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IRISS Dissertation Fellows


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Valentin Figueroa

Political Science
The Protestant Road to Bureaucracy

Valentin Figueroa is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Political Science. His research examines the processes behind the great political developments of early modern history. In his dissertation, he studies how the Protestant Reformation unleashed a number of processes that in the long-term generated the ideal administrative conditions for rulers to replace proprietary officeholders with professional and salaried bureaucrats.

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Akshay Jagadeesh

The Role of Cognition in Flexible Visual Perception

Akshay Jagadeesh is a PhD candidate in Stanford's Department of Psychology, studying cognitive neuroscience. His dissertation project examines how the human brain constructs representations of visual scenes and how these representations are used to support visual perception and behavior. Central to this project is the role that cognitive processes, particularly attention and working memory, play in selecting and storing goal-relevant information.

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Haemin Jee

Political Science
Regulation and Control without Rule of Law: Effects of the Social Credit System in China

Haemin Jee is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Political Science. Her dissertation project focuses on China's social credit system and its relation to rule of law and social control. Her research agenda further encompasses authoritarian responsiveness, democratic backsliding, and public opinion in China.

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Cinoo Lee

Racial Bias Transmission

Cinoo Lee is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Psychology. Her research examines the interaction between physicality —e.g. the geographical spaces we occupy, our physical body, online spaces— and our psyche, with particular focus on the influence of racial stereotypes and narratives. She is also very interested in the role of culture in our everyday behavior, such as parenting.

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Julia Melin

Reducing Racialized Gender Disparities Through the Online Career Training Process: Testing a Group-Based Intervention

Julia Melin is a PhD candidate in Sociology and PhD minor candidate in Management Science and Engineering at Stanford. Her dissertation project experimentally examines how peer groups and their composition (based on gender and employment status) affect both educational and career-related outcomes among online trainees, particularly for disadvantaged groups. Prior to Stanford, she worked at Goldman Sachs and, an online tech recruiting startup. She holds a BA from Swarthmore College.

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Hannah Mieczkowski

Social Cognition and Language Change in AI-Mediated Communication

Hannah Mieczkowski is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Communication at Stanford University studying media psychology. She uses survey-based, experimental and text analysis methods to investigate dyadic and group dynamics, social cognition, and language change in the area of human-machine communication, with a focus on AI. She also researches the conceptualization and measurement of digital media use.

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Sebastián Otero

Affirmative Action in Centralized College Admission Systems

Sebastián Otero is a PhD candidate in Economics at Stanford University. His research focuses on labor economics, with a particular emphasis on education policy in Latin America. His research exploits ties with governments and local education agencies to leverage their data to design and implement practical, scalable policies. He also combines the use of administrative data with program evaluation tools together with structural modeling to estimate the impacts of these and other ongoing policies.

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Tamkinat Rauf

The Inequalities of Happiness and Income

Tamkinat Rauf is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Stanford University. Her doctoral research investigates the causal relationship between subjective well-being and income using causal inference methods for observational data, social science genomics, and survey experiments. Her broader research agenda includes understanding the relationship between the social, economic, and political determinants of individual and collective well-being using quantitative research methods.

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Jasmine Reid

In the Wake: Heritage Activism and Land Rights in Post-Apartheid Johannesburg

Jasmine Reid is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Anthropology. Her dissertation project explores the intersection of museum studies and land rights, as she investigates how heritage museums in Johannesburg, South Africa, influence gentrification and future spatial justice initiatives in the city. Her work consequently intervenes in the broader discussion about settler colonial land restitution, as her project engages with the materiality of the contested city and the lived experiences of those who currently reside there, all through the lens of the heritage museum.

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Kiara Sanchez

A Threatening Opportunity: Friends Talking about Race

Kiara Sanchez is a PhD candidate in Stanford's Department of Psychology. Her dissertation focuses on how cross-race friends talk about their race-related experiences with each other and how these conversations can impact closeness and each friend's feelings of authenticity and learning. Other projects explore how people discuss race across group lines in various contexts such as parent-teacher relationships, neighborhoods, and classrooms.


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Catherine Sirois

Between Dependent and Delinquent in the Eyes of the State: Children at the Intersection of the Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice Systems

Catherine Sirois is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Sociology. Her dissertation focuses on how the state manages and constructs the status of crossover youth -- children at the intersection of the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. More broadly, she studies the relationship between state institutions and inequality in the United States.

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Melanie Wallskog

Entrepreneurial Spillovers

Melanie Wallskog is a PhD Candidate in Economics at Stanford University specializing in labor economics. Her dissertation studies entrepreneurial spillovers across coworkers, focusing on what individuals with entrepreneurial experience can teach future entrepreneurs and how these lessons affect aggregate economic growth. Her broader research agenda connects patterns in firm dynamics, productivity, and earnings inequality. She holds a BA in Economics from the University of Notre Dame.


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Grace Alexandrino Ocana

Rights to a Heritage City: Working-class Citizens, Urban Heritage and Conservation in Lima, Peru

Grace Alexandrino Ocana is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Anthropology and is a native of Lima, Peru. Her dissertation project rethinks the fraught relationship between sustainable state heritage management and citizens' right to the city through the lenses of citizenship and class in Lima, Peru. Her research agenda furthers includes topics on heritage civic rights, virtual ethnography, citizenship and heritage activism and the intersection of heritage government policies and human rights.

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Hernan Barahona

Food Labeling: Effects on Demand and Supply of Nutritional Content

Nano Barahona is a Ph.D. student in economics at Stanford University. His main research interests lie in the fields of industrial organization, public economics, and development economics. He is especially interested in public policy design and his research focuses on how private sector responses interact with government interventions. He is currently working on projects in Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. Barahona holds a BS in engineering and an MA in economics from Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile.

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Luca Braghieri

Social Image Concerns and Communication

Luca Braghieri is a PhD student in economics at Stanford University specializing in behavioral economics and political economy. He is a CESifo affiliate and will join the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich as an Assistant Professor of Economics in January 2021. He holds a BA from Harvard University.

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Paul Christians

Mirages Past and Future: Foreign Expertise and the Political Economy of Cultural Heritage in Qatar

Paul Christians is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Anthropology Department and Archaeology Center. His dissertation explores the prevalence and roles of foreign experts working in Qatar's rapidly-developing cultural heritage industry. Research interests include the anthropology of experts and expertise, heritage, distributive politics, what comes after cosmopolitanism, and ethics.

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Lucy King

Maternal life stress, prenatal inflammation, and the developmental origins of child temperament

Lucy King is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Psychology. Her research integrates the areas of affective science and child development with a focus on how early experiences influence risk for mental health difficulties. Her project addresses gaps in our knowledge of the etiology of risk for psychopathology by elucidating the associations among mothers' life stress prior to conception and during pregnancy, prenatal proinflammatory cytokines, and negative affectivity in mothers' preschool-age children. 

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Kari Leibowitz

Making Mindset Matter: Understanding and Harnessing Psychological and Social Forces to Improve Healthcare

Kari Leibowitz is a PhD Candidate in Psychology working in the Stanford Mind & Body Lab. Her dissertation research helps us harness psychological and social forces to improve healthcare by training healthcare providers to shape patient mindsets in clinical practice. Prior to coming to Stanford, she was a U.S.-Norway Fulbright Scholar and graduated from Emory University. Her writing about her research has appeared in The Atlantic and The New York Times. 

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Hans Lueders

Political Science
The Political Consequences of Domestic Migration

Hans Lueders is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science, where he researches migration and political representation. His dissertation examines the political consequences of domestic migration in Germany. He further studies unauthorized immigration in the United States. Financial support from the Center for American Democracy at IRiSS will help him conduct a survey experiment among likely unauthorized immigrants that seeks to explore how unauthorized immigrants decide where to settle in the United States.

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William Marble

Political Science
Political Responses to Economic Decline

William Marble is a PhD candidate in Stanford's Department of Political Science. His dissertation research focuses on how changes to America's economic geography are affecting politics. His broader research agenda includes work on local politics, discrimination, and the factors that cause people to become politicians.

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Alejandro Martinez Marquina

What Matters When Deciding: The Role of Uncertainty and Debt

Alejandro is a 5th year Ph.D. student in Stanford’s Economics Department and is a native of Calatayud, a small town in Spain. His main research fields are Behavioral and Experimental Economics, with a focus on how choices are affected by the presence of uncertainty and debt. In his job market paper, he uses a lab-in-the-field experiment to show how debt leads to lower payoffs and affects risks and time preferences.

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Jeff Sheng

Invisible Power: How the Internet Changed LGBT Inclusion in the 21st Century

Jeff Sheng is a PhD candidate in Sociology and a MS Candidate in Computer Science at Stanford, and is originally from Southern California. His dissertation project examines how new online technologies and social computing systems have influenced the rise of underground social movements, particularly in areas involving gender and sexuality. He also examines the ways the internet influences networks and social capital, using qualitative and computational social science methods.

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Scott Westenberger

Fashion Changes: The Role of the Audience in the Fashion Cycle

Scott Westenberger is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Sociology.  His dissertation project investigates the mechanics of fashion change in popular culture. His research agenda further includes topics on social networks, social influence, and the structure and evolution of "taste."

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Grace Zhou

Parasitic Intimacies: Life, Love, and Labor in Post-Socialist Central Asia

Grace H. Zhou is a PhD Candidate in Stanford's Department of Anthropology. Her research explores transnational intimacies, precarity and care under late capitalism, (post)socialist imaginaries, post-work politics, and settler colonialism in Asia. Her doctoral project is entitled "Parasitic Intimacies: Life, Love, and Labor in Post-Socialist Central Asia."


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Nathan Acebo

Indigenous Persistence and Resistance in the North American Colonial Hinterlands: Re-Assembling Puhu Village

I grew up in the east San Francisco-Oakland Bay Area and subsequently attended Cal Poly Pomona, where I completed my BS in Anthropology with an emphasis in Cultural Resource Management. Over the last four years I’ve participated in community based archaeological projects in the Mojave Desert, southern Channel Islands, and California Coast. My current project is based in the southern Los Angeles basin/Orange county area incorporating urban and rural sites.

Rodrigo Carril

The Economics of Public Procurement

Rodrigo Carril is a PhD candidate in Economics at Stanford University specializing in Public Economics. His dissertation seeks to understand how institutional and market factors affect the efficiency of public procurement (i.e. the purchase by the government of goods and services from the private sector).

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Dean Chahim

Draining the Infinite Metropolis: Engineering and the Mundanity of Disaster in Mexico City

Dean Chahim is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on understanding the politics of engineering and the ways that engineering reshapes political and environmental possibilities. For his dissertation, he spent nearly two years in Mexico City conducting ethnographic and archival research on how engineers have attempted to manage flooding amidst unprecedented environmental change, increasingly limited budgets, and the disappearance of long-term planning.

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Gabriel Chiu

The Rise of Entrepreneurship in China

Gabriel Chiu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University.  As an economic sociologist, he is broadly interested in the relationship between culture and the economy. In particular, his dissertation is a mixed-method study of the rise of entrepreneurship and its changing meaning in China. 


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MJ Cho

The Dynamics of Thinking and Feeling Experiences on Smartphone

I am a PhD candidate at the Department of Communication at Stanford University. I specialize in the study of media processing and effects with a particular focus on media sequencing that is enabled by digital media technology.

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Mashail Malik

Political Science
Why do Ethnic Parties Flourish or Die? The Microfoundations of Identity Politics in Pakistan's Megacity

Mashail Malik is a PhD Candidate in Stanford’s Department of Political Science and is a native of Islamabad, Pakistan. Her dissertation project is centered on the politics of ethnicity in Karachi – Pakistan’s largest megacity. Her research agenda further includes topics on political violence, state repression, civil-military relations, and the intersection of identity and economic conflict. 


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Tony Marks-Block

The Socio-ecological Effects of Indigenous Burning in California's Klamath Basin

I was raised in southeast San Francisco where I was active in environmental justice movements and ecological restoration projects. After graduating with a degree in Natural Resources from Cornell University I spent six years developing participatory action research projects with youth of color in Oakland, California, on local air and water quality issues.

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Daniel O'Leary

Socioeconomic status and obesity: an affective science perspective.

Daniel O'Leary is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology Department at Stanford University, working with James Gross. He studies the psychosocial mechanisms that enable successful self-regulation. He is particularly interested in the role that affect, self-efficacy, and socioeconomic status play in healthy decision-making. He uses a combination of lab-based methods, machine learning, and path analysis to study these issues.


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Eric Smith

Broadening the Scope: How Messages of Broad Care Drive Academic Investment

I am passionate about developing social-psychological interventions to increase success & well-being in learning contexts.
This encompasses research on emotion regulation, stress mindsets, mentorship, and broadening instructor messages.

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Michael Webb

What Can Artificial Intelligence Do?

Michael Webb is a PhD candidate in the Economics Department at Stanford University. He studies artificial intelligence, the labor market, and economic growth. His recent research includes a project studying the impacts of automation technologies on the labor market, and another that asks whether researchers are getting less productive (the answer, unfortunately, is yes!).


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Tongtong Zhang

Political Science
Fining for Living: Central-Local Struggle in the Relaxation of One-Child Policy

Tongtong Zhang is a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Stanford. Her research focuses on participatory institutions and public opinion in authoritarian regime, with a regional focus on China. Her dissertation examines the sources of variation in participatory institutions across authoritarian countries, as well as the consequences of these institutions on mass opinion and regime durability.



Cordelia Erikson-Davis

Cordelia Erikson-Davis

Sensory Ethnography and the Bionic Eye: What it is to See

I am an MD/PhD candidate at Stanford University in the cultural anthropology department. I draw together theory and methods from the neurosciences and the social sciences in order to explore the links between the political and perceptual; the social and subjective.

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Jane Esberg

Political Science
Sensory Ethnography and the Bionic Eye: What it is to See

Jane is a PhD Candidate in Political Science. She is a Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellow and a former fellow at the Center for Ethics in Society. Her research has been supported by a Graduate Research Opportunities Award, the Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford’s Center on International Security and Cooperation, the Stanford Center for International Conflict and Negotiation, and the Europe Center. She has a BA in International Relations with Honors in International Security Studies, also from Stanford.

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Kaiji Gong

Local Technology Spillover of Multinational Firm

My name is Kaiji (Robin) Gong, and I am an upcoming sixth year Ph.D. student in the Economics department, Stanford University. I work on applied microeconomics, with a focus on innovation, productivity, and international trade. I am particularly interested in how international trade and investment affects firms' productivity and innovation activities.

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Audrey Guo

The Effect of Unemployment Insurance Taxation on Multi-Establishment Firms

I am currently completing my dissertation in Economics, with primary fields Labor and Public Economics. My research interests include social insurance programs and firm responses to taxation. I am originally from Phoenix, Arizona, and I received my undergraduate degree in Economics and Mathematics from the University of California: Berkeley. My hobbies include cooking, traveling, and photography.

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Sam Holley-Kline

Entangled Archaeology, Industry, and Labor in El Tajiin, Mexico, 1880-2017

Sam Holley-Kline is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. His research interests involve the intersections of archaeology and sociocultural anthropology, as well as the politics of history and archaeology in 20th-century Mexico. He received his BA in anthropology and Spanish from DePauw University in 2012. Outside of his dissertation research, he has participated in archaeological research in Kiuic, Yucatan, and ethnographic research in Cuetzalan, Puebla.

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Amanda Mireles

The Constraints of Progress: Examining Women’s Educational Advantage and Its Unintended Consequences

Amanda Mireles is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Stanford University. Her research focuses on social stratification processes at work-family intersections. Her dissertation explores how despite educational advantage, women’s status in the labor market has not kept pace with men. Building on theories of gender, status, and occupational feminization, she introduces the concept of college feminization to examine whether men and women are penalized in the labor market when women earn more a majority of bachelor’s degrees.

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Taylor Orth

The Male Care Penalty: Unpacking the Mechanisms that Reproduce the Gender Gap in Care Work

Taylor Orth is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Stanford University. Her research employs demographic and experimental methods to understand the social and economic mechanisms that contribute to gender inequality in the family and the labor market. Her work focuses on the causes and implications of the uneven gender division of care work, highlighting the importance of demand-side forces that constrain men’s involvement at home and reproduce women's place as marginal workers in the labor force.


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Sabrina Papazian

Armenia Beyond Borders: The Transnational Management of Armenian Cultural Heritage

Sabrina Papazian is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology, Archaeology track. Her dissertation research focuses on the management and mediation of cultural heritage in Armenia. She is particularly interested in how Soviet forms of heritage management counter, coincide and overlap with modern frameworks of management. Sabrina received her BA in Archaeology and Art History from Cornell University and an MPhil in Archaeological Heritage Management and Museums from the University of Cambridge.

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Jacob Reidhead

Intra-Party Patronage and Party Stability in South Korea and Taiwan

Jacob is pursuing a PhD in sociology at Stanford University. He researches the structure and culture of politics in Korea and Northeast Asia. Jacob promotes complexity, emergence, and process philosophy in social theory and social science research, and advocates dynamic networks as an integrated theoretical and methodological paradigm for advancing that agenda.


Jessica Santana

Entrepreneurial Failure Narratives and Peer Boundary Work

Jessica Santana is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. She holds a Master of Information Management and Systems from UC Berkeley’s School of Information, with certification in the Management of Technology from the Haas School of Business. Jessica’s research evaluates the role of networks in innovation and entrepreneurship. This work is driven by insights from organizational theory, social psychology, network science, and economic sociology.

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Erica Yoon

Modeling polite speech: Tradeoff between communicative goals

Erica is a PhD candidate in developmental psychology, working in the Language and Cognition Lab, directed by her advisor Dr. Michael Frank. Erica graduated from McGill University where she first started to learn about and gained interest in language development. She is now investigating the development of pragmatic uses of language.


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Kirk Bansak

Political Science
Improving Refugee Integration Through Data-Driven Algorithmic Assignment

The world is currently experiencing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. The U.S. has long run the world’s largest refugee resettlement program, yet little empirical evidence exists on the efficacy of different approaches to integrating refugees within American society. Currently, the assignment of refugees across domestic resettlement locations is based primarily on local office capacity, and does not leverage the rich insights that historical data can provide regarding which refugees do better in which locations.

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Christof Brandtner

Cities in action: An organizational theory of city agency
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David Markowitz

The Media Marshmallow Test
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Rebecca Perlman

Political Science
Capture Under Precaution: How Industry Benefits from the Precautionary Principle
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Bradley Spahn

Political Science
The Forging of The American Voter: Politics Before and After The New Deal Realignment
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David Yang

1984 or the Brave New World? Evidence from a Field Experiment on Media Censorship in China
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Lauren Yapp

Colonial pasts, future cities: The rise of urban heritage advocacy in contemporary Indonesia