Thinking Matters Fellows
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.
Kassa 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.
Anna 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.
Brian 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.
Kjerstin 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.
Ray 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.
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.
Andy 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.
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.
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.
Hailing 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)
Kate 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.
Michael 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.
Sarah 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.
A 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.
Bronwen 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.
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.
Van de Mark, Dan
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.