Next Cohort of Dietrich Scholars Begin Studies
By Stacy Kish
Carnegie Mellon University welcomes the second cohort of Dietrich College Scholars, who represent an exemplary group of doctoral students pursuing their degrees in the humanities and social sciences.
“The program raises the visibility of our scholars and allows them to share, learn and potentially collaborate on future research,” said Ayana Ledford, associate dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
The scholars represent seven Dietrich College departments that offer Ph.D. programs. The fellowship provides a pathway to success through financial support, opportunities to expand networks and professional development.
“The biggest impact of the program is helping the Dietrich College Scholars build community across departments, which is important because their departmental cohorts are so small,” said Sharon Carver, associate dean for Educational Affairs. “The actual how [this happens] is very informal, with connections happening over shared meals, one-on-one chats, over tea, etc.”
The inaugural cohort of scholars have helped the college identify barriers to success that may be impacting all doctoral students. The college has begun to resolve these issues at a college level. For example, the first cohort of scholars noted the lack of peer mentors within their departments. To address this need, the program plans to link the incoming scholars with scholars from the inaugural cohort to improve their connection with their peers. According to Carver, the program is also raising awareness of campus resources that are available for personal and professional growth and connecting scholars with resources unique to their needs.
Join Dietrich College in welcoming the second cohort of Dietrich College Scholars.
Luz Stephanie Andrino will begin a doctoral program in systems neuroscience. While she will be conducting rotations in different labs during her studies, she will begin her work in Michele Insanally’s lab, where she will be working with novel neurotechnologies, specifically looking at cochlear implant interfaces. Andrino completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at California State University, Northridge. After receiving her undergraduate degree, Andrino participated in the National Institutes of Health Postbaccalaureate Research Education Program at Purdue University on translational biomedical sciences.
“I am most looking forward to having an interdisciplinary community amongst peers and faculty,” said Andrino. “I crossed various disciplines in my undergraduate career as a research assistant, and I benefited greatly from doing so. I'm excited to be a part of this unique cohort.”
Jose Arellano will begin the doctoral program in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences. He will be primarily working with Gretchen Chapman, department head and professor of Social and Decision Sciences, and Silvia Saccardo, assistant professor in the department. Arellano aims to conduct field research that explores how organizations and individuals can harness behavioral insights to improve human welfare, with a focus on health behaviors and discrimination. He completed a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and a master’s degree in behavioural & economic science from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.
“I mostly look forward to learning from [the other fellow’s] unique backgrounds and research interests, and hopefully build great social and academic connections that will last,” said Arellano.
Caitlan A. Fealing will begin her doctoral program working with Russell Golman, associate professor in the Department of Social and Decision Sciences. Her studies will focus on applying game theory to political science. Fealing graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, economics and psychology from Williams College in 2019. She completed a data science fellowship with the Institute for Defense Analyses in 2022.
“As a Dietrich College Scholar, I am most looking forward to the opportunity to complete novel research with professors and to interact with peers in the field,” said Fealing.
Qidu Fu will begin his studies in second language acquisition in the Department of Modern Languages. He plans to investigate Chinese linguistics, sociolinguistics and language acquisition. Fu completed a bachelor’s degree in English in the applied linguistics track in 2020 and a master’s degree in Asian Languages and Civilizations on the Chinese-applied linguistics track in 2022 from Arizona State University.
“I am looking forward to studying and connecting with cohorts across the college and learning from them,” said Fu. “I am looking forward to making a positive influence on the program as well.”
Kiera Gilbert will begin her doctoral degree in the rhetoric program in the Department of English. Her studies will focus on colonial-political institutions and their effects on social welfare and liberation. She is interested in narratives of war and revolution and how social unrest contributes to shifts in the cultures and identity politics of minority groups. Gilbert received a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in literary and cultural studies from Carnegie Mellon University.
“I am looking forward to interacting with my fellow scholars and having the opportunities to engage with other disciplines and research fields,” said Gilbert. “I believe that this multidisciplinary opportunity will enrich my experience as a student at Carnegie Mellon University.”
Reece Keller will begin a joint doctorate in neural computation and machine learning. The human brain is a rich and complex system. He wants to understand how neural computation supports certain cognitive and behavioral functions as it relates to the design of artificial cognitive systems. He also is interested in causal models and how they facilitate inference in various settings, such as network models or machine learning algorithms. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics and applied mathematics with a minor in philosophy and computer science at Seattle University.
“The Dietrich College Fellowship offers a unique opportunity to connect with leadership across the many amazing departments of the college,” said Keller. “As a Dietrich College Scholar, I am excited to build relationships with these people and find a close and supportive community I can depend on for collaboration and advice.”
Thea Liu will begin the second year of her doctoral studies. She is working with Benno Weiner, associate professor in the Department of History. Liu will focus her studies on 20th century Chinese political history. In particular, she will study the role of local power-holders in Republican China outside the framework of “the Chinese state” to give agency back to local state builders. By merging decentralizing insights and warlordism, she plans to provide a comprehensive, post-ideological narrative of warlords at the intersection of military, economic, cultural, political and social histories. Liu obtained her bachelor’s degree from Soochow University in 2019 and her master’s degree from Duke University in 2021.
“I am most looking forward to getting to know my fellow scholars, developing interdisciplinary research skills and building relationships with faculty members from departments across the university,” said Liu.
Emily Lopez will begin her doctoral program in systems neuroscience. She plans to rotate through advisors during her first year, beginning her studies with Matt Smith, associate professor in Neuroscience Institute, and Patrick Mayo, assistant professor in the Neuroscience Institute. Lopez aims to study the neural mechanisms underlying sensory information processing and subsequent generation of motor output. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She also spent two years as a post-baccalaureate research fellow at the National Institutes of Health, working under Arash Afraz, on the causal role of inferior temporal cortex in object recognition and high level visual processing.
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to interact with and learn from peers in other fields who I may not normally get the chance to connect with,” said Lopez.
Odalys Barrientos Pantoja will begin her doctoral studies in the Statistics & Data Science Department. Barrientos Pantoja obtained a bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a concentration in statistics from Monmouth University in 2022. She is excited to move to Pittsburgh and to meet everyone and building new relationships with the new cohort.
“Statistics and data science is very broad, which is one of the many things I love about the field,” she said. “I am excited to learn and work along with an impressive group of people and find the area of statistics that is of most interest to me.”
Emily Pasetes will begin their doctoral program in the Department of Philosophy, focusing their work on epistemology. Pasetes received bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and engineering physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“I'm excited about CMU's emphasis on interdisciplinarity, and I think the Dietrich College Scholars program really highlights that,” said Pasetes. “It seems easy to get pretty insular with graduate studies, so it's super cool that this program exists to open up a breadth of study and interaction.”