Current PhD Candidates

Assaf Benchetrit

Assaf Benchetrit

Dissertation title: DNA of Dance Movement – The Mysterious Roots of the Qualities of Movement and the Fundamental Role They Take in Dance Forms

The subject of my research is the meeting point between the worlds of dance and technology. I am quantitatively evaluating the quality of dance notations (at the energy level) in capturing the aesthetics aspect of dance through the use of data-science methods.

Advisors: Remco Chang, Department of Computer Science
Robert Jacob, Department of Computer Science
Renata Celichowski, Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
Maxine Steinman, Theatre and Dance, Montclair State University

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Shonglin Gaekwad

Shonglin Gaekwad

Dissertation title: TBD

My research for the most part will be carried out in the Silklab, where I will work on harnessing the power of Silk and other biomaterials, microbiology, human computer interaction, optics and artistic tools to develop reliable and scalable sustainable solutions for the design world and potentially beyond.

Advisors: Fiorenzo Omenetto, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Benjamin Wolfe, Department of Biology
Joseph Auner, Department of Music

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Sarah Hladikova

Sarah Hladikova

Dissertation title: Global Governance of Artificial Intelligence

My research is interdisciplinary research at the intersection of computer science, political science, international relations, and philosophy. I am interested in the unprecedented level of self-governance in the development of transformative technology and focus on the new power dynamics emerging in big tech. My research interests include STS, algorithmic fairness, and AI governance.

Advisors: Peter Levine, Tisch College
Jivko Sinapov, Department of Computer Science
John Shattuck, The Fletcher School 
Robert Pfaltzgraff, The Fletcher School

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John Lehman

John Lehman

Dissertation title: My Wind-Up Bird: A Visual Reckoning with Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Bird Chronicle

My work as an Interdisciplinary PhD candidate at Tufts draws equally from scholarship of transnational literatures and fine art practice in order to interrogate Haruki Murakami’s novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Blending visual media and literary analysis allows me to challenge traditional understandings of reading and art, while exposing how cross-pollination between disciplines can yield otherwise inaccessible insight. These efforts will yield a dissertation that proves scholarship can be as creative a pursuit as art-making is scholarly.

Advisors: Charles Inouye, Department of International Literary and Cultural Studies 
Hosea Hirata, Department of International Literary and Cultural Studies 
Ethan Murrow, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University
Nancy Bauer, Department of Philosophy
Sonia Hofkosh, Department of English

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Mima McMillan

Mima McMillan

Dissertation title: TBD

I'm investigating Black Women in positions of power in the form of Queens, Priestesses, Goddesses, Warriors, and the void of their voices in history. As an Interdisciplinary PhD Candidate my research will span Africana Studies, Anthropology, Gender and Women Studies, Religion, History, English Literature, and Studio Art to shed light on the contributions Black Women have made in history that most historians have pushed to the background or deemed unimportant.

Advisors: Nancy Bauer, Department of Philosophy
Heather Curtis, Departments of Religion and History
Adlai Murdoch, Department of Romance Studies
Ethan Murrow, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University
Sarah Pinto, Department of Anthropology

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Karen Mulder

Karen Mulder

Dissertation Title: (Un)Disciplined: A Crisis of Purpose in American Research Universities

Calls for interdisciplinary -- and multi/trans/cross or any of a variety of modifiers to 'disciplinary' -- formations in American research universities have occurred cyclically since the formalization of these institutions at the turn of the last century. Appeals for the necessity of such models make implicitly idealist and often moral claims about the purpose of academic research and about higher education institutions more broadly as universities face pressure to continually reestablish their legitimacy and redefine their role in American society. At the same time, formations that truly and radically integrate or operate outside of academic disciplines have been difficult to establish or sustain. This dissertation explores the historic, epistemic, and sociocultural foundations of calls to interdisciplinary formations in the context of academic disciplines themselves and, in doing so,  offers an important lens into how power both is wielded within our collective knowledge base and effectively places epistemic limits on the ability to produce new knowledge. Historical and ethnographic examinations of calls for interdisciplinarity in the face of their epistemic limitations may further illuminate historical moments in which universities, as represented by their leadership, feel their sense of purpose and legitimacy are in crisis. The use of multiple lenses to investigate these moments of disciplinary instability and restructuring may help reveal what institutional conditions (if any) might allow varied types of knowledge formations to flourish more regularly, if the permanence of such formations matters, and the extent to which radical formations would and should alter the purpose of higher education institutions.

Advisors: Freeden Blume Oeur, Department of Sociology
Nancy Bauer, Department of Philosophy
Cristiano Casalini, Boston College, Educational History
Kevin Dunn, Vice Provost, Department of English
Nick Seaver, Department of Anthropology

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Roberto

Roberto Pinheiro Machado

Dissertation title: In Search for the Liminal: Modernity and the Avant-garde Poetics of Pound, Breton, Huidobro, Gullar and Nishiwaki

This interdisciplinary research project engages the approaches of Literary Studies and Cultural Anthropology to investigate the phenomenon of the avant-garde from an East-West perspective. My research points to how, as a product of Western Modernity, the avant-garde was appropriated in East Asia when Japanese writers, consciously or not, obeyed the top-down command at Westernization decreed by the Japanese state during the Meiji Restauration. The Japanese appropriation of the avant-garde in the literary realm went hand in hand with that of Western science and technology, which started several centuries earlier in the form of rangaku, and progressed through a dynamic of obeisance to nationalist political aims founded on an overarching religious intent configured in the pre-modern imperial cult embedded in Shinto. To the original Western avant-garde poetics, with its challenge to authority and reliance on individual freedom, I oppose Japanese Shinto poetics, which is based on a drive to procure, obtain, and appropriate foreign cultures, among them the avant-garde itself. “Poetics” here is understood as much more than a method to write poetry; it emerges as the foundational creative impulse that constructs reality culturally. The research concludes by calling into question the applicability of the term “modern” in the sense of a socio-cultural standing deeply connected with the values and principles of Western Modernity to Japan specifically, as well as to East Asia more broadly. While the Modern West articulated the dialectical dynamic of the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian civilization, in which religion is constantly challenged by the critical stance that emanates from the autonomous, rational individual, East Asia remained, underneath the surface, true to its Confucian doctrinal basis, preventing a true avant-garde intent of radical iconoclasm to emerge in the region. 

Advisors: Pablo Ruiz, Department of Romance Studies
Gérard Gasarian, Department of Romance Studies
John Lurz, Department of English

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Sarah Radway

Sarah Radway

Dissertation title: Exploring Challenges Accompanying The Use of IoT Devices

Through this work, I hope to understand how we can best protect users from the new and relatively unexplored challenges of IoT device use in domestic settings. An interdisciplinary approach to this issue is necessary: the tradeoffs between privacy and functionality are growing to be increasingly complex, and require an understanding of the technical implementations in order to evaluate and establish functional regulatory frameworks. My work will help to lay the foundation for this effective regulation.

Advisors: Susan Landau, The Fletcher School and the School of Engineering, Department of Computer Science
Josephine Wolff, The Fletcher School
Daniel Votipka, Department of Computer Science
Jeffery Taliaferro, Department of Political Science

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Tahira Syed

Tahira Syed

Dissertation title: Reframing Scale Issues in Transboundary Water Governance: Scale-Descale-Rescale Analysis of Policy Design and Implementation

This research integrates theory and practice to create actionable knowledge for transboundary water governance. A new analytical approach, called the Scale-Descale-Rescale analysis is presented a means to operationalize scale-based analysis within a complex system of human-environment interactions. Applying the new analytical approach to two of the largest river basin systems – the Danube River and the Indus River – this research breaks new ground on how transboundary water policies could better integrate across biophysical and governance boundaries.

Interdisciplinarity: Starting from the perspective of actionable knowledge, this research identified and drew on the approaches to governing transboundary waters through looking at existing policies that could best address the research questions. The acknowledgement that environmental challenges stretch from local to global scales, yet current governance systems – both policies and institutions – remain fragmented in addressing such challenges along multiple scales. This fragmentation is also reflected in scientific research and disciplinary fields due to a lack of conceptual tools and empirical data that are necessary for incorporating scale issues.

The approach for this research therefore builds on the conceptual discourse and expands it to solve actual problems. This approach is consistent with practical interdisciplinary research that aims to address concrete, real world issues. Starting from a real-world problem is a cornerstone of research at the Water Diplomacy Program – the departmental home of this dissertation. Although all environmental governance problems are in fact real-world problems, creating practical frames for addressing such problems through situating them in specific contexts – in case of this research the transboundary water governance context – provides a meaningful way to unpack, understand, and undertake problem solving.

Advisors: Shafiqul Islam, School of Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Fletcher School
William Moomaw, The Fletcher School
Enamul Chowdhury, Wright State University

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