Graduate Students

CMS/W features two sets of graduate students: those studying Comparative Media Studies and those in the Graduate Program in Science Writing. Their bios give a great sense of both their own interests and the variety of backgrounds our admissions committees value in each class.

Liam Andrew

Graduate Student, CMS
headshot 150x150 Graduate Students Liam grew up in Iowa and Connecticut, where he made a racket with various musical instruments. In college he discovered he could study noises too; his senior thesis at Yale University explored the phonograph and the influence of recorded sound on literature and music. Since graduating, hats worn have included translator, book indexer, archivist, English teacher abroad, and most recently, software developer for Delve, a news reader and aggregator that helps organizations find and share important reads.

Liam's research interests range from the history of information, hypertext, and reference, to the verbal and visual representation of aural phenomena. He still makes noises as a sound designer and member of Dinowalrus.
Chelsea Barabas

Graduate Student, CMS
Photo on 2012 04 05 at 10.17 150x150 Graduate Students In 2009 Chelsea graduated from Stanford with a B.A. in Sociology and minors in Arabic and Feminist Studies. Over the last four years, she has worked with an international development start-up called Nuru International. With Nuru, Chelsea headed up the development of co-learning and design opportunities between Western development practitioners and local social entrepreneurs.

Chelsea hopes to build from this experience during her time at MIT by exploring ways online platforms may be leveraged to foster communities of learning and practice, particularly in cross-cultural contexts. She is also interested in understanding how emerging technologies can be wielded to create stronger bridges between education and civic engagement by expanding learning from the classroom to other node’s of a learner’s life.

As a thin-blooded Texas native, Chelsea hopes to thrive in her studies by hiding from the cold weather (a.k.a. anything below 80 degrees) in the library and labs on campus. Her desk will be the one with the vitamin D sun lamp nearby.
Lindsay Brownell

Graduate Student, Science Writing
Lindsay Brownell 150x150 Graduate Students Lindsay Brownell is a native of Detroit, MI, and spent most of her childhood either digging for worms and collecting rocks or with her face buried in a book, often at the dinner table. She attended Davidson College in North Carolina, where she indulged in such nerdy activities as a twelve-hour reading/performance of John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” and Dance Dance Revolution tournaments. She also studied abroad twice, in Costa Rica for tropical biology and in the UK for British literature and art history. She became fascinated with evolution, genetics, and Romantic writing (are you noticing a bit of a split-brain tendency)?

After graduating with a dual degree in English and Biology, she taught Spanish in Switzerland, worked at Google in Ann Arbor, MI for two years, and traveled extensively (just hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and the Camino de Santiago in Spain). She is very excited to finally get to wrangle the literary and scientific parts of her brain into cooperation, and will be focusing on the biological sciences. In her spare time, she likes anything having to do with Disney, dancing, Ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing, trying to learn how DSLR cameras work, roaming farmer’s markets, and watching thunderstorms from her window while listening to Beethoven sonatas.
Denise Cheng

Graduate Student, CMS
Denise Cheng 150x150 Graduate Students Denise is a researcher and program designer who focuses on the future of work. At MIT, she explored how to configure a worker support infrastructure around people who earn income through Etsy, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, UberX and other peer-to-peer marketplaces. She has built strong relationships across the space with city governments, foundations, investors, startups, policy analysts and labor advocacy organizations. As a a former Peace Corps volunteer, the project lead of a well-reputed citizen journalism outlet, a fellow with CUNY J-School, and many other stints on the way to MIT, her roots are in the future of news, media/digital literacy, media justice, and community building.

Denise holds a B.Phil in Cultural and Participatory Journalism from Miami University of Ohio and an M.S. in Comparative Media Studies from MIT. She is affiliated with the MIT Center for Civic Media and MacroConnections at Media Lab. Like a moth to a flame, she is drawn to DIY media, neighborhoods, design of all types and creating frameworks—media expression or fulfilling work—that enable people to pursue what they find meaningful.
Heather Craig

Graduate Student, CMS
heath picture 150x150 Graduate Students Heather Craig focuses her work on the connections between interactive media and community engagement. She co-founded Media Action, a non-profit organization that produces educational interactive media and facilitates digital storytelling workshops. Prior to Media Action, Heather worked for production and communication companies on media for broadcast, interactive exhibitions, and online distribution. She has worked with NGOs on collaborative documentaries and participatory media education workshops. At MIT, she will continue to explore the intersections of education, digital storytelling, and civic engagement.

When she's not working on community-based technology projects, Heather enjoys climbing mountains and working on small-scale carpentry projects.
Rodrigo Davies

Graduate Student, CMS
Screen Shot 2013 09 19 at 6.17.24 PM 150x150 Graduate Students Rodrigo is a civic technologist and researcher who designs, builds and analyzes tools to help communities and governments collaborate for social good. He will be joining Stanford as a doctoral student in Fall 2014.

As part of his research at MIT, Rodrigo founded the Civic Crowdfunding Research Project, a platform for social research on crowdfunding, and co-leads Build Peace, a conference that brings together peacebuilding practitioners and technologists to think about new ways to resolve conflict and rebuild communities.

He has served as an adviser, product manager and practitioner on civic projects with the Mayoral offices of San Francisco and Boston, the United Nations Development Program and the UK-based crowdfunding platform Spacehive. Rodrigo has been invited to speak about civic technology, design and crowdfunding by SXSW Interactive (Austin, TX), Personal Democracy Forum (NYC), the Library of Congress and Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Erica Deahl

Graduate Student, CMS
esdeahl 150x150 Graduate Students Erica Deahl is a designer and researcher creating media for education and social impact. She co-leads the City Digits project at MIT's Civic Data Design Lab, developing classroom curricula and building geo-spatial tools to help high school students conduct data-driven urban investigations. Erica is currently an S.M. candidate in the Comparative Media Studies program, where her research focuses on using digital media in K-12 public education to support technological literacies and promote civic engagement. Previously she was a senior designer at 2x4 in New York City, where she designed and managed interactive projects for cultural sector clients.
Julie Duke

Graduate Student, Science Writing
Julie Duke 150x150 Graduate Students Julie’s first book told the story of an “ugly” dinosaur who, à la “The Ugly Duckling,” had simply been hanging around with a dissimilar species. This story foreshadowed some of Julie’s life passions, including writing, studying evolutionary biology and history, and spending time with animals of the non-human variety. Julie grew up an aspiring veterinarian in St. Louis and entered Harvard College an aspiring writer. She exited college with a History of Science degree, having satisfactorily indulged her simultaneous loves for science and writing – particularly in an honors thesis her senior year, in which she explored anthropomorphism and scientific story-telling in the age of Darwin. Julie then worked happily alongside scientists and animals in the Conservation & Science department of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo for two years.

At MIT, Julie is excited to write about biological science, conservation, and animals (both ugly and cute). She can often be found volunteering at wildlife rehabilitation centers, petting strangers’ dogs, and searching for bits of wilderness in the city.
Suruchi Dumpawar

Graduate Student, CMS
Suruchi Dumpawar 150x150 Graduate Students Suruchi Dumpawar was born and raised in central India, where she graduated with a B.Tech in Electronics and Communications Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Nagpur. She worked at Oracle SSI, Bangalore as a part of the Interfaces & Conversions team developing interfaces across various modules of Oracle applications. After receiving her photography education at the National Institute Of Design, Ahmedabad, she co-founded Lucida—an art, research and education driven photographers’ collective. Her photography work exploits the idiom of documentary photography to wheedle out visual narratives by revealing subtle details, making connections apparent and informing insights into her subjects.

Suruchi hopes to utilize her background in visual communication and information technology to explore the notion of experientiality through multiple media platforms. A self-proclaimed film buff and a fledgling filmmaker, Suruchi has a keen interest in digital storytelling. She loves to travel, derives great pleasure from poring over books and is continually fascinated by language, light & the human brain.
Julie Fischer

Graduate Student, CMS
Julie Fischer 150x150 Graduate Students Julie Fischer is a skilled and adaptable researcher with expertise in story development for major media projects. Her credits include researcher for documentary films The Unknown Known (2014) and Tabloid (2010). Her current work focuses on the strategic integration of live video technologies in documentary media, and the potentials of WebRTC to transform interactive storytelling. She's a research assistant at the MIT Open Documentary Lab, a group dedicated to building the field of interactive documentary.
Sean Flynn

Graduate Student, CMS
mirror headshot 300px 150x150 Graduate Students Sean Flynn is a documentary producer, cinematographer, and festival programmer. He is the Director of the Points North Documentary Forum at Camden International Film Festival and a co-founder of the DocYard screening series in Cambridge, MA. Sean began his filmmaking career at Boston-based Principle Pictures as the Associate Producer and Co-Director of Photography on the feature documentary Beyond Belief, which premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival and aired on Sundance Channel. As a cinematographer, Sean has worked in 15 countries – including conflict zones like Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, and the West Bank. As a producer, he has helped garner support for numerous social issue film projects from many of the nation’s leading documentary funders, including ITVS, NEH, Cinereach, Fledgling Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, and the Tribeca Film Institute. Most recently, he was a producer on The List, which premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Much of Sean's documentary film work involves investigating the points of contact between societies widely separated by conflict or inequality. In 2012, he spent four months researching the emergence of slum tourism in Mumbai while on a Fulbright fellowship. Sean's research interests include exploring the ways that new media technologies can be leveraged to disrupt the traditional relationships between filmmaker, subject and audience, creating new forms of nonfiction storytelling.

Sean received a B.A. from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.
Desi Gonzalez

Graduate Student, CMS
photo 150x150 Graduate Students Desi Gonzalez comes to MIT having been a museum educator and as a writer completing a yearlong fellowship at the Museum of Modern Art. There, she endeavors to make modern and contemporary art accessible to all audiences through materials such as wall texts, audio tours, games, interactive learning spaces, and websites. She previously worked in Family Programs at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she managed and wrote texts for the Whitney's website for young artists, For Kids. She plans to study the relationship between digital media and the visitor experience in museums.

Puerto Rico-born and Maryland-raised, Desi graduated from Emory University with majors in art history and linguistics. She writes for various culture publications about art, language, feminism, and occasionally the intersection of all three. In her spare time, she’s probably eating dessert.
Alexandre Goncalves

Graduate Student, CMS
Alexandre Goncalves 150x150 Graduate Students During his master's program, Alexandre Gonçalves investigated recent controversies in Brazil across both traditional and independent media that have led to social and legal changes. He is interested in issues such as agenda-setting, framing analysis, and public opinion. These interests are fueled by his experience in the media and his knowledge of information technology – especially databases and natural language processing.

He also worked as a reporter at the Brazilian daily newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, where he covered biotechnology and science policy.

Before becoming a journalist, he had worked as an information architect at many software companies.
Jason Lipshin

Graduate Student, CMS
 Graduate Students Jason is an interaction designer and user experience researcher focused on mobiles and ubiquitous computing. He is a graduate student in MIT's Comparative Media Studies program and has worked with both the MIT Imagination, Computation, and Expression Lab and the MIT Mobile Experience Lab. Through his work with the Mobile Experience Lab, Jason has helped develop new concepts and prototypes for clients including Marriott Hotels, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority, and RAI - Italy's national broadcasting company. This summer, he will be working for Disney Interactive Group in Tokyo.
Eduardo Marisca

Graduate Student, CMS
380234 10151314589345747 259827371 n 150x150 Graduate Students Eduardo graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from the Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) in Lima, where he began doing research and teaching on subjects related to the philosophy of technology and media, and the social impact of new technologies. He is currently researching the emergence of the video game industry in Peru and its potential as a creative industry, and is also working as a research assistant at The Education Arcade.

Before coming to MIT he worked at Ashoka, an international organization sourcing and supporting social innovators around the world, localizing online tools for social innovation for the Latin American market. As part of the technology team, he worked out of Ashoka offices in both Lima, Peru and Buenos Aires, Argentina. He also started and leads the Lima Videogame Laboratory, a research initiative on videogames and gaming culture in the Peruvian and Latin American context.

Master's thesis presentation (PDF): Playful Ventures: Technology Entrepreneurship & Peripheral Innovation in the Peruvian Game Industry
Alix Morris

Graduate Student, Science Writing
Alix Morris 150x150 Graduate Students Alix Morris grew up in Boxford, MA, in a 300-year-old haunted farmhouse home to Scottish Highland cows, donkeys, and chickens. After obtaining her bachelor’s degree in English Literature, she took the very natural path towards…global health. Inspired by her work for a children’s HIV program, Alix spent a few years working in the field where she wrote the occasional news story about HIV prevention efforts. She then returned to school to obtain her master’s in Health Science from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. From there, she traveled to East Africa where she conducted research on ways to improve malaria treatment and diagnosis. It was her desire to communicate the effects of a malaria subsidy pilot program, or the suspected outbreak of the Ebola virus in one of the research communities, or even what she claims was a near death experience with a friendly whale shark and giant manta ray while on vacation in Mozambique, among many other reasons, that drove Alix towards the world of science writing. She’s now eager to learn ways in which to communicate the many wonders of health, science, and the environment.
Abi Stokes

Graduate Student, Science Writing
 Graduate Students Abi Nighthill grew up just outside of Portland, Oregon. There, most of her skies were obscured by branches, clouds, or both. After wandering aimlessly around Portland State University for a few years, she moved to Chicago and earned a B.A. in Poetry with a minor in Environmental Studies. Her thesis focused on haiku poetics and the behavior of jumping spiders, and other major works exhumed the science from Emily Dickinson’s works or followed the story of DARPA’s HI-MEMS (cyborg moths) project. Easily seduced, she found herself interested in many facets of the sciences: ocean ecology, cognitive neuroscience, quantum mechanics, botany, cyborgs…how fortunate that she could sate her curiosity through writing. She has since developed and taught a course at Portland State University that explores intersections of science and poetry, and worked on a memoir in hypertext that focuses on uncertainty, poetry, and new media.
Jenny Rood

Graduate Student, Science Writing
Jenny Rood 150x150 Graduate Students Jenny Rood was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, where she developed an early love for science and nature from keeping an eye out for scurrying prairie dogs along the highways of her home state. Elementary school science fair experiments on the metal-cleaning powers of lemon juice, the electrical conductivity of pickles, the beauty (or horror?) of everyday bacteria and fungi and the stickiness of adhesive bandages under water were followed by middle school frog dissections and high school genetics lessons that convinced her she wanted to be a biologist. Meanwhile, she published poems and short stories often concerned with animals or biological topics. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences at Harvard University, she continued writing, penning an award-winning essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. After college she visited the stunning natural wonders of Antarctica and served as a research fellow in the German parliament before returning to Cambridge and the lab bench. Now armed with a deep biochemical knowledge of enzymes and a Ph.D. in biology from MIT, Jenny is excited to have the opportunity to learn how to communicate to others why science is so fascinatingly beautiful.
Emma Sconyers

Graduate Student, Science Writing
Emma Sconyers 150x150 Graduate Students Emma Sconyers grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, never far from the beach or the local nature preserve, where she could usually be found with stacks of field guides, glass collection jars and a magnifying glass tucked safely under her arms. Her love of the natural world inspired her to pursue a degree in Biology from the University of Rhode Island. However, her love of literature and writing nagged so hard at the back of her mind she decided her junior year to double minor in English and Writing & Rhetoric. After completing a life engrossing honor’s thesis on the history of tuberculosis sanitaria in Rhode Island, her dedication to pursuing a career in science writing was cemented. Upon graduating, Emma landed a job as a Medical Staff Secretary at Newport Hospital where she has been working the past year. When she’s not chasing down doctors to sign endless piles of paperwork she moonlights as the co-director of her old high school’s theater company as well as a photography assistant (both of which she’s been doing for some time). She hopes to delve into her favorite subjects: the history of medicine, genetics, natural conservation and biological discovery. She is unapologetically in love with Martha Stewart and all things domestic, walking in the woods with her dog and singing old jazz standards far too loudly while she’s doing dishes.
Jesse Sell

Graduate Student, CMS
882105 10151386333984562 30681329 o e1370395073429 137x150 Graduate Students Jesse Sell grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he spent most of his time playing volleyball and video games. He received a B.S. in Cultural Anthropology and Classical Studies from the University of Pittsburgh. Jesse spent his college summers working aboard cruise ships in the Caribbean and the Pacific Northwest. Both his education and employment allowed him to meet and work with people from around the world. Through these connections, Jesse began to notice the universal and connecting nature of gaming.

After graduation, Jesse accepted a job with a mortgage company in Philadelphia. While trying to balance both his work and social life, games became his outlet for communication and socialization. Jesse applied to the CMS program with hopes to study the impact of video games on culture. At CMS, Jesse is a member of the Education Arcade. His research interests include the power of play as a tool, livestreaming, and the future of professional gaming.
Erik Stayton

Graduate Student, CMS
estayton headshot jun2013 sm web 150x150 Graduate Students Erik Stayton is a writer, designer, and programmer with a background in physics and English. He is interested in the effects of technological development, particularly computer and information technologies, on culture—and specifically, how the affordances of computer languages affect cultural and artistic production. Currently, he is focused on the evolution of the Web and how web technologies shape online discourse. He is also fascinated by copyright and privacy law. He moonlights as a writer and editor, and his current programming ventures include mobile application projects for the programming partnership Cinnamon Bird.

Erik is from Massachusetts, and got his dual-degree at Brown University in Providence. He plays guitar, and enjoys mountain biking, archery, iaido, and swing dance.
Ainsley Sutherland

Graduate Student, CMS
volcano e1371642576377 150x150 Graduate Students Ainsley graduated from the University of Chicago with a B.A. in Economics. Her studies have focused on economics, visual art history, cybernetics and media culture, and interactive narrative.

Ainsley has worked variously as an illustrator, game designer, curriculum designer, and most recently as a research specialist at Game Changer Chicago, where she co-designed transmedia games and stories to promote healthy behaviors alongside youth. She is interested in how real-time feedback causes users to modify their behavior, within social arenas and especially within narrative arenas.

Ainsley hails originally from Baltimore and also likes her dog Kodiak, speculative fiction, other people's poetry, cyclocross, and big ships.
Wang Yu

Graduate Student, CMS
trim IMG 1024 150x150 Graduate Students Wang Yu spent his years empowering Chinese grass root NGOs with technology. As a member of NGO 2.0 China project, He participated in building the Philanthropy Map, which is designed to help Chinese NGOs and corporations find each other's needs. He also attended Web 2.0 workshops for Chinese NGOs as an instructor, to train them how to utilize social media to achieve their goal.

As a graduate student at University of Science and Technology of China, Wang is interested in software developing and engineering, science communication, online education, data analysis, mining and visualization. He believes that the well-being of society resides in collaborative solving social issues and sharing delight about knowledge, life, and the world.
Sam Wotipka

Graduate Student, Science Writing
Sam Wotipka 150x150 Graduate Students Sam is a product of the Pacific Northwest. Born and raised in Oregon, he has also spent time living in British Columbia and the State of Washington. A summer spent growing tiny poplar trees in a muggy greenhouse for a university forestry department inspired a fascination in the scientific process that sticks with him to this day. Since then he has worked in a lab studying photoperiodism in mosquitoes and helped to grow, breed and analyze trisomic corn plants for botany research. The origins of his love of writing are harder to identify, but it probably has something to do with being born to a pair of librarians.

After graduating from the University of Oregon, Sam has spent the last two years working and living at a large state park on Whidbey Island in Washington State. He is both excited and admittedly a bit anxious about returning to “civilization” this year. While his scientific interests are broad, Sam is especially looking forward to writing about the life sciences and issues pertaining to the management of public lands.
Lingyuxiu Zhong

Graduate Student, CMS
 Graduate Students Lingyuxiu Zhong is a digital media studies researcher at MIT. She previously received a B.A. degree in History from Yale University, where she studied how collective memories of the past can impact a society’s identity formation process. At MIT she focuses on digital image sharing and collection practices and their cultural and commercial implications. She also works at the MIT Education Arcade and assists with the design and development of educational platforms. She is currently co-teaching a pilot class that tries to improve the Massive Open Online Course model and make it more interactive.