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 past Fellows listed by induction year.
Luis Fernando Amaya Muñoz
Luis Fernando Amaya is a PhD candidate in Composition & Music Technology at Northwestern's Bienen School of Music.
Topics such as collective memory, "flaw," and the relationship between humans and non-human others (such as plants and animals, imaginary or not) are commonly present in his work. His dissertation project, Árbol de Bocas ("Tree of Mouths",) is an opera in which the only character is a fantastic tree that inhabits the middle grounds in between the animal and the vegetal realms: a tree that grows mouths instead of leaves. The opera is textless and has no more libretto than the seasons in a year in the life of this imaginary tree. Drawing upon ecocriticism beyond its focus on literary studies as well as on theories of vital materialism and posthumanism, Árbol de Bocas uses imagination and sound as political tools in order to build a cognitive bridge between humans and a vital non-human ‘other’ whose subjectivity and rights have been ignored by most societies in the Western world. By invoking artistic license, the anthropomorphism of the ‘tree of mouths’ allows us to engage with a plant within a human time-scale and human means of expressing physical and emotional states, thus inviting the listener to a different and, paradoxically, less anthropocentric way of relating to plants. In addition to the opera, there is a textual portion of this project which analyzes current musical and artistic practices that engage with non-human subjects in various manners, including original in-depth interviews with composers Liza Lim and Erin Gee.
Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences (IBiS)
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. Read more about Anne in our Spotlight Series.
Ángel Escamilla García
Ángel A. Escamilla García is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology.
His research focuses on how migrant youth negotiate high-risk environments. His current project uses ethnographic methods to explore the different strategies that Central American youth use to migrate through Mexico on their way to the United States. Since 2015, he has spent extensive time in migrant shelters across Mexico and has interviewed Central American migrants, as well as a wide range of officials, aid workers, and stakeholders. His research reveals the capacity of Central American migrant youth to constantly adapt to their circumstances, employing a wide range of tactics to avoid the many harms and dangers of moving through Mexico. Ángel also studies the role of rumor, reputation, legal consciousness, and illegality in shaping youth’s journeys. His research ultimately challenges the characterization of migration journeys as linear events and sheds important light on the role of journeys in shaping overall migration flows. Ángel received his bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology from the Universidad Veracruzana in Xalapa, Veracruz. Read Angel’s research blog.
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. Read more about Bonnie in our Spotlight Series.
Media, Technology, and Society
Hannah Getachew-Smith is a PhD candidate in the Media, Technology, and Society program within the Department of Communication Studies.
She works in the Health Communication Interaction Design Lab to develop interventions to facilitate difficult or complex conversations in health. Her research focuses on the evaluation of digital health interventions, such as smartphone apps and wearables, that are designed to promote healthy behaviors and address health disparities. Hannah’s dissertation examines how digital health intervention engagement (i.e., how users interact with an intervention) is defined and measured, and seeks to develop a comprehensive set of metrics to measure engagement within the context of apps to help parents identify developmental delays in children. Trained in public health, she holds a Master of Public Health from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Global Health Studies from Northwestern University and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). Prior to returning to Northwestern, Hannah worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducting research to develop and evaluate national HIV prevention campaigns. Visit Hannah’s research website.
Human Development and Social Policy
Heather McCambly is a PhD candidate in the Human Development and Social Policy program under the advisement of Professors Jeannette Colyvas and Jonathan Guryan.
Heather’s research traces the processes by which an increasingly influential set of policy actors—grantmaking and philanthropic organizations—develop and select frames reflective of different race and class ideologies, and the causal effects of these frames on education policies. In her current work, she explores this puzzle through four, interrelated studies using multiple quantitative and qualitative methodologies and data types from two major grantmaking organizations. Heather’s work is timely as organizations of all kinds continue to take up issues of “diversity” or “inclusion” even as historical patterns of racial stratification persist. Heather’s work highlights how the failure to attend to elites’ frames and preferences relevant to racial inequality prevents the field from understanding the limitations and the relative efficacy of one frame over another in achieving long-standing and increasingly urgent social goals. Heather came to Northwestern after nearly a decade working in education policy, including in state government and national nonprofits, where she focused on policies intended to reduce the persistent disadvantages experienced by minoritized college students.
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. Read more about Whitney in our Spotlight Series.
Plant Biology and Conservation
Lea Richardson is a PhD candidate in the Plant Biology and Conservation Program at Northwestern University and the Chicago Botanic Garden.
She is an ecologist and educator who develops experiments in natural settings to test ecological theory. Lea studies how the timing of life-cycle events in plants, and the spatial relationships between plants, influence their Darwinian fitness. Understanding how the fitness of plants depends on time and space is critical because climate change alters the timing of life-cycle events, and human activity alters where organisms live. Her research on plant reproductive responses to fire and flowering time in the tallgrass prairie provides insight for conservation practitioners who conduct prairie burns and want to understand how burns impact plants. Her work which tests how density, species composition, and timing of flowering influence annual plant fitness in California explores the generalizability of plant responses to time and space. Lea also collaborates with a public high school to create opportunities for students to participate in ecology research and directly contribute to her dissertation. Before her time at Northwestern, Lea earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology at California State University Los Angeles, a Masters in Education at the University of California Los Angeles, and was a public high school teacher. View her research website.
Health Sciences Integrated PhD Program
Lindsay Zimmerman is a PhD Candidate in the Health Sciences Integrated PhD Program and Health and Biomedical Informatics Track.
Her dissertation research aims to better understand the relationship between social determinants of health and cardiovascular health, using sequential pattern mining and machine learning techniques. This work is vitally important in providing much needed information about how exposures to social determinants change over time and how they can be used can be used to improve the prediction of patients at high-risk for low cardiovascular health. Prior to Northwestern, Lindsay was the Director of Research for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Division of Family Planning at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County, Chicago’s primary safety-net hospital. She received her bachelor of science in Biological Sciences at DePaul University and later a master of public health in Epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Lindsay is committed to promoting greater health equity and social justice in health care outside of the classroom and is actively involved with two Chicago-based non-profits, the Cook County Health Foundation and The Night Ministry.