The Hellman Fellows Fund recently named 16 students as the 2015 Hellman Graduate Award Recipients. This second cohort of Berkeley doctoral students will receive up to $35,000 over five years to help advance their research. Current and former Hellman Fellows faculty nominated the graduate students for exhibiting a capacity for distinction.
Since 1995, the Hellman Fellows Fund has helped support research for more than 300 junior faculty members at Berkeley. Beginning in 2014, the Hellman Fellows Fund partnered with Berkeley to bring research funding to outstanding graduate students.
In addition to financial support, the fellowship affords the awardees flexibility in their studies. Joe Roscoe, an incoming Ph.D. candidate in the Berkeley School of Social Welfare who focuses on social-emotional development in youth, anticipates that the award will allow him to pursue his own research and professional goals. “It adds to my credibility and prestige as a candidate for professorship in the coming years,” Roscoe says.
The 2015 Hellman Graduate Awardees display a range of skills and experience that should lead to promising research at Berkeley.
Ariel Bierbaum, City and Regional Planning
Ariel Bierbaum is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of City and Regional Planning, where she focuses on public education, urban policy and racial inequality. Originally from New Jersey, Bierbaum has worked across the country for the past 15 years in the fields of community art and public policy.
Ariel’s dissertation examines the connections between Philadelphia’s school closures, neighborhood change and discrimination. “In 2012, the School District of Philadelphia closed nearly ten percent of its traditional public schools, displacing thousands of students, changing the fabric of neighborhoods, and transforming access to opportunity for families across the city,” Bierbaum explains. She uses qualitative methods to reveal how school closures correlate with distribution of resources and poverty reforms.
Outside of her studies, Bierbaum works as an adjunct faculty member in the Architecture and Community Design Program at the University of San Francisco and is a visiting scholar in the Urban Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, she serves on the Oakland Unified School District School Facilities Bond Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee.
Bierbaum is currently conducting research on the impact of large-scale investments on social mobility with Dr. Carolina Reid, the Hellman Faculty Fellow who nominated her for the fellowship.
“I am honored to be a Hellman Graduate Fellow. This kind of opportunity to meet other scholars — faculty and students — doing interesting and important work is one of the amazing things about being at a place like UC Berkeley. I get inspired and motivated by learning about all the research going on around me!” Bierbaum says.
Becca Brunner, Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
Becca Brunner is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM) whose passion for conservation derives from an insatiable curiosity and adoration of the natural world. “The ESPM department immediately stood out to me because it supports a community of researchers from typically separate disciplines. Effective conservation requires a wide range of perspectives and skill-sets and it’s rare to have such a powerful diversity of minds tackling the same problem,” Brunner says.
Before attending Berkeley, Brunner majored in English and Biology at Cornell University and received an M.P.A. in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University. Brunner has conducted fieldwork in the jungles of Peru, the Philippines, Australia, and Madagascar, where she worked on projects related to environmental change.
For the last three years, she has worked at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology — a conservation non-profit affiliated with Cornell — as an instructor and as the developmental editor of an ornithology textbook, while earning an M.S. in Neurobiology and Animal Behavior.
Brunner will join the Kremen Lab at Berkeley in the fall, where she hopes to examine the role of amphibians in the ecosystem and focus on amphibian conservation.
“I am thankful for the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D. and receiving the Hellman Fellowship fostered a sense of confidence that my past experiences have prepared me to join the Berkeley community,” Brunner says.
Elizabeth de Martelly, Music
A fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Music’s Ethnomusicology program, Elizabeth de Martelly studies popular music and racialization. Prior to coming to Berkeley, Beezer (as she is known) earned an M.A. in Music History and Theory from SUNY Stony Brook, where she researched queer performances in an NYC-based metal band’s online fan community. “My dissertation project develops from these interests, examining the relationships between race, space, and sound in Seattle’s grunge genre — a music genre often associated with leftist politics but which generally eschewed explicit discussions of race,” de Martelly says. Her research examines how grunge music racially transformed Seattle’s Chinatown-International District in the mid-1980s.
Beezer has also participated in the student workers union and advocates for accessible and quality public education.
“The Hellman Graduate Award is a highly prestigious form of recognition, which I am honored to receive. This award will enable me to carry out critical field research next year to develop my dissertation, and it will be a marker of distinction in my career endeavors,” de Martelly says.
Esther Yoona Cho, Sociology
Esther Yoona Cho is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology. She received a B.A. from Duke University and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and later worked at the Social Science Research Council. She chose to attend Berkeley because of its rich history and culture.
She is currently working on a comparative analysis of the experiences of undocumented Asian and Latino young adults. In her spare time she enjoys listening to music, volunteering with local non-profit organizations and exploring new sights around the Bay Area.
“I can’t thank the Hellman family enough for this opportunity to focus on my research in order to excel in my vocation as an early academic and to follow in the footsteps of faculty members who have been able to thrive in their work thanks to the support of this Foundation,” Cho says.
Joshua Williams, Theater, Dance and Performance Studies
Joshua Williams is a writer, director, translator and teacher from Massachusetts who is pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies. He is also working towards a Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory.
His broad range of interests include African and postcolonial theatre and film, social justice, the history of science, translation and critical theory. His dissertation focuses on the role of animals and animality in the performance and political history of East Africa from the 1930s through the 1990s.
In his spare time, Williams writes articles and essays that have been published in ASTR Online, Theatre Journal and the Johannesburg Salon. He is also translating the complete plays of the Tanzanian dramatist, Ebrahim Hussein, from Swahili into English for Oxford University Press.
“The Hellman fellowship will enable me to round out my time at Berkeley on a high note and hopefully put me in the position to be successful on the academic job market in the next two years,” he says.
John Elrick, Geography
As a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geography, John Elrick focuses on the ways in which the use of space and organization shapes the political character of urban life. His current research explores the shifting terrain of urban government in the San Francisco Bay Area. “I’m particularly interested in the role played by technical design practices…in the formation of metropolitan space and politics after WWII,” Elrick says.
Prior to attending Berkeley, he received his B.A. and M.A. in history from San Francisco State University. He says that the Hellman Fellowship will assist him in tangible ways.
“The award will enable me to focus my research and writing efforts at a critical stage in my graduate career,” Elrick adds.
Vladislav Belyy, Biophysics
Vladislav Belyy was inspired to pursue his Ph.D. in the Graduate Group in Biophysics in part to continue the legacy of his parents’ interrupted academic studies. His parents were on their way to establishing scientific careers when the USSR collapsed, ending government funding for basic research. Belyy was 11 years old when his family immigrated from Russia to the United States.
“In pursuing a purely academic career, I feel that I am buoyed by their dreams as much as my own,” he says.
“As I continue my academic career, I will try my best to inspire as many people as I can to be inquisitive about the world around us, much as the people who have been so influential in my life have inspired me.”
Belyy is currently trying to understand how dynein, the motor protein in cells, influences biological processes such as cell division. He hopes that the Hellman Graduate Award will allow him the time and resources to publish his projects prior to graduation.
“In an increasingly competitive academic climate, receiving funding from an independent source…is not only rewarding and motivational — it also allows one to be bolder and more independent in their research,” Belyy says.
Michaelangelo D. Tabone, Energy and Resources
Michaelangelo D. Tabone, a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Group in Energy and Resources, focuses on the application of data science in energy and environmental issues. He received his M.S. degree in energy and resources from Berkeley in 2012. He chose to continue at Berkeley because of the interdisciplinary approach to environmental research.
Tabone is currently finishing up a project related to the reliability and geographic locations of solar energy systems. In addition, he is an affiliate of the Grid Integration Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
“Receiving the Hellman Graduate Award has given me a sense of honor and validation, both from having been nominated by my advisor whom I admire, Duncan Callaway, and from having been chosen by the committee. This encourages me to pursue my own research objectives over the next year and into the future,” he says.
Carlos Schmidt Padilla, Political Science
Schmidt Padilla focuses on the political economy of development, violence, and politics in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently working on two projects: one seeks to understand the impact of electoral reform on political outcomes in El Salvador and the other analyzes the long-term impact of religious missions on identity across Africa.
“I am extremely thankful to have received the Hellman Graduate Award. The award will not only enrich my academic experience, but it will allow me to conduct field research over the summer in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa,” Schmidt Padilla says.
“Given the nature of the award, I will be able to conduct research earlier than anticipated and I am truly thankful for the opportunity.”
Yoshika Crider, Energy and Resources
Originally from Kansas, Yoshika Crider is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Graduate Group in Energy and Resources, where she plans to focus on safe water and development. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Environmental Engineering from Stanford University in 2013.
Over the past two years, Crider has been based in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as the Project Manager for Lotus Water — a project focused on community-level water disinfection for urban slums. “I’m passionate about safe drinking water access for the urban poor, and I especially love working and traveling in South and Southeast Asia,” Crider says.
In Bangladesh, she has been working on a project that tests and adapts technologies for community-level water disinfection in urban slums. She and her team hope to develop an alternative to both centralized and household-level water treatment, which have previously proven ineffective.
“The Hellman Graduate Award will give me more flexibility to explore all Berkeley has to offer and let me focus my attention on my studies and research. I’m very grateful for this support,” Crider says.
Paul Krueger, Psychology
Over the past decade, he has dedicated his work to gaining a deeper understanding of cognition. After college, he participated in an intensive meditation practice study in collaboration with UC Davis. He then spent two years as a research specialist at Princeton University, where he studied decision-making in humans using neuroimaging and computational modeling. Soon afterwards, he received rigorous contemplative training through the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies for four years.
Some of his current projects include computational modeling of human decision-making and analyzing neuroimaging data. Krueger says that the Hellman fellowship not only shows support for his work, which now focuses on cognitive neuroscience, but it also “opens up options in how I chart my research path.”
William Berdanier, Physics
William Berdanier is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Physics, where he plans to focus on theoretical physics. Born in Dallas and raised in Boulder, he previously earned a B.S. with honors in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating in 2013, he received his Master’s in Mathematics from Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar. He is currently completing a Master’s in Philosophy of Physics at the University of Oxford.
Berdanier is also an avid violinist and founding member of String Theory, a UK-based string ensemble, and enjoys hiking, reading, and scuba diving.
“This fellowship is a good omen for what is to come at Berkeley — it shows that the university believes in me,” Berdanier says.
“It will help me focus on research and on pursuing my own independent projects and ideas. I also look forward to utilizing the network of Hellman awardees to exchange ideas and insights with students from disparate fields.”
Seung A Choo, Molecular and Cell Biology
Seung A Choo, a native of South Korea, is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB). As an undergraduate student in the MCB program, Choo began volunteering in the lab to learn about biological research and its methods. “To me, laboratory is always a place with liveliness and enthusiasm,” Choo says. “I would consider myself perfectly happy if I can contribute to academia as a passionate researcher and a helpful mentor in ten years.”
Over the past two years, Choo has continued to work on mammalian sperm physiology in the lab of Professor Lishko — the Hellman Fellow Faculty member who nominated her for the fellowship. The award has boosted her confidence in her work at the university.
“This valuable support will guide me through graduate school to pursue research in areas that not only satisfies my intellectual curiosity but also has a potential to answer mankind’s unanswered questions in health and medical sciences,” Choo says.
Joseph Roscoe, Social Welfare
Joseph Roscoe is a graduate of the Boston University School of Social Work and has practiced as a licensed clinical social worker in Massachusetts and Colorado since 2009. His professional experience includes outpatient psychotherapy, recovery services for individuals with severe mental illness, anxiety disorder research, and assessment of children, adolescents, and adults. In his practice, Roscoe recognized the unjust burden that emotional and behavioral health disorders had placed on disadvantaged adult populations, and this led to a new focus on preventive intervention in vulnerable youth populations.
He has since collaborated on prevention research with the University of Denver School of Social Work, and joins the Berkeley School of Social Welfare in order to advance our understanding of how community practitioners can engender resiliency and positive social-emotional development in youth populations. When he is not working, he records music, lifts weights, and experiments in the kitchen.
“The Hellman award has provided me with the honor and opportunity to undertake my doctoral studies as a researcher in my own right,” Roscoe says.
“I have the resources and time available to plan and execute a strategic research agenda that will bring service and justice to the youth communities that need it most,” he adds.
Eric Hsu, Economics
Eric Hsu is a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Economics, where he plans on focusing on the issues of developing countries. After completing his undergraduate degree at Rutgers University in 2013, he worked as a Research Associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and as an assistant for Professor Edward Miguel at UC Berkeley.
Recently, Hsu has conducted research on topics ranging from the efficacy of central bank communications to the nature of violent conflict in developing countries.
“I see the award as a gift of time. It will give me time in my first two years to explore opportunities to develop as a producer of research,” Hsu says.
Juan Ernesto Guevara, Integrative Biology
Juan Ernesto Guevara, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology, was raised in Ecuador. Both his father, a sociologist, and his mother, a nurse, introduced him to socialist thought and biological sciences at a young age. Although there weren’t many job options for biologists in Ecuador, he decided to major in biological sciences at Ecuador’s Catholic University. “Luckily, my doubts were swept away during my first field trip on a botany course, when I discovered an extraordinary interest in plant biology and what my teachers told me was an impressive talent for identifying them,” Guevara says. His interests in plants led him to enroll in ecology and biogeography courses, which solidified his passion for tropical forests.
He is currently working on his dissertation, which examines the role of geological formations and the underlying soil conditions on turnover patterns in Ecuador’s Amazonian tree communities. Guevara says that he’s honored to receive the Hellman Graduate Award, “not just because of the highly competitive selection process but also because of the relevance of the award.” He adds that the distinction will help him continue his research in South America.
“I am firmly convinced that the award I received will be extremely useful to attain the goals for the last part of my dissertation,” Guevara says.