CISS Announces 2024 Summer Mini-Grant Recipients

In April 2024, the Center for Innovation in Social Science invited proposals for mini-grants intended to help foster new research or enhance in-progress projects among faculty, full-time lecturers, and graduate students. The Center received more than three times as many high-quality proposals as they could fund. They awarded grants to 25 graduate students and 4 faculty members working across a range of academic disciplines. Grants are awarded in four categories: travel; training; undergraduate research assistance; and research supplies. 

Grant Recipients

Farah Adeed (he/him) is a Ph.D. student in the Political Science Department, studying religion and politics in South and Southeast Asia, with a focus on Pakistan and Indonesia. He is interested in exploring the role of religion in politics, examining institution-building and nationalism in two of the largest Muslim-majority countries in the world.

Farah’s CISS summer mini grant will support his learning Bahasa Indonesia at the Southeast Asian Studies Summer Institute (SEASSI)  at University of Wisconsin-Madison. This training is in preparation for his doctoral research, which focuses on the elections and the politics of Islamic organizations in Indonesia.

Zara Albright (she/her) is a Ph.D candidate in Political Science and a Global China Fellow at the Global Development Policy (GDP) Center, where she studies the causes of growing economic and political links between Latin America and China. Her dissertation analyzes the region’s foreign policies for navigating US-China competition, using comparative case studies of Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador. Zara’s work contributes to literature on smaller state agency in the international system and global economic order.

Zara’s CISS mini-summer grant will support the presentation of her dissertation research at the 2024 American Political Science Association (APSA) annual meeting in Philadelphia in September. The paper, titled “When the Big Dogs Fight: Small State Foreign Policies in Great Power Competition,” is based on the theory chapter of her dissertation and highlights the roles of interest group politics, discursive frames, and state identity in the construction of foreign policies. 


Laura Aquino (she/her) is a Ph.D. student in the Economics Department. Her fields of interest are development economics, gender economics, and law and economics.

Laura will use her CISS summer mini-grant to be part of the 2024 NOVAFRICA Conference on Economic Development at the Nova School of Business and Economics in July 2024. She will present her research titled “Can I get that in writing?” Lessons from a Contracting Field Experiment in Urban Malawi. This paper studies the effects of introducing a formal contract on outcomes related to compliance, levels of effort exerted, and service quality in contexts where informal contracts are the norm.


Tianyi Bai (they/she) is currently a third-year Ph.D. student in sociocultural anthropology, broadly interested in the anthropology of the state, emotions and affect, transnational feminism, and postcolonial studies. Tianyi’s current project focuses on transgender and queer communities in China, with a focus on how marginality influence trans/queer folks’ imaginary of their futures. 

Tianyi will use their CISS summer mini-grant to partially support their anthropological dissertation field research.


Andrea Beltran-Lizarazo (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in Department of Sociology studying the extraterritorial expansion of U.S. penal power.

Andrea’s CISS summer mini-grant will support the creation of a novel database of extradition cases from Colombia to the United States. This research aims to uncover the bureaucratic foundations of this expansion by employing data science techniques to analyze over 4,000 administrative and judicial records.


Luisa Fernanda Delgado Mejía (she/her) is a Ph.D. in the Sociology Department. She obtained her Master’s degree in Sociology from El Colegio de México and her BA from Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Her research interests include economic sociology, medical sociology and urban sociology. Her current research examines conspicuous consumption in contexts restricted by violence and inequality. Luisa’s research focuses on cosmetic plastic surgery across the Americas. She analyzes the economic, social, and cultural conditions that facilitate the flourishing of situated aesthetic industries, and how cosmetic procedures intercept the economic trajectories of individuals. 

During summer 2024, Luisa will use CISS funding for travel support to conduct interviews with plastic surgeons and individuals who had undergone cosmetic plastic surgery procedures in Mexico.


Alison Duncan (she/her) is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at BUSM and a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist at Boston Medical Center, where she is also the Medical Director of the Youth Community Behavioral Health Center. She has both clinical and research expertise in emergency psychiatry, pediatric consult-liaison psychiatry, family communication, suicide, substance use disorders, severe mental illness, ADHD and quality improvement.

Dr. Duncan’s CISS summer mini-grant will support aims to specifically improve the identification of patients at risk of suicide in an urban, racially, and linguistically diverse, safety-net health system population.

Neha Gondal (she/her) is an Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and the Faculty of Computing & Data Sciences. A mathematical sociologist, she investigates the role of social networks and culture in the exacerbation of status-based inequalities. Her latest work is focused on (1) network-based clustering of health behaviors and outcomes in Boston’s public housing developments and (2) the gap between rhetoric and practices surrounding ‘diversity’ in U.S. organizations.

Professor Gondal’s CISS summer mini grant will support travel to attend the International Network of Analytical Sociology Conference (INAS), which is being held in Leipzig, Germany in May 2024. Prof. Gondal is an invited speaker at the Inaugural Women’s Forum for Analytical Sociology at this convention and chair of the 2024 committee for the Robert K. Merton Best Paper in Analytical Sociology Award. She is also presenting a paper titled, “International Employee ‘Diversity’ Recruitment Practices in the United States.”

Lior Hamovitz (she/her) is a rising Ph.D in the field of Climate Justice, with research centering on understanding environmental injustices through a socio-geographic regionalist perspective she is developing. She specializes in political theory, with an emphasis on the evolving sphere of literature on intersectional environmentalism. Her research objective centers around the compounding effects of geography, history and identity in people’s lived experience of climate injustices, as well as these elements’ interaction with global climate regimes.

Over the summer, with the help of her CISS mini-grant, Lior will undertake an intensive Quechua course in Cusco, Peru, as well as preliminary data collection for her doctoral research.

Joseph Harris (he/him) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology. His most recent work explores cultural markets and processes of branding in international relations.

Professor Harris’ CISS summer mini-grant will support his work on valuation and pricing in collectibles markets, exploring the factors that explain price variation for cultural artifacts that form the basis of much of the popular cultural we know today.


John Hassett (he/him) is a Ph.D student in Economics Department. His research is at the intersection of labor economics, political economy, and industrial organization. John is from Washington, D.C., completed his B.A. at Columbia University, and returned to D.C. to work in economic consulting prior to coming to Boston University.

John’s CISS summer mini-grant will support his research, a joint project with fellow BU PhD student Laura Aquino, which studies the implementation of gender quotas for political candidates in local Mexican elections, the effect of these quotas on the proportion and ranking of women in government, and the differences in policymaking behavior between men and women. Preliminary results show that strategic behavior by political parties prevents quotas from creating full parity between male and female elected officials, but despite this there is evidence that women mayors change the focus of policymaking in areas like gender-related legislation and municipal budgeting.


Kazi Md Mukitul Islam (he/him) is a Ph.D Student in the Department of Sociology. His broader research interests include Sociology of health, gender, and education. Within the Sociology of health, he is deeply interested in exploring the role of social determinants of health, especially for the minority groups. He is currently engaged in a project that seeks a deeper understanding of how the intersection of gender and ethnic identity influences the establishment of trust in healthcare services and healthcare information. His most recent works are published in International Journal of Educational Development, PLoS ONE and the Journal of Biosocial Science.

In developing countries, women often lack decision-making autonomy due to entrenched patriarchal norms, hindering their ability to make crucial choices. Using his CISS summer mini grant, Kazi plans to conduct fieldwork to better understand the mechanism through which women navigate their empowerment status in the face of structural inequalities in day-to-day life that shape their health-seeking behavior in Bangladesh. He will conduct in-depth qualitative interviews of 60 married women of reproductive age (18-49) who qualify for educational and employment criteria.


Leyla Jafarova (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in sociocultural anthropology. Her doctoral research focuses on the emergence and development of humanitarian ethics of care for the unidentified dead in post-war Azerbaijan and the production of knowledge in this regard. Leyla also explores how families of missing persons in post-war Azerbaijan construct their personal truths and navigate their experiences of loss and healing. She is examining how their alternative truths often exist alongside and are sidelined by dominant humanitarian regimes of truth that exclusively rely on forensic scientific evidence.

The CISS mini-grant will aid Leyla in accessing archival materials from the Open Society Archives (OSA) in Budapest, Hungary. The OSA is renowned for its extensive collection of documents related to the Soviet Union and its successor states. This archival work will complement her already completed 12-month-long ethnographic study in post-war Azerbaijan. It will contextualize Azerbaijan’s realities within a broader historical framework by exploring the Soviet Union’s approach to addressing the issue of missing persons and the legacy it left in post-Soviet Azerbaijan.

Melissa Kibbe (she/her) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences and the director of the Developing Minds Lab. Her lab examines the representations and computations underlying developing cognition in infants and young children.

Professor Kibbe’s CISS summer mini-grant will support her participation in the annual meeting of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, at which she and her students will be presenting two papers.

Esra Nur Turan-Küçük (she/her) completed her B.A. in Psychology at Istanbul Sehir University, focusing her senior thesis on the development of the possibility concept in young children. During her undergraduate studies, she served as a lab manager at the Istanbul Sehir University Developmental & Psychopathology Lab and also gained experience as a summer research assistant at Harvard’s Lab for Developmental Studies. Currently, as a Ph.D. student and Turkish Fulbright grantee under the supervision of Dr. Melissa Kibbe, Esra is deepening her research into conceptual development, particularly examining how young children understand and manage mutually exclusive possibilities. Her work extends into biological conceptual development, investigating infants’ categorical differentiation of plants from non-living objects, aiming to elucidate early conceptual categorization processes.

Esra’s CISS summer mini grant will support her project investigating young children’s capacity to reason about mutually exclusive possibilities. By assessing their choices in a controlled setting with reduced physical demands, we aim to explore the developmental onset of possibility reasoning related to uncertain object identities.


Xuan Li (he/him) is a Ph.D candidate in Economics who is interested in both Political Economics and Labor Economics. His research centers on hate crimes, which are likely to have a broader and more devastating ripple effect on whole communities as they not only target the immediate victim alone but also victimize others who share the same characteristics or identities. Working with several local government agencies in Los Angeles, Xuan’s project aims to understand the impact of hate crimes on local communities and how these communities respond to such incidents.

Xuan’s CISS summer mini grant will enable him to hire two research assistants.


Lida Maxwell (she/they) is Professor of Political Science & Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Professor Maxwell’s research is focused in feminist and queer theory, and she is the author of the forthcoming Rachel Carson and the Power of Queer Love (Stanford University Press, 2025), among other books.
Lida’s project, The New Sex Ed: A Politics of Desire for the Future, turns to feminist and queer sexual liberation texts of the past to develop a feminist, queer, anti-racist philosophy of sex education. The book project will argue for the importance of sex education to democracy.

Rahma Mbarki (she/her) is a Developmental Science Ph.D. student broadly interested in children’s understanding of physical and mental phenomena. Currently, she is exploring how children track false beliefs about objects within pretend contexts, as well as children’s naive intuitions about gravity.

Rahma’s CISS summer mini grant will allow her to present her research findings at the 50th annual Society for Philosophy and Psychology conference in Purdue, Indiana.

Syeda “Rumana” Mehdi (she/her) is a first year Ph.D student in the Anthropology department at BU. Her research focuses on the ways in which widows cope with loss by frequenting Sufi shrines across Pakistan. Rumana previously holds a Masters in Women and Gender Studies from University of York (UK) and a B.A in Liberal Arts from Bennington College.
Syeda’s CISS summer mini grant will support her embarking on a ten-day pilgrimage to the shrine cities of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq with a group of Pakistani Shia women. This trip will help her in understanding the presence of women in shrines in general and how private experiences of piety and loss are manifested in public display of female mourning in particular. Not only will this fieldwork provide an important regional and comparative dimension to Rumana’s dissertation research, but it will also challenge existing social, political and religious assumptions about sacred spaces and how knowledge is formed and transmitted within these spaces and beyond.

Margot Rashba (she/her) is a Ph.D candidate, where she is completing her dissertation titled, “Britishness on the Runway: Dress and Identity from Punk to the Present.” Her research uses the collections of fashion designers Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen to argue that dress is a distinctly visual and personal tool to examine how Britons conceptualized national identity during moments of political and cultural change in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. She holds a BA in history and an MA in history and museum studies from Tufts University.
Margot’s CISS summer mini grant will support her dissertation research by funding online subscriptions for two British-based publications, AnOther Magazine and Dazed and Confused, and one online photography archive, The Subculture Archive. These archives assist her analysis of press reactions and interpretations to the runway collections of three British fashion designers, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Alexander McQueen. The Subculture Archive contains everyday images of working class youth cultures, essential evidence for the element of her dissertation that discusses the implications of the general public imitating high fashion garments and silhouettes.

Courteney Smith (she/her) is a Ph.D candidate in History. She holds a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University and an MA in History from University College London. Her research uses the women’s movement in Britain as a case study through which to explore how social movements can shape the ways people understand the places they live and work, and vice versa, how the traditions and beliefs of the place you live can influence the way you experience and respond to social movements.
Courteney’s CISS summer mini grant will support subscriptions to Archives which offer access to hundreds of digitized newspapers, enabling me to perform key word searches and systematic samplings allowing her to trace shifts in how people were writing—and consequently thinking—about the places where advocates for women’s rights drove change.

Bhavya Deepti Vadavalli (she/her) is a second-year Ph.D student in Anthropology. She has a BS and MS in Biology from India. She has always been fascinated by collective behavior and have previously studied it in animals. Now, She has interested in translating the basic principles of collective behavior into evolutionary anthropology. She has interested in combining several quantitative methods like social network analysis, GIS, computational modeling and so on. Outside of her academic interests, she likes to embroider and has an interest in art history.
Bhavya’s project seeks to understand the impact of human social structures on collective decision-making efficiency in small-scale human groups. She models social structures as a result of marriage norms and the multilevel nesting of social groups and run an agent-based model to determine which norms lead to high decision-making accuracy. She also analyzes the entire model as a function of environmental complexity to try and find correlations between environments that need highly efficient collective decision-making and social structures that support it. Since this is a process that is highly complex and emerges out of both individual properties and the interactions between them, they need to be studied using a complex systems perspective. For this, she will be attending the Complex Systems Summer School held by the Santa Fe Institute. The CISS grant is helping defray the costs of attendance. 

Chas Walker (he/him) earned his B.A. in African American Studies at Brown University, and then worked for two decades as a community and union organizer in Rhode Island, primarily with SEIU District 1199 New England. He is now a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science. Broadly, his research interests relate to the economic and racial inequalities that shape American politics, and the efforts and strategies of organized groups and social movements to alter this configuration of power.Chas’ CISS summer mini grant will support archival research for his dissertation, a work of American Political Development focusing on Black workers and the emergence of the public sector union upsurge of the 1960s. By examining the last major wave of union growth in the United States, he aims to contribute to both scholarly and popular knowledge and to the ongoing debate about 21st century union revitalization.

Allison Wigen (she/her) is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology. Her research and writing focus on culture, class and inequality, work and occupations, education, family, environment, and social theory. Her dissertation project is an ethnographic study that examines how commercial fishermen’s work and artmaking have evolved amid the backdrop of climate change.

Allison’s CISS summer mini grant will support her travel to the 2024 American Sociological Association’s Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada, where she will be presenting her preliminary dissertation findings in a roundtable on “Culture and Environment.” The funds will also support travel to the Frank C. Munson Institute of American Maritime Studies at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut, where she has been accepted as a 2024 Munson Fellow. At the Munson Institute, Allison will be conducting archival research on commercial fishermen and maritime histories.


Katie Wynn (she/her) is a Ph.D. student in the History Department. Her research examines political culture in modern Britain. 

Katie will use her CISS mini-grant this summer to travel to archives in the UK where she will conduct research for her current project examining the Independent Labour Party (ILP) during the Boer War. Specifically, she is investigating the ILP’s concerns about disinformation and the quality of democracy in Britain at the turn of the century amidst the proliferation of sensationalist, profit-motivated print news.


Peiran Xiao (he/him) is a Ph.D. student in the Economics department. His field of research is Microeconomic Theory, with a focus on Mechanism Design and Contract Theory.

Peiran will use his CISS summer mini-grant to support his project on the optimal design of performance or product ratings to motivate individual performance or firm investment in quality.


Ziqi Xie (she/her) is a sociocultural anthropologist whose specialization in medical and psychological anthropology leads to ethnographic research on reproduction, kinship, biomedical technologies, and population policy. Currently a Ph.D candidate in anthropology, her research focuses on how the growing prominence of assisted reproductive technologies intersects with the state’s population and reproductive governance.

Ziqi’s CISS summer mini grant will enable her to present my accepted paper titled “The Doctors’ Practices and Discourses of Suggesting Non-reproduction in Pro-natalist China” at the conference EASST-4S in the summer of 2024. This is the quadrennial joint meeting of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) and the Society for Social Studies (4S). Based on her doctoral dissertation, this paper explicates how and why the national demographic anxiety and the pro-natalist call propagated by the state are rarely translated into IVF doctors’ clinical reasoning and practices in contemporary China, even though medical professionals are often the active agents of the state’s reproductive governance.


Melissa Zarate (she/her) is a a 4th year Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology, specializing in biological anthropology. She is currently investigating the population structure and genetic diversity of the Critically Endangered Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey using samples that she has collected from individuals throughout their geographic range. With the goal of contributing this research to conservation efforts, she is interested in how the genetics of different subpopulations of the species may be impacted by habitat fragmentation and geographic barriers using novel landscape mitogenomic methods, as well as how these features my impact social migration in the species.

Mel’s CISS summer mini-grant will support her efforts in collecting genetic data by sequencing mitochondrial DNA (maternally inherited genetic information) and a fragment of the Y chromosome (paternally inherited information). Having data representative of female and male lineages will give an in depth insight into population structure present in the species in comparison to potentially fragmenting landscapes. It was also reveal if there is sex-specific bias in the migration patterns of this species, and which, if any, sex is contributing more to gene flow between populations.


Caoyifu Zhou (he/him) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology Department. His research explores how individuals are socially connected and the corresponding consequences of these social relationships.

Using his CISS summer mini-grant funding, Caoyifu will take some courses on Coursera to increase his knowledge in research methods and hone his academic writing skills, preparing himself better for his dissertation.