PPFP Fellowship Recipients

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2020 - 2021 Selection Round

Dr. Maggie Makar

Maggie MakarUndergraduate institution: University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Ph.D. institution: MIT
Dissertation title: Machine Learning and Causality: Building reliable and efficient models for decision making
Dissertation advisors: John Guttag
Statement about research interests: I am interested in adapting causal inference tools to address limitations in Machine Learning (ML) methods, and adapting ML methods to make causal inference more efficient in resource-constrained settings. My research focuses especially on problems that arise in healthcare settings, where the data are often limited, and there is a large potential for societal impact. My goal is to develop causal inference models that do not assume an abundance of data, and design predictive ML tools that perform well even on subpopulations that are typically under-represented in training data.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Jenna Wiens, Computer Science and Engineering

2019 - 2020 Selection Round

Dr. Aleksandra Szczuka

Aleksandra SzczukaUndergraduate institution: Princeton University
Ph.D. institution: Stanford University
Dissertation title: Emerging technology integration for improving water reuse treatment
Dissertation advisors: William Mitch
Statement about research interests: My research focuses on sustainable solutions for improving the quality of water treatment. I am particularly interested in water disinfection and its effect on water constituents. In my dissertation research, I explored the formation of carcinogenic disinfection by-products in water reuse trains, and developed approaches to reduce water toxicity. As a PPFP fellow, I will explore biomolecular reactions that take place in microorganisms during disinfection.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Krista Wigginton, Civil and Environmental Engineering

2018 - 2019 Selection Round

Dr. Michaelanne Thomas

Michaelanne ThomasUndergraduate institution: University of Georgia
Ph.D. institution: Georgia Institute of Technology
Dissertation title: Vamos a Resolver: Collaboratively Configuring the Internet in Havana
Dissertation advisors: Amy Bruckman and Neha Kumar
Statement about research interests: My work explores how people collaboratively access and shape internet technologies in politically and resource-constrained contexts and the sociotechnical systems that emerge from these practices. I focus specifically on under-connected communities, drawing on the fields of anthropology, computer supported cooperative work (CSCW), and information communication technologies and development (ICTD). My research goal is for individuals at the margins to have a greater voice in the sociotechnical systems that they can draw on and give shape to, and to contribute to the design of more equitable, inclusive, and participatory technologies.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Kentaro Toyama, School of Information

Dr. Jenan Kharbush

Jenan KharbushUndergraduate institution: Rippon College
Ph.D. institution: University of California, San Diego
Dissertation title: Molecular signatures of microbial metabolism in the marine water column.
Dissertation advisors: Lihini Aluwihare
Statement about research interests: I study the connections between microbial ecology and carbon and nutrient cycling in modern and ancient aquatic environments. I use a combination of organic biomarkers, genomic information, and stable isotope geochemistry to trace important microbial processes, especially those related to nitrogen uptake and transformation. My current project focuses on whether the amount and type of nitrogen available in freshwater lakes influences phytoplankton community composition and contributes to the presence, persistence, and/or toxicity of cyanobacterial harmful algal blooms (CHABs). Through my work I also hope to engage local communities, policy makers, and the next generation of scientists to confront socioeconomic inequities in access to clean drinking water, especially in the context of future climate change, which is likely to exacerbate CHABs and other water quality issues.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Gregory Dick, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Dr. Kharbush is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

Dr. Shea Streeter

Shea StreeterUndergraduate institution: University of Notre Dame
Ph.D. institution: Stanford University
Dissertation title: The Racial Politics of Police Violence in The United States
Dissertation advisors: David D. Laitin
Statement about research interests: In my research I examine the ways that race and gender shape how people experience, perceive, and respond to incidents of violence. My dissertation research examines the racial politics of police violence and uncovers new findings regarding similarities in the circumstances of the police killings of Blacks and Whites, the ways that personal racial identity defines perceptions of police violence, and the large racial gap in the rate of protest following the police killings. As a PPFP fellow I will examine the ways that gender intersects with race to influence how people come to understand and respond to incidents of both state and interpersonal violence.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Christian Davenport, Political Science
Dr. Streeter is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

2017 - 2018 Selection Round

Dr. Oliver Haimson

Oliver HaimsonUndergraduate institution: Carnegie Mellon University
Ph.D. institution: University of California, Irvine
Dissertation title: The Social Complexities of Transgender Identity Disclosure on Social Media
Dissertation advisors: Gillian R. Hayes
Statement about research interests: I conduct social computing research focused on how people present and disclose changing identities on social media during life transitions, with a primary research goal of impacting technological inclusion of marginalized users. My dissertation work examined people’s experiences with transgender identity disclosure on social media, and how their emotional wellbeing changed over time. My research aims to amplify research participants’ voices to influence how future social technologies are designed, and to design new technological interventions to improve people’s lives.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Nicole Ellison, School of Information
Dr. Haimson is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

Dr. Julie Hui

Julie HuiUndergraduate institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ph.D. institution: Northwestern University
Dissertation title: Distributed Apprenticeship in Informal Communities of Entrepreneurs
Dissertation advisors: Elizabeth Gerber
Statement about research interests: Julie studies how social technologies change the nature of professional development in resource constrained communities. At the moment, she is working with small business owners and community organizations in Detroit to develop opportunities for side-income and more accessible pathways to employment. Her larger goal is to understand how online and offline communities can be designed to better facilitate apprenticeship opportunities between experts and novices. Her dissertation work looked how novice entrepreneurs leverage distributed sources of instruction online and offline to piece together apprentice-like experiences needed for business development.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Kentaro Toyama, School of Information; Mark Newman, School of Information
Dr. Hui is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

2016 - 2017 Selection Round

Dr. Brian Beckford

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: Florida International University
Ph.D. institution: Tohoku University
Dissertation title: Study of the Strangeness Photoproduction Process In the γd → ΛX Reaction at Photon Energies up to 1.08 GEV
Dissertation advisors: Kazushige Maeda
Statement about research interests: I perform research as part of the KOTO experiment conducted at the J-PARC facility in Tokai, Japan. Designed to measure the rare CP violating decay of a neutral long-lived kaon into a neutral pion and a neutrino anti-neutrino pair. The objective of the KOTO experiment is to better understand why we live in a matter-dominated universe. My focus is studying and reducing background contributions, measuring the yield of kaon events from the normalization modes in order to determine the kaon flux, and normalizing the single event sensitivity. I am also part of the NKS2 collaboration, which studies the photoproduction process of strange particles. In addition to my research, I am devoted to advocating for diversity initiatives and finding solutions to exclusionary institutional practices in order to increase the participation in STEM of people from underrepresented backgrounds. I currently serve as Chair of the Physics Department's Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Myron Campbell, Physics
Dr. Beckford is now a program officer at the Department of Energy (Office of High Energy Physics).

Dr. Robin Brewer

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: University of Maryland, College Park
Ph.D. institution: Northwestern University
Dissertation title: Understanding and Developing Interactive Voice Response Systems to Support Online Engagement of Older Adults
Dissertation advisors: Anne Marie Piper
Statement about research interests: At the intersection of accessibility and online communities, in my research I design and develop online communities that are both accessible and meaningful to older adults and people with disabilities. In my dissertation work, my primary focus was developing inclusive voice-based e-mail and blogging through using Interactive Voice Response to allow older adults with vision impairments to engage online by voice using a non-smart phone. My work opens questions of how to design more inclusive voice-based communities, how voice-based systems can incorporate social, rather than solely information features, and how to better engage a community of people who may be disengaged online.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Nicole Ellison, School of Information
Dr. Brewer is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

Dr. André Green

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ph.D. institution: Harvard University
Dissertation title: Developmental and Genetic Mechanisms of Ovariole Number Evolution in Drosophila
Dissertation advisors: Cassandra Extavour
Statement about research interests: I am broadly interested in how functional complexity emerges across different scales of biological organization, from molecules and cells to organisms and populations. My thesis and present work is focused on understanding the development of phenotypically plastic traits at the molecular scale in order to illuminate general mechanisms that promote or constrain the generation of biodiversity. I am currently working to establish the monarch butterfly as a model to study the molecular genetic ‘design’ of migration and understand how this design influences evolution of the migration strategy.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Patricia Wittkopp, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Dr. Green is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

2015 - 2016 Selection Round

Dr. Ashley Payne

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: University of Texas
Ph.D. institution: University of california, Irvine
Dissertation title: An Analysis of the Behavior and Intensity of Extreme Atmospheric Moisture
Dissertation advisors: Gudrun Magnusdottir
Statement about research interests: I am interested in the movement of moisture in the atmosphere. My dissertation research was focused on intense moisture transport features known as atmospheric rivers. When they cross over land, they can be a major source of wintertime precipitation, particularly over the western coastline of North America. The extreme precipitation and flooding that sometimes accompany land falling ARs can have severe socioeconomic consequences. Despite advances in observational networks on land, the large-scale mechanisms influencing AR behavior and land-falling intensity are poorly understood. The goal of my work was to characterize the large-scale influences on AR behavior using both analysis data and climate models. I will continue working with climate models during my tenure as a PPFP fellow. My project will address current challenges in the representation of convection in a new generation of climate models. I will investigate whether the poor representation of precipitation in current climate models is ultimately related to how convection is traditionally parameterized.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Christiane Jablonowski, CLaSP
Dr. Payne is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

Dr. Patricia Schuster

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: University of Michigan
Ph.D. institution: University of California, Berkeley
Dissertation title: Developing an Understanding of Neutron-Gamma Pulse Shape Discrimination and the Anisotropic Response to Neutron Events in Organic Crystal Scintillators
Dissertation advisors: Karl van Bibber
Statement about research interests: My research aims to develop radiation detection materials and instrumentation for a broad range of nuclear security applications. A major focus of my work lies in understanding the light production and energy transfer mechanisms in organic scintillator materials, which have long been used as radiation detectors and offer simultaneous detection of fast neutrons and gamma rays. My dissertation studied the scintillation anisotrophy that exists in organic crystal scintillators. This anisotropy is an interesting signature that reveals information about the complex internal energy transfer processes. I am also interested in nuclear security technologies and policy, and I engage actively with the policy community to understand the complex challenges that exist in nuclear security.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Sara Pozzi, NERS
Dr. Schuster now works for Intel.

2014 - 2015 Selection Round

Dr. Stephen Oney

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ph.D. institution: Carnegie Mellon University
Dissertation title: Expressing Interactivity with States and Constraints
Dissertation advisors: Brad Myers
Statement about research interests: My research investigates ways to make computer programming tools easier to use for programmers and more usable for a wider variety of users. In my research, I employ human-computer interaction (HCI) techniques to design, build, and test programming tools and languages.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Eytan Adar, School of Information
Dr. Oney is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

Dr. Gabriel Zayas-Caban

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: University of South Florida
Ph.D. institution: Cornell University
Dissertation title: Dynamic Allocation of Healthcare Resources
Dissertation advisors: Mark E. Lewis
Statement about research interests: The goal of my research is to develop data-driven frameworks, using queueing theory, Markov decision processes, simulation, and other Operations Research techniques, that can identify effective and practical policies for resource allocation in healthcare settings. In particular, it centers on (1) working closely with physicians and practitioners to develop accurate models and (2) addressing analytical challenges to enable these frameworks to handle more realistic scenarios, determine when practical dynamic policies are optimal, and use these results to design more robust strategies. For example, when catastrophic events overwhelm the supply of EMS vehicles, it is necessary for cities in the affected region to request aid (in the form of added capacity) from neighbouring municipalities to bring the affected region back to its day-to-day levels of operation. The first part of my dissertation used queueing theory, Markov decision processes, and mathematical programming to develop a systematic framework for allocating ambulances for such scenarios. The second part of my dissertation addressed the question of how to prioritize the work by the medical provider to balance initial delays for care with the need to discharge patients in a timely fashion. We developed a multi-server two-stage tandem queueing model for the aforementioned triage and treatment process. We then used a continuous-time Markov decision process (CTMDP) formulation and sample path arguments to determine the optimal dynamic schedule for the single-server model. Using data from a hospital, we compared the performance of several potential service policies in a discrete simulation study. This work was motivated by the Triage-Treat-and-Release program at the Lutheran Medical Center, a full-service, 462-bed academic teaching hospital in Brooklyn, New York.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Amy Cohn, Industrial and Operations Engineering
Dr. Zayas-Caban is now a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin.

2013 - 2014 Selection Round

Dr. Catherine Fromen

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: University of Rochester
Ph.D. institution: North Carolina State University
Dissertation title: Monodisperse, Uniformly-shaped Particles for Controlled Respiratory Therapeutic Delivery
Dissertation advisors: Joseph DeSimone
Statement about research interests: My dissertation work was in the field of drug delivery, focusing specifically on the development of particulate carriers for pulmonary vaccines. This work centered on establishing design rules for micro- and nanoparticle drug delivery vehicles in the lung, by considering how particle physical properties impact responses of the lung immune system. Understanding this interaction between immune cells and engineered particles is a critical step towards immunoengineering applications, which would allow particles to direct an intended immunological response. I will continue my research at this convergent interface of engineering, material science and immunology during her PPFP fellowship, by engineering particles to develop treatments for inflammation. Inflammation is a major indication in many diseases, including atherosclerosis, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and allergy but there is tremendous clinical need to develop treatments for both symptoms of inflammation and the underlying causes.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Lola Eniola-Adefeso, Chemical Engineering
Dr. Fromen is now a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Delaware.

Dr. Mai Hassan

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: University of Virginia
Ph.D. institution: Harvard University
Dissertation title: A State of Change: State-Building in Kenya After the Beginning of Multi-Party Elections
Dissertation advisors: Steven Levitsky
Statement about research interests: My current research centers on the role of the state in helping sustain competitive authoritarian regimes. Broadly, my dissertation project explores how authoritarian leaders manage the state to best meet electoral challenges to their rule. I look at the Kenyan state since the beginning of elections in 1992, and examine presidential control over two crucial elements of the state: the internal security apparatus and state structure (including constitutional reform and decentralization). My other research interests include authoritarian regime durability, bureaucratic politics, ethnic politics, South-South migration.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Anna Grzymala-Busse, Political Science
Dr. Hassan is now an associate professor at U-M.

Dr. Emily Rauscher

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: University of California, Berkeley
Ph.D. institution: Columbia University
Dissertation title: Atmospheric Circulation on Hot Jupiters: Modeling and Observable Signatures
Dissertation advisors: Kristen Menou
Statement about research interests: I study the atmospheres of "exoplanets", planets that orbit around nearby stars. In the last 20 years over 1,000 exoplanets have been found and most of them are completely unlike any of the planets in our Solar System. With the goal of trying to characterize these exotic planets, I build computer models of their three-dimensional atmospheric structure. From these models, I can predict the observable signatures of various physical conditions and processes, and work to identify new types of observational techniques that can be used to study exoplanets.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Edwin Bergin, Astronomy
Dr. Rauscher is now an associate professor at U-M.

2012 - 2013 Selection Round

Dr. Aaron Frank

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: City University of New York, Brooklyn College
Ph.D. institution: University of California, Irvine
Dissertation title: Relating NMR observables to Structure and Dynamics in Proteins and Nucleic Acids
Dissertation advisors: Ioan Andricioaei
Statement about research interests: My research interests center around combining statistical mechanical theory and state-of-the-art machine learning approaches to solve challenging problems relevant to predicting structure and dynamics of biomolecules, with an emphasis on ribonucleic acids (RNA). Additionally, I am interested in using the same combined approach to develop tools that would aid in the rational discovery and design of therapeutic drugs.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Charles Brooks, Chemistry

Dr. Aaron Frank is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

Dr. Daniel Romero

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: Arizona State University
Ph.D. institution: Cornell University
Previous postdoc institution: Northwestern Institute on Complex Systems
Dissertation title: Dynamics of Social Network Evolution and Information Diffusion
Dissertation advisors: Jon Kleinberg
Statement about research interests: Daniel M. Romero's research focuses on the empirical and theoretical analysis of Social and Information Networks. He is particularly interested in understanding the mechanisms that control network evolution, information diffusion, and user interactions in online social networks. Sociologists have studied social networks and the interactions among people for a long time. In his research, Daniel aims to complement the methods used in Sociology with approaches that draw on large data sets from the Web, mathematical models, and new algorithms. Using these tools, Daniel's research focuses on validating existing social theories at large scale and discovering new ones. While much of Daniel's work is academically motivated, the results of his research have important implications for the development of useful applications such as user influence ranking, friend recommender systems, and spam detection. Daniel completed his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at Cornell University under the advisement of Dr. Jon Kleinberg in 2012.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Eytan Adar, School of Information
Dr. Romero is now an associate professor at U-M.

Dr. Ginger Shultz

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: The Evergreen State College
Ph.D. institution: University of Oregon
Dissertation title: Polymerization Methods for the Synthesis of Photosensitive Organometallic Polymers with Mo-Mo Bonds in the Backbone
Dissertation advisors: David R. Taylor
Statement about research interests: Dr. Shultz will focus on research in chemical education. She is leading a large-scale curriculum development project aimed at investigating problem-based pedagogy in synthetic chemistry laboratory courses. The project involves transforming expository experiments to hypothesis driven projects where students will work in small groups to design experiments based on authentic research conducted in the UM Department of Chemistry. Shultz was a 2012-2013 UM Learning Analytics Fellow and is also interested in using learning analytics (the application of data science to educational problems) to create tailored learning experiences for students in STEM. As part of the E2Coach project and in collaboration with the Sweetland Center for Writing, Shultz is applying learning analytics methods to Writing pedagogy. Writing-to-learn strategies, which are highly effective at facilitating deep and meaningful learning, are generally not feasible in high enrollment courses for practical reasons. Shultz is investigating the use of technology to deploy writing assignments, which are tailored to the individual student based on their content mastery, preparation and background, in large introductory STEM courses.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Tim McKay, Physics
Dr. Ginger Shultz is now a tenure-track assistant professor at U-M.

2011 - 2012 Selection Round

Dr. Tawanna Dillahunt

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: North Carolina State University
Ph.D. institution: Carnegie Mellon University
Dissertation title: Using Social Technologies to Increase Sharing and Communication around Household Energy Consumption in Low-Income Communities
Dissertation advisor: Jennifer Mankoff, Associate Professor, Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Statement about research interests: Tawanna Dillahunt is a Ph.D. candidate in Carnegie Mellon University's Human-Computer Interaction Institute under the advisement of Dr. Jennifer Mankoff. While completing her Ph.D., Tawanna has designed, implemented, and studied interfaces that reward conservation behavior by sensing and presenting positive feedback about green transportation choices and home energy consumption. Her dissertation work included implementing a home-energy monitoring application that allowed community members to engage with one another to share knowledge and information; to compare electricity consumption; and to build community. Tawanna's results demonstrated the impact of engagement around social sharing, specifically around community energy monitoring in residential communities. Tawanna has also researched barriers and opportunities for saving energy in low-income communities and explored the impact of multi-stakeholder relationships, and socioeconomic factors on conservation behavior. Tawanna received a Bachelors of Science degree in Computer Engineering from North Carolina State University and started her career as a software engineer with Intel. While at Intel, Tawanna developed desktop and network products for Original Equipment Manufacturers. Tawanna left Intel to pursue her Ph.D. She was a recipient of the IBM Ph.D. Fellowship (2011, 2012), the Fran Allen IBM Ph.D. Fellowship Award (2011), and served on the program committee for FLAIRS in 2011. Tawanna holds one patent and has two patents pending with IBM TJ Watson.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Paul Resnick, School of Information
Dr. Dillahunt is now an associate professor at U-M.

Dr. Keren Sharon

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: Tel Aviv University
Ph.D. institution: Tel Aviv University
Previous postdoc institution: KICP fellow, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago
Dissertation title: Evolution of Supernova Rates and Dark Matter In Clusters of Galaxies
Dissertation advisor: Dan Maoz
Statement about research interests: Keren Sharon is an Astrophysicist, working in the field of extragalactic Astrophysics. Her main research interest is using the phenomenon of strong gravitational lensing as a tool to understand massive structures in the Universe, like clusters of galaxies. These gravitational lenses can also be used as powerful "natural telescopes" to study even more distant galaxies. In her research, which combines theoretical modeling with observations, Dr. Sharon makes use of both ground-based and space telescopes.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Eric Bell, Astronomy
Dr. Sharon is now an associate professor at U-M.

Dr. Carlos A. Silvera Batista

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: The City College of New York
Ph.D. institution: University of Florida
Previous postdoc institution: National Institute of Standards and Technology
Dissertation title: Manipulation of the Microenvironment Surrounding Single Wall Carbon Nanotubes and Its Effect on Photoluminescence and Separation Processes
Dissertation advisors: Kirk J. Ziegler (advisor) and Jason E. Butler (co-advisor)
Statement about research interests: The focus of my UM PPFP postdoc will be on the self-assembly of semiconducting nanoparticles for highly efficient photovoltaics.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Michael Solomon, Chemical Engineering
Dr. Batista is now a tenure-track assistant professor at Vanderbilt.


Dr. Jessica S. Welburn

Photo 1Undergraduate institution: University of Pennsylvania
Ph.D. institution: Harvard University
Previous postdoc institution: University of Michigan, National Center for Institutional Diversity
Dissertation title: Managing Instability: Conceptions of Opportunity and Success among African Americans from Middle-Income Households
Dissertation advisors: Michele Lamont, Professor of Sociology and African and African American Studies and Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies
Statement about research interests: Jessica S. Welburn earned her PhD in Sociology from Harvard University (November 2011). Her research interests include race and ethnicity, cultural sociology, the sociology of the family and qualitative methodology. With funding from the National Science Foundation and the Harvard Real Estate Academic Initiative Jessica's dissertation explored how African Americans who grew up in middle income households in New Jersey conceptualize their mobility prospects. Dr. Welburn is currently working on a book manuscript based on her dissertation research entitled Managing Instability: Conceptions of Opportunity and Success among African Americans from Middle-Income Households. She is also working on a project on African Americans and downward mobility in Detroit, Michigan. In addition, Dr. Welburn works with Professor Michèle Lamont (Harvard University) and an international team of researchers on a project comparing the antiracist strategies of stigmatized groups in the U.S., Brazil and Israel. Dr. Welburn earned her B.A. in sociology (magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) in 2004 from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been published in Ethnic and Racial Studies and The DuBois Review for Social Science Research.
UM PPFP primary mentor: Karyn Lacy, Sociology
Dr. Welburn is now a tenure-track assistant professor at the University of Iowa.

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