Celebrating LGS Students

Every year as we approach Graduate Student Appreciation Week, we ask Directors of Graduate Studies, graduate faculty and program administrators to send suggestions our way for students to feature and celebrate on our website. We always have more than we can accommodate, which speaks to the quality and excellent work of our graduate students, as well as the esteem in which they are held by their advisors, peers, and mentors.

This year, Graduate Student Appreciation Week took place April 4–8, 2016.

April 8, 2016 – Day 5

Natalie Delia-Deckard (Sociology)

Natalie is completing a dissertation that focuses on an urgent policy concern: child sex trafficking in the U.S. Her work in this area stands-out both methodologically and theoretically. Methodologically, she has developed an original measure of rates of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children ("child sex trafficking"). Natalie's dissertation advances theories of how state policies and activities generate "system avoidance" among marginalized groups that intensifies their marginalization. Training this theory on child sex trafficking, she ties-together the two separate literatures on poor Black communities and undocumented immigrants, and tests predictions from this theory using her original measure.

Jessica Locke (Philosophy)

Jessica is writing a dissertation in comparative philosophy that brings together continental philosophical concerns for the body with those of Zen and Tibetan Buddhism. As such, Jessica’s work reaches across units on campus. She is the best at this in our department. It is also worth noting that her teaching evaluations are the highest among graduate students in our department. Her passion for research is matched by her excellence at teaching. Jessica has accepted a tenure-track job offer at Loyola University in Baltimore starting next year.

Julia Omotade (Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences – Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology)

Julia is a fourth-year BCDB student is supported by her own individual pre-doctoral fellowship from the NIH to pursue her research in Dr. James Zheng's laboratory. Her work focuses on understanding how neurons function. She is very committed to communicating the importance of science to our political leaders. Recently the American Institute of Biological Sciences announced that Julia Omotade won the Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award.

Helena Worrall (Master’s in Development Practice)

Helen came to the MDP program from the University of St. Andrews in the UK, having graduated with honors in Sustainable Development and received the Robert T. Jones Memorial Fellowship to study at Emory. Helena is particularly interested in climate change policy, and assisted Climate@Emory and the French Consulate of Atlanta in organizing an expert panel on Humanitarian Aid and Climate Change featuring US and French NGOs involved in disaster response in preparation for the COP21 Conference in Paris. As part of her MDP training, Helena spent last summer in Kenya collaborating with research scientists from the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) program, a long-term, outcome-oriented research initiative involving the global network of CGIAR international agricultural research centers. During the past academic year Helena has served as a Learning and Knowledge Management intern with CARE’s Food and Nutrition Security team, and is currently is poised to travel to Bangladesh this summer to assist with Monitoring and Evaluation work for CARE’s Pathways to Empowerment, a multi-country program that supports rural women’s efforts to achieve secure and sustainable livelihoods.

April 7, 2016 – Day 4

Catherine Barth

(Art History)

Last year, Catherine held the Mellon-funded fellowship in Object-Centered Curatorial Research, a joint project with the Art History Department, the Carlos Museum, and the High Museum of Atlanta, working on the photographs of Wynn Bullock held at the High Museum. She was awarded a one-year full-time Mellon Graduate Research Fellowship in the Photography Department, where she is working under the direction of Brett Abbott, Keough Family Curator of Photography and is researching the High's collection of Clarence John Laughlin photographic prints. These fellowships have given Catherine the opportunity not only to do scholarly research on the subject of her dissertation, but to make public presentations to a variety of audiences, in both the academy and the larger community.

Gina Alesi (Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences – Cancer Biology)

Gina has done a tremendous job on her research and published her first author paper in journal 'Oncogene' (currently in press) by discovering a novel molecular mechanism that a serine/threonine kinase, ribosomal S6 kinase 2 (RSK2) directly phosphorylates stathmin and regulates microtubule polymerization to provide a pro-invasive and pro-metastatic advantage to cancer cells. She has also contributed to other projects in the laboratory in deciphering the molecular mechanism of additional downstream targets of RSK2 in tumor metastasis and uncovering the oncogenic role of a metabolic enzyme, glutamate dehydrogenase 1 in human cancer. These contribution allowed her earn co-authorships in several papers, which include Mol Cell Biol (2013), J Biol Chem (2013) and Cancer Cell (2015) during her PhD training.

Rachel Shapiro (History)

Rachel has a strong interest in women’s health, especially wet nursing, and will combine that work with a Master’s in Public Health. She has been admitted to the Rollins School of Public Health (RSPH) and will do her MS next year. This summer, she will be in Lomé, Togo on an RSPH project that will look at women’s health and especially work on strengthening family planning and midwifery services. Her French language skills will be essential for the RSPH team. She is planning on a career outside the traditional academic path, probably combining her history PhD with her MPH, to work on women’s issues in public/government work. She is a terrific person and student.

Helen Baker (Nursing)

Helen is a Woodruff Scholar whose research interests focus on access to family planning and reproductive and sexual health services in developing countries. She is also interested in community-based approaches to improve health outcomes. Putting her interests to practice, she has worked on a project with Rollins School of Public Health students to evaluate the efficacy of different sized condoms in South Africa. She is currently in Togo gathering data for her dissertation (she was formerly a Peace Corp volunteer in Togo). She is a fantastic teacher (according to reports from her TATTO mentor), and last summer, she participated as a faculty member in one of the summer programs for high school students at Emory.

April 6, 2016 – Day 3

Marisela Martinez-Cola (Sociology)

Marisela has greatly enriched the intellectual life of Emory through her scholarship and her teaching. Drawing on her skills as a legal scholar (she has a JD) and a sociologist, she is expanding our understanding of racial inequality and school segregation beyond the Black-White division challenged by Brown v. the Board of Education. In particular, she is investigating how discourses of race and gender were deployed in three important educational segregation cases that predated Brown. These cases involved Native American, Mexican-American and Chinese-American plaintiffs, respectively. She incorporates this multi-dimensional and historical approach to race into her courses as an ORDERS fellow and an instructor in Sociology.

Anne Winiarski (Clinical Psychology)

Anne is a 5th year Clinical Psychology student and a current Dean's Teaching Fellow. She also teaches and mentors undergraduates through the ORDER program. She is a highly productive researcher and a gifted mentor, and has recently been awarded the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology's Outstanding Student Teacher Award for her "exceptionally advanced research contributions to clinical psychology, and...future promise as a rising star of our field."

Zachary Binney (Epidemiology)

According to his program, Zach is “one of our superstar TA’s.” Students like and respond to him, and he really goes out of his way to help students – often having individual 1:1 sessions to explain difficult concepts, etc. He is also one of Epidemiology’s student representatives who coordinate both academic and social related activities for the PhD students. Finally, he was also recently a contestant on Jeopardy. He is an avid trivial pursuit guy and, according to his program, “is, frankly, quite a fun character with a great balance of life!”

Justin Shaw (English)

Justin is a 2nd year PhD student in English. He specializes in Early Modern literature, race, disease, and disability, and works in the Digital Humanities. With the Center for Digital Scholarship and Professor Harry Rusche, he is curating *Shakespeare & the Players*, an exhibition featuring a collection of 1,000 theatrical Shakespeare postcards from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. He is also Project Lead for the complete redesign of a website showcasing these cards and 150 years of Shakespeare performance history. Justin recently organized the symposium, "The Limits of Disability and Disability Studies" with the Disability Studies Initiative and the Early Modern & Medieval Colloquium, which publicly interrogated and brought attention to the terms of disability studies and highlighted the exciting work being done by faculty and students in the burgeoning "hub" of the field at Emory. And he has spent this year actively trying to build bridges between underrepresented minority students and top tier graduate education. To this end, he organized and spoke at two events at Morehouse College, and one with Emory's BSA in an attempt to expose undergraduates to graduate student life and research.

April 5, 2016 – Day 2

Kathleen Casto (Neuroscience and Animal Behavior – Psychology)

Kathleen is currently serving as a consultant to the U.S. National women’s field hockey team. This is the team that will play in the Olympic Games this summer. As part of her work with the team, she’s collecting data on the effect of power imaging on athletic performance and levels of testosterone and cortisol, and relations between these hormones and status with teammates. Based on her research interests, she has also developed an undergraduate course in Psychology and Neuroscience of Sports and Exercise, which she will give next year as a Dean’s Teaching Fellow.

Joel Reynolds


Joel is writing a dissertation on the philosophy of disability studies, a first for our program. He brings disability concerns into conversation with philosophers not normally associated with the movement (Heidegger, Levinas). He has presented his work at academic conferences as well as in more practical settings (to firemen and first responders, for instance). Joel is an active member (founding member) of Emory’s Disability Studies Initiative, as well. He puts his theory into practice and is an ideal colleague and member of the Emory community.

Alex Lundberg (Economics)

Originally from Virginia, Alex completed a Master in Science in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science before starting his PhD. studies in Fall 2012. Alex is not only about to finish his dissertation in Law and Economics by Fall 2016, but he has already published his solo author work in leading peer-reviewed journals in Economics such as the International Review of Law and Economics and Economics Letters. He is currently working on four other projects that advance our understanding of committee deliberations and the relationship between institutions and economic growth.

Annie McPherson (Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences – Genetics and Molecular Biology)

Annie is a fourth year GMB student who was recently awarded an individual pre-doctoral fellowship from the NIH to support her research studying how DNA repair pathways are regulated to ensure that DNA damage in the genome is efficiently repaired. Annie is very committed to training and has mentored many trainees both at Emory and beyond. In 2015, she was recognized by the GDBBS for her mentoring activities and her outreach in the Leading the GMB Outreach and Teaching (GOT) Science Initiative. After Annie completes her graduate training, she plans to become a faculty member at a school that combines teaching and undergraduate research.

April 4, 2016 – Day 1

Kevin Morris (Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences – Biochemistry, Cell, and Developmental Biology)

Kevin Morris, a fourth year BCDB student, is supported by his own individual pre-doctoral fellowship from the NIH to study the function of an RNA binding protein that is lost in a form of inherited intellectual disability. Kevin has served in a leadership role within DSAC. Like his friend and colleague Julia Omotade, Kevin is very committed to communicating the importance of science to our political leaders. Recently the American Institute of Biological Sciences announced that Kevin Morris was named as an honorable mention for the Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award.

Katie Krause (Behavioral Sciences and Health Education)

The graduate program in Behavioral Sciences and Health Education is pleased to celebrate graduate student Katie Krause. Katie was selected unanimously due to her exemplary NRSA score, which ranked in the 9th percentile, and the relevance of her research to the Emory community as a whole. Katie’s research focuses on campus sexual violence. One aim is to work with students to document and explore ways in which student movements are addressing campus sexual assault prevention and response. A second aim is focused on measurement and how provision of social support affects disclosure. This year she TA’ed for the community needs assessment class instructed by Dr. Comeau and served on two MPH thesis committees.

Tyrell Kahan (Master's in Development Practice)

Tyrell Kahan is a veterinarian interested in the interface of applied research, conservation efforts, and development policy. Prior to joining the MDP, he practiced with the agricultural extension service at Florida A&M and became interested in global development practice through research experiences in Haiti and Brazil and service with Veterinarians Without Borders in Liberia. For his MDP field practicum last summer, Tyrell worked with the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International in areas surrounding a national park in Rwanda which is home to endangered mountain gorillas. His research focused on parasite transmission patterns between humans and mountain gorillas to determine extent of contact, and therefore inform efforts to protect the gorillas while also promoting livelihood security and wellbeing in the communities in and around the park. In the course of this work, Tyrell trained Rwandan university students and local health workers in diagnostic techniques. He also spent some time in Uganda doing disease surveillance and training with a Veterinarians Without Borders team. This summer he will work with the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya, doing research on how climate change is impacting livestock-based livelihoods and what strategies can help build household resilience.

Rebekah Ramsay (History)

Rebekah is a sixth-year doctoral student in the History doctoral program. She works on an innovative dissertation on the cultural revolution in early Soviet Kazakhstan in the 1920s through the 1940s. Rebekah is thus one of only a handful of experts on a frequently overlooked world region that remains under-researched not least due to linguistic barriers. Her dissertation Cultural Revolution in Early Soviet Kazakhstan, 1921–1941 looks at the foundational period of the Soviet Union when the Bolshevik leadership aggressively pursued a strategy to integrate the disparate parts of the Soviet Union into a territorial, political, “modern,” and above all Communist (i.e. Soviet) whole. For her research, she acquired two foreign languages, both of which are notoriously difficult to learn. She needed command of Russian for Soviet state document and Kazakh for local sources, and both languages for reading contemporary newspapers. She also had to develop fluency in two very different, at times clashing cultural systems, namely Communism and Islam.