Who Directs Seminars and Tutorials?

Thinking Matters Post-doctoral Fellows

Post-doctoral fellows who lead Thinking Matters sections and tutorials are recruited from a national search for up to a three-year term.  They are chosen because of their familiarity with the problems and topics of the courses as well as experience and expertise in working with freshmen.  The regular and close contact with students significantly enhances freshman learning, particularly in the crucial areas of critical inquiry, analysis, reading and writing. 

Alemdaroglu, Ayca

Ayca Alemdaroglu

Ayça Alemdaroglu’s research focuses on theoretical and ethnographic issues related to the Middle East and Turkey. Specifically, her work examines social inequality, generational change and youth experiences, gender and sexuality, rural-urban migration, constructions of space and place, experiences of modernity, nationalism and eugenics. Her most recent research is on transnational higher education companies and the expansion of for-profit higher education institutions in the global South. She is currently working on her book manuscript entitled Knowing your place: inequality, subjectivity and youth in Turkey, which provides an ethnographic study of young adults’ experiences of class, gender and political inequality in contemporary Turkey.  

Ayça studied political science and sociology at the Middle East Technical and Bilkent Universities in Turkey. She completed her PhD in sociology at the University of Cambridge, UK. During her PhD, she was a visiting scholar at New York University’s Sociology and Middle Eastern Studies Departments. Before becoming a lecturer in the Thinking Matters Program, she was a postdoctoral scholar in Stanford’s Anthropology Department.  

Batinic, Jelena

Jelena Batinic

Jelena Batinic received her Ph.D. in East European history from Stanford. She also holds two master’s degrees, in women’s studies and history, from the Ohio State University, and a B.Sc. in mechanical engineering from the University of Belgrade. Her research interests include war and society, gender and revolution, and nationalism. She is currently completing a book project on the mobilization of women in the Yugoslav Resistance during World War II. In addition to Thinking Matters, she has taught courses in Stanford’s Department of History.  


Betre, Kassahun

Betre_KassaKassa was born and raised in Ethiopia. He finished high school in Hong Kong and went to Macalester College in St. Paul, MN for his undergraduate. He completed his PhD in physics at Stanford University. Kassa's research interest is in theoretical particle physics and cosmology. His PhD thesis produced a new simulation of high energy phenomena called "parton showers" by which a few strongly interacting quarks and gluons generate a shower of several other quarks and gluons through rapid successive emissions. Kassa also studied ways to reliably predict the energy scale at which new physics beyond the Standard Model is expected to arise. In addition to teaching and doing research in physics, Kassa loves finding ways to integrate his liberal arts undergraduate education with his physics specialty. He enjoys reading philosophy, running and serving at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as Stanford.

Boucquey, Noelle

Noëlle BoucqueyNoëlle Boucquey received her PhD from the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University. Her research interests combine elements of political ecology, cultural and economic geography, and environmental history. Her research projects examine human-environment relationships and the role of coastal and marine spaces in mediating those relationships. Her dissertation work examined conflicts between commercial and recreational fishing groups in order to explore how the socioeconomic, political, and material spaces of fishing are continually negotiated. Her postdoctoral research has focused on how coastal regions are interpreting US marine spatial planning policies. When not thinking about human-ocean relationships, Noëlle enjoys hiking, sailing, and helping her garden grow.

Chaudhri, Rahul


Corwin, Anna

Corwin_AnnaAnna Corwin received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from UCLA.  Anna’s research focuses on aging, embodiment, well-being, and social interaction.  Anna’s most recent work strives to understand why some individuals age more “successfully” than others, reporting higher well-being at the end-of-life. Her research is based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in a Midwestern Catholic convent where the elderly nuns report above-average quality of life. The research explores how a suite of communicative practices may contribute to the nuns’ well-being, including how their prayers are composed to garner assistance for peers in distress and how care provided by the elderly nuns offers a sense of purpose to both the caregiver and recipient of care.  When she is not teaching or researching, Anna enjoys hiking, gardening, and exploring with her two small children.

Coyne, Brian

Coyne_BrianBrian Coyne received his B.A. in Government from Harvard in 2007 and his Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford in 2014. His dissertation, "Non-state Power and Non-state Legitimacy" asks how liberal theories of justice should evaluate the power of non-state actors like NGOs, corporations, and international institutions. Some of Brian's other research interests include political representation, the debate about responses to climate change, and the politics of urban space and planning. He writes for the San Francisco Chronicle's Bay Bikers blog and enjoys  exploring the Bay Area and California by bicycle.

Dosmann, Andrew

Andy Dosmann

Andy Dosmann studied the evolution of animal personality for his Ph.D. thesis at The University of Chicago.  Using Belding’s ground squirrels as his study species, he researched links between behavior, stress physiology, and immune function, and how natural selection operates on those traits to generate animal personality.  At Stanford, his research addresses relationships between behavior and immunity in ants, the genomics of those traits, and the impact ants’ bacterial communities have on their behavior and immune responses.  When not teaching or researching, he loves eating, traveling, rock climbing, and music.


Gruys, Kjerstin

Gruys_KjerstinKjerstin Gruys received her A.B. from Princeton University (2004), where she majored in Sociology and received a certificate in The Study of Women and Gender. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from UCLA (2014). She specializes in qualitative research methods and her interests include race/class/gender inequality, sociology of the body, consumers & consumption, work, and public sociology. Kjerstin is an avid activist for eating disorder prevention; her book, Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year, earned a coveted starred review from Publishers Weekly, and was featured on ABC's 20/20, Good Morning America, NPR's Tell Me More, and The Colbert Report.  In addition to her work with Thinking Matters, Kjerstin also volunteers as a workshop leader for About-Face, a San Francisco non-profit organization that provides young women and girls with tools they can use to resist media messages that threaten their self-esteem and body image. 

Imam, Jamie

Jamie received her B.S. in Biological Sciences and Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University and her Ph.D. in Genetics from Stanford University.  Her dissertation focused on the role of the retinoblastoma gene family in cell cycle control and differentiation in stem cells and cancer. In addition to Thinking Matters, she is also an instructor for the undergraduate bio lab course 44X. When she is not teaching or doing science outreach, Jamie enjoys reading, traveling, cooking and attending musicals.

Ives, Sarah

Sarah IvesSarah is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research engages debates on race, indigeneity, and the environment in South Africa. Her doctoral thesis for Stanford’s Department of Anthropology focused on the social and ecological relations in the farming of South African rooibos tea. In this research, she examined how connections between race and botany have legitimized political, social, and economic hierarchies. Her current project explores social science theory and public policy in a time of climate change. By connecting ideas about plant and human mobility to convictions about cultural and ecological indigeneity, she address how fears over climate change not only unsettle livelihoods, but also yield new understandings of temporality, existence, and place.

Sarah has experience teaching, tutoring, and lecturing at Stanford University, the University of Washington (where she received her Master’s Degree in Geography), the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa (where she served as a visiting scholar), and Dartmouth College (where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Geography with Environmental Studies). 

Kania, Ray

Kania_RayRay Kania graduated from the University of Michigan with honors in Classics. He earned the PhD at the University of Chicago, where he wrote a dissertation on Virgil’s Eclogues. He continues to pursue research in bucolic poetry and other topics, including ekphrasis, epic poetry, and theoretical approaches to narrative and fiction. Before joining Thinking Matters, Ray taught courses on Latin, Roman civilization, the history of rhetoric, ancient drama, and Greco-Roman religious thought at the University of California, Berkeley.


Koever, Hania

Hania Kover

Hania grew up in Austria and came to Stanford via the University of Edinburgh (B.S. in Biology / Neuroscience) and UC Berkeley (Ph.D. in Neuroscience). Her PhD thesis focused on the effects of early auditory experience on the development of auditory areas in the brain as well as the perception of sound. She is generally fascinated by all things brain, and in particular the many ways the brain can change—which is why she loves teaching. In her free time, she likes to take advantage of all the Bay Area has to offer, travel, and read.


Kreitmair, Karola

Karola Kreitmair

Hailing from the Bavarian Alps, Karola received her PhD in philosophy at Stanford after an MSc in linguistics at Edinburgh and a BA in philosophy at Brown (and a few years of vagabonding around the world). Her PhD dissertation focuses on the attunement of animals (including humans) to their environments and argues against the symbolic systems approach to mental representation. In addition to philosophy of mind her research interests include cognitive science and Nietzsche. When not philosophizing, Karola likes to write, direct, produce, and perform theater, which she does together with Alexi Burgess through A/K/A Theater Company. Frequently, she can also be spotted on the aerial silks…


Lyons, Andy

Andy LyonsAndy holds a PhD in Environmental Science Policy and Management from UC Berkeley, a Master's in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida at Gainesville, and a Bachelors in Mathematics from Duke University. His PhD research examined wildlife conservation in southern Africa from an interdisciplinary perspective, including the organizational dynamics of community-based conservation projects in Zambia, patterns of land use change outside national parks, and development of a new method for detecting spatiotemporal patterns in wildlife movement data. He has also worked with international development projects for USAID, the UN, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia. His current research applies the tools of social science to understand the potentials and pitfalls of sustainability initiatives.

Martinez, Nicole

Nicole Martinez

Nicole Martinez received her BA from Princeton University in Anthropology and Latin American Studies.  She then completed a law degree at Harvard Law School and worked in public interest law and international project finance.  Nicole studies Comparative Human Development at University of Chicago, where she received a Master's, with a particular interest in mental health policy.  She was a Greenwall Fellow in Bioethics at Johns Hopkins University.


McCormack, Kara

Kara McCormack  Kara McCormack received her PhD in American Studies at the University of New Mexico, where her work focused on cultural studies and popular culture, specifically in the areas of the Mythic West, tourism, heritage, and science fiction. Her dissertation, “Imagining ‘the Town too Tough to Die’: Tourism, Preservation, and History in Tombstone, Arizona,” looks at how popular culture, the concepts of history and authenticity, preservation, and economic exigencies continually circulate and interact at the site. At UNM, she taught a number of undergraduate classes in popular culture, including Introduction to Popular Culture, Introduction to Southwest Studies, Urban Legends, and Science Fiction in American Culture. Future research includes an examination of the ways science fiction and the frontier myth interact and coalesce. She is also interested in exploring the production and consumption of Soviet-era western and science fiction films, focusing specifically on the dialogic relationship that developed in the realm of popular culture between the world’s two most powerful nations at the time.

Mohanty, Pete

Mohanty_PeteHailing from Stony Brook, New York, Pete Mohanty graduated from Swarthmore College with honors in political science and history, which he also studied as an exchange student at the Free University of Berlin. He holds a master’s of statistics and a PhD in government from the University of Texas at Austin. He also studied at the International Institute for the Study of French in Strasbourg, France. His research focuses on the politics of immigration in the European Union and combines his interests in quantitative research methods and normative political theory. Before heading to graduate school, Pete worked as a canvass director in New York and Philadelphia.

Norako, Leila (Kate)

Norako_KateKate Norako received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Rochester in 2012. She specializes in Middle English literature and culture — with particular interests in Crusades literature, alterity and Otherness, medieval travel literature, and Arthurian literature —  but she has also cultivated a secondary interest in Old Norse literature. Her current projects include her first book manuscript, Imagining the Crusades in Late Medieval England, and a critical edition of the Old Norse Magnussona saga. She has taught introductory courses at a variety of institutions over the past eight years and enjoys working with freshman tremendously. When she isn’t teaching or immersed in her projects, she enjoys practicing Shotokan karate, dancing hula, hiking, playing piano, writing poetry, and spending time with her husband and young daughter.  

Olson, Nate

Nate Olsen

Nate Olson holds a PhD and MA in philosophy from Georgetown University and a BA in philosophy and English from St. Olaf College. His dissertation Ties that Bind: Respect and Relationship-Based Responsibilities explores why relationships like those with our friends and family members are the source of moral obligations. More generally, he works on topics in ethics and social and political philosophy related to the question of how our personal commitments affect what we ought to do. Prior to attending graduate school, he taught middle school English in rural Louisiana through the Teach for America program.

Owens, Melinda

Melinda Owens

Melinda T. Owens received her BS from Caltech in Biology and her PhD in Neuroscience from UCSF. Her PhD thesis research focused on the formation of orderly maps in the visual system. In particular, she studied how the brain uses both biochemical molecular cues and neural activity to organize connections between different brain areas. She is also very interested in using innovative techniques for teaching science, especially biology, to undergraduates. When she is not teaching, she enjoys glass flameworking, traveling to places where there are penguins, reading science fiction, and puzzlehunting.

Park, Michael

Park_MichaelMichael Park holds a Ph.D. in theoretical particle physics from Rutgers University and a B.S. in Computational and Applied Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University. His research has been focused mainly on exploring the structure of fundamental particle interactions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment. In addition to collider phenomenology, he is also interested in understanding topologically stable configurations of quantum fields in theories with extra fermionic dimensions of space. He also has a strong passion for teaching. In particular, developing novel techniques for explaining high level physics concepts in a pedagogically intuitive way. In his spare time, he enjoys b-boying (breakdancing), storm chasing, and cooking.

Perkins, Sarah

Perkins_SarahSarah Perkins holds a PhD and MA in English from Stanford University. Her dissertation, Dixie Bound: A Cultural Biography of an American Legend, 1860-1930, explores the cultural history of the song "Dixie." More broadly, her work focuses on late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American literature and how we might understand these texts through the lens of contemporary popular culture. Her research interests also include American popular music, literary theory, and comparative studies in race and ethnicity. 


Spiess, Stephen

Spiess_StephenA Shakespearean, skier, hiker, yogi, coffee-drinker, and long-time educator, Stephen comes to Stanford by way of Brown University (BA), Dartmouth College (MA), and the University of Michigan (MA & PhD in English Language & Literature). Along the way, he also spent four years as a teacher, advisor, and athletic coach at St. Paul’s School, in Concord, New Hampshire, and later served as an assistant men’s soccer coach at Middlebury College. 

Stephen’s research centers upon the literatures and cultures of early modern England, with particular investments in Shakespeare, feminist literary theory and cultural criticism, and the history of sexuality. In addition to articles published in Shakespeare Survey and A Handbook to Shakespeare and Embodiment: Gender, Sexuality, Race, he is currently completing a book, tentatively entitled Shakespeare’s Whore: Language, Prostitution, and Knowledge in Early Modern England, that pursues two essential questions: how does one know a “whore” is a whore? Upon what terms, standards, evidence, and meanings does such sexual knowledge depend? Here and elsewhere, Stephen explores how cultures work to mediate problems of signification and knowledge—of how meanings are made, and knowledge is produced—across a range of representational mediums. 

Tate, Bronwen

Tate_BronwenBronwen Tate received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Stanford University in 2014. Previously, she earned a B.A. in Comparative Literature and an M.F.A. in Literary Arts (Poetry) both from Brown University. Her manuscript Putting it All in, Leaving it All Out: Scale in Post-1945 American Poetry uses brevity and length as a lens to reevaluate 20th-century poetic theories and practices in writers including Lorine Niedecker, Jack Kerouac, Lyn Hejinian, and James Merrill. Bronwen’s interests include poetry and poetics, the ethics of reading, transnational literary studies, and writing pedagogy. She has taught courses in literature, aesthetics, creative writing, and composition at Stanford University, Brown University, Borough of Manhattan Community College and other institutions. Her research has been funded by a DARE (Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence) Fellowship and by a Geballe Dissertation Prize Fellowship at the Stanford Humanities Center. On the rare occasions when she’s not reading and writing, Bronwen enjoys the tangible arts of cooking, knitting, and walking around outside. 

Taylor, Stacey Wirt

Stacey Wirt

Stacey received her B.A. in Biology from Wellesley College and her Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Stanford University.  Her dissertation focused on uncovering new mechanisms for cell cycle control in mouse embryonic stem cells and neural progenitors. She went on to complete a post-doctoral fellowship in genome engineering, where she worked to develop nuclease technology for editing disease-causing mutations in human stem cells. In her spare time, Stacey volunteers at the San Jose Tech Museum, likes to camp and hike throughout Northern California, and is an avid photographer.  


Tennen, Ruth

Ruth Tennen Ruth Tennen received her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in cancer biology from Stanford University. Her graduate work examined the intersection between epigenetics and disease: how human cells squeeze two meters of DNA into their nuclei while keeping that DNA accessible and dynamic, and how DNA packaging goes awry during cancer and aging. As a graduate student, Ruth shared her love of science by teaching hands-on classes to students at local schools, hospitals, and museums and by blogging on the San Jose Tech Museum’s website. 

After completing her Ph.D., Ruth moved to Washington, DC to serve as an AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow. Working in the Bureau of African Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, she collaborated with colleagues in DC and at U.S. Embassies abroad to promote scientific capacity building, science education, and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. She managed the Apps4Africa program, which challenges young African innovators to develop mobile apps that tackle problems in their communities. She also traveled to South Africa and Ghana, where she delivered lectures and workshops designed to spark the scientific excitement of young learners. In her free time, Ruth enjoys running, reading, quoting Seinfeld, and cheering for the UConn Huskies.

Walker, Matthew

Matthew Walker

Matthew Walker received his Ph.D. in Slavic Languages & Literatures (with a minor in Critical Theory) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010. Before coming to Stanford, Matthew taught for two years at the University of Pennsylvania as a visiting lecturer in Russian language, literature and culture. He also taught this past summer in the Russian School at Middlebury College. His main research interests are nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian literature and the history of aesthetics and literary criticism in Russia and Europe.


Zientek, Adam

Adam Zientek

Adam Zientek is a historian specializing in 20th century European military history and wars of insurgency and counterinsurgency. He received his BA in History summa cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley (2004) and his MA and PhD in History from Stanford (2007, 2012). His manuscript, Wine and Blood, examines alcohol consumption among French soldiers on the Western Front during the First World War. He is interested in the developing field of “Neurohistory,” which seeks to use contemporary research in the neurological and cognitive sciences to inform social and cultural history. He enjoys eating burritos, hanging out with his dog Oscar, and cage fighting.


Zuckerman, Ian

Ian Zuckerman received his Ph.D. in Political Science, with a concentration in political theory, from Columbia University (2012). His research interests include modern political thought, constitutional theory and justifications of political violence. Ian’s book manuscript, based on his dissertation, is entitled The Politics of Emergencies: War, Security and the Boundaries of the Exception in Modern Emergency Powers. He is currently working on a second project concerning the overlap of just war theory and Empire. Ian has taught political theory and related subjects at Columbia University, Swarthmore College, Hunter College and elsewhere.