify molecular targets involved in efferocytosis to enhance inflammation resolution in cardiovascular diseases. Visit her lab's website. 

Justin Zullo | Performance Studies
Justin Zullo

Justin Zullo is a PhD candidate in the Department of Performance Studies, and a sound engineer, musician, and teaching artist. His work focuses on Chicago-based arts organizations that use hip-hop performance as a tool for education and community building. Situated at the intersection of performance theory, urban ethnography, and sound studies, Justin’s dissertation examines how the embodied aspects of hip-hop culture (e.g. breakdancing, beatboxing, fashion, etc.) offer alternate methods and spaces for learning, and how this type of learning functions in response to local political challenges such as youth-of-color criminalization and educational disinvestment. These political contexts set the stage for Justin’s ethnography of two specific sites: (1) Kuumba Lynx a Chicago-based hip-hop community arts organization, where he works with instructors and students to better understand their artistic responses to local issues; and, (2) Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, a five-story detention center for incarcerated young people under the age of 18, where he teaches residents digital music production. His fieldwork at these sites spotlights the strictures black and brown young people face in Chicago, and theorizes the philosophical approaches and artistic methods hip-hop pedagogy offers to these constraints.