Society of Hellman Fellows 2023

Gopala Krishna 


Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

Towards Perceptually Grounded Voice Modification

Professor Anumanchipalli’s research interests include biosystems, neural engineering, artificial intelligence, human-computer interaction, and signal processing all within the realm of spoken language communication. His current research focuses on voice analysis and synthesis systems, with a particular focus on diagnosing and rehabilitating speech disorders. The goal of this current research is to develop a speech modification system that alters voices along perceptual axes.

Benjamin Blonder,

Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

Advancing Quaking Aspen Forest Conservation Through Genetics

Professor Blonder’s research interests include climate change and science education.His current project focuses on the genotypes of quaking aspen and observing their ability to cope with the century’s climate extremes.

Yu-Ling Chang,

Social Welfare

Investigating the Welfare-to-Work Requirements and Sanction-lifted Policies Following the COVID-19 Pandemic through An Equity Lens

Professor Chang’s research explores poverty, inequality, unemployment and social safety net programs. Her Hellman project examines the disparities in the TANF program responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and explores the effectiveness of state-level WTW requirements and sanction-lifted policies in improving program accessibility for low-income families in need.

Liang Dai,


Understanding Clustered Star Formation at Extreme Density in the Young Universe

Professor Dai studies astrophysics and physical cosmology with the aim to understand how the Universe works and what new knowledge about fundamental physics laws can be gathered. With support from the Hellman Fellowship, he plans to observe and analyze starburst environments in the young Universe with the help of Nature’s gravitational magnifiers, and to advance our theoretical understanding of how stars form and evolve in extremely massive and dense clusters that were much more commonplace in the ancient Universe than in the present-day Universe.

Manuela Girotto, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management

The Role of Sierra Nevada Snow in Regulating Central Valley Groundwater Droughts

Professor Griotto’s research interests include exploring hydrologic responses, natural and human driven processes, remote sensing, sea level change, and snow hydrology. The overall objective of their Hellman project is to understand and quantify the feedback between Sierra Nevada seasonal snow, the groundwater levels in the Central Valley table and associated hydro-climatic hazards such as droughts.

David Holtz,


Cracking the Coding Interview

Professor Holtz’s research interests include the economics of online marketplaces and platforms and measuring the effects of new technologies on organizational outcomes. As a computational social scientist, he employs a variety of different approaches to research, including large-scale field experiments, online lab experiments, and observational causal inference. His Hellman project focuses on the process of technical interviews for software engineering jobs and investigates the micro-interactional behaviors that are associated with successful interview evaluations.

Zachary Lamb,

City and Regional Planning

Manufacturing Resilience: Climate Equity for Residents of California’s Mobile Home Parks

Professor Lamb’s research interests include climate change adaptation, affordable housing, shared equity housing, and manufactured housing. HisHellman project will use a mix of methods to assess the threats faced by residents of California’s manufactured home parks from climate change and insecure housing.

Peter Maxted,


Understanding Household Borrowing and its Macroeconomic Implications

Professor Maxted’s research focuses on topics in household finance, behavioral finance, and macro-finance. His project explores how to better align economic models with the data on credit card borrowing, and also evaluates the implications of such borrowing for fiscal and monetary policy.

Amy Pickering,

Civil and Environmental Engineering

The Role of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the spread of Antibiotic Resistance in California’s Central Valley: a Community Engaged Pilot Study

Professor Pickering’s studies pathogen transmission across the human-environment interface, including zoonotic infectious disease and community-acquired antimicrobial resistance. Her current research will test the hypothesis that CAFOs are an important source of zoonotic and antibiotic resistant bacterial pathogens in the Central Valley of California.

Aarti Sethi,


Republic of Readers: Libraries, Democracy, and the Public Sphere in Contemporary India

Professor Sethi’s research interests include agrarian anthropology, the politics of knowledge, political economy, comparative religion, debt and capitalism, and feminist theory. Her Hellman project is a book manuscript titled Republic of Readers: Libraries, Democracy, and the Public Sphere in Contemporary IndiaThe book is an account of a community library coming into being in a village located in the central Indian cotton-belt. The book brings together an ethnography of the making of this village library, a historical inquiry into colonial and postcolonial libraries, and a broader philosophical and theoretical investigation of the relationship between rural citizenship and readership. The central aim of this project is to explore the relationship between reading literacy and postcolonial democracy and citizenship.

Grigory Tikhomirov,

Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences

Single-cell MRI Voltage Sensor

Professor Tikhomirov’s longstanding dream is to engineer life-like artificial systems. His lab develops devices with atomic precision by combining the strengths of rational top-down engineering and bottom-up biomolecular assembly. ThisHellman project will construct a DNA origami-based MRI contrast agent for direct sensing of cell voltage. Such a contrast agent will enable scientists and clinicians to achieve insights into electrical activity in the body with unprecedented temporal and spatial resolution and coverage, leading to improved fundamental understanding as well as better therapies for cardiovascular and neurological diseases.

Jonathan Weigel


Progressivity, Fairness, and Tax Capacity

Professor Weigel’s research interests include political economy, development, and public finance. Hiscurrent research is a randomized controlled trial with the Provincial Government of Kasaï-Central to study how the rollout of progressive tax rates impacts tax compliance and revenue.

Nathaniel Wolfson

Spanish and Portuguese

The Machine and the Feather: Technological Thought in Brazil

Professor Wolfson’s research interests include topics of Brazilian and Latin American literature and art, media studies and critical theory. His current project is a manuscript that focuses on the crossings of experimental writing, design, and critical technological thought in Brazil in the 1940s through the 1970s. Life of the Sign: Literature, Design and the Cybernetic Imaginary in Brazil dives deeply into national and regional discourses about cybernetics and popular culture under dictatorship (1964-1985). As Brazilian poets, artists, and designers witnessed the military regime’s efforts to control a rising field of informatics, they attempted to retool early computer coding to invent alternative symbolic languages.

Lilla Balint,


After 1989: History, Temporality, and the Contemporary  

Professor Balint’s research focuses on German literature and thought in transnational contexts, theories of the contemporary, aesthetics and politics, literary and cultural theory, and European Jewish literatures. The Hellman award will contribute toward the completion of her book manuscript titled After 1989: History, Memory, and the Contemporary. The comparative project interrogates the historical thinking of literary fiction after the end of the Cold War. It argues that the contemporary takes shape as an experimentation with form, which is an experimentation with time, in the effort to renew models of history.

Amanda Brewster,

Public Health

Organizational Networks to Advance Population Health: How can a Network Hub Effectively Manage?

Professor Brewster’s research interests focus on the coordination of health care and social services, inter-organizational relationships, performance improvement, implementation of new practices, organizational culture, and social determinants of health. Her Hellman project will develop a set of theoretical propositions about factors that shape the ability of an organization to serve as a network hub for population health.

Youjin Chung,

Energy and Resources Group

A Living Archive of Pastoral Lifeworlds: Towards Decolonizing Development and Climate Justice

Professor Chung’s research interests include feminist political ecology, the political economy of development, critical food and agrarian studies, African studies, science and technology studies, and critical animal studies. Her Hellman project will involve creating a digital repository of living memories of pastoralism in Tanzania, in collaboration with indigenous activists and researchers in Tanzania. The archive will serve as a methodology for understanding how traditional pastoral practices and environmental knowledges articulate with global development interventions aimed at promoting “climate-smart” livestock intensification.

Derfogail Delcassian,


Exploring Lymph Node Mechanics with Bioengineered Systems

Professor Delcassian develops immunoengineering technologies to direct immune cell function. Her work uses mRNA vaccines and 3D printed interfaces to study and control immune cell behaviour. Her Hellman project will build an artificial lymph node which models lymph node swelling that occurs in disease. Developing tools with dynamically changing substrate properties will help us to understand how biophysical forces  influence immune cell function.

Zoe Hamstead,

City & Regional Planning

Thermal Governance in an Era of Climate Change

Professor Hamstead’s research interests include environmental planning, climate planning, sustainability and resilience, environmental and climate justice, geographic and spatial analysis, urban policy and political economy, global environmental governance, and community engagement. Her Hellman project works to understand how institutional capabilities and constraints structure the contours of urban thermal governance. Such knowledge is critical to take action on the public health crisis posed by climate-exacerbated extreme heat.

Nicholas Laluk,


Ndee (Apache) Place-Based Understandings and Environmental Justice

Professor Laluk’s research interests include exploring decolonization, indigenization, indigenous methodologies, tribal sovereignty-driven research, indigenous archaeologies, and the Southwest United States. Their current research with the White Mountain Apache focuses on Ndee (Apache) place-making, landscape management and environmental justice in east-central Arizona. The project will maximize research benefits for Ndee communities and embrace Ndee knowledge systems as powerful tools to destabilize Western knowledge systems. 

Yan Long,


Assembling Digital Statecraft in (Post-)COVID China

Professor Long’s research interests include authoritarian states, transnational politics around infectious diseases, and cities in the Global South. Her Hellman project traces the Chinese government’s use of digital tools to further the development of urban population surveillance and governance and evaluates the impact of such technocratic shift on urban spatial and economic inequality during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fumi Okiji,


Toward (a) Gathering-Work

Fumi Okiji works across black study, critical theory, and sound and music studies. Her research and teaching looks to black expression for ways to understand modern and contemporary life. Deepening the engagement established in her first book, Okiji's current project, Billie’s Bent Elbow: Unthinkable Nonsense and/or Toward (a) Gathering-Work explores the features of a genre of socio-political gathering that does not rely on (non)identity nor on an insistence on a universalist project. In augmentation of conversations taking place in black theory, and drawing from Adorno and Walter Benjamin on aesthetics, music, dialectics, mimesis, the work also explores the modal anomaly of black life, its subjunctive comportment, and relative ease with contradiction. Music from Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Nina Simone, among others, not so much provide example as a further area of theoretical resource.

Benjamin Safdi,


Predicting the Dark Matter Axion ass at Transformative Precision

Professor Safdi’ research interests include astrophysic and particle physics. His Hellman project focuses on the search for the quantum chromodynamics (QCD) axion, which is the hypothetical particle that solves the strong CP problem and makes up the observed in Dark Matter. It will leverage cutting-edge high-performance computing infrastructure together with novel, physics-based algorithms to provide a qualitative and game-changing improvement on the QCD axion mass prediction.

Ian Swinburne,

Molecular & Cell Biology

Regulation of Organ Hydraulics by hormonal Signals

Professor Swinburne’s research interests include exploring vertebrate physiologies, quantitative cell biology, and development biology. His current research will integrate molecular studies of hormonal circuits with new biophysical techniques to decode the signals that promote continued function of the inner ear. By establishing a reproducible technique to manipulate ear pressure, they will be able to pursue the molecular basis of pressure sensation and regulation in the inner ear.

Nick Tsivanidis,


Sustainability, Public Transit Adoption, and Economic Growth

Professor Tsivanidis’ research includes exploring topics of urban and regional economics, development economics, and applied econometrics. Hisproject will measure the impacts of a new transit system in Lagos, focusing both on how commuters value and use the new system as well as how informal minibus operators respond. The results will shed light on the return to government provision of public goods in low income countries where they are already publicly provided, and the ability to improve transit to reduce car dependence and greenhouse gas emissions.

Stacey Van Vleet,


The World the Medicine Buddha Built: Tibetan Medical Governance in Qing Inner Asia

Professor Van Vleet’s research examines the history of medicine, religion, and technologies and institutions of governance shared between Tibet, Inner Asia and China. The Hellman Fellowship will assist in the completion of herfirst book - The World the Medicine Buddha Built: Tibetan Medical Governance in Qing Inner Asia. The book reveals how a vast network of Buddhist medical institutions brought Tibetan and Mongolian technologies to the heart of imperial governance as the Qing Empire expanded over Inner Asia.

Martha Wilfahrt

Political Science

Tropical Subjects: Ethnographies of Experimentation

Professor Wilfahrt’s research interests include African politics, political economy of development, and redistributive politics. The Hellman Award will assist in her second book project - Tropical Subjects: Ethnographies of Experimentation. This book takes a different perspective on the experimental revolution: that of participants themselves.