Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellows

The Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellows Program encourages early-career scholars to pursue a career in academia by supporting their postdoctoral work at Princeton University. The program recognizes and supports outstanding scholars who will make important contributions in their fields. By bringing together scholars across science, engineering, social science, and the humanities, the program allows them to deepen their disciplinary expertise while testing out new ideas from other disciplines. These scholars will contribute to the University’s excellence and its diversity, broadly defined, including members of groups underrepresented in the academy or in particular disciplines.

The program aims to appoint an average of twelve postdoctoral fellows/associate research scholars per year, each holding a one-year appointment renewable for a second year.

Candidates must be nominated by a member of the Faculty who will serve as their sponsor or PI. All assistant, associate and full professors may nominate a candidate and serve as their sponsor/PI. A call for nominations, along with the guidelines of the program and instructions for submitting a nomination, is distributed annually.

Frederick Wherry, The Townsend Martin, Class of 1917 Professor of Sociology and Vice Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, serves as the Director of the Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellows Program. The Director is a resource for the fellows, meeting with them monthly as a group to discuss their work, cultivating opportunities that nurture a sense of community among the fellows, and providing them with opportunities for professional development.

The Office of the Dean of the Faculty provides administrative infrastructure for the program. Regan Mumolie, Academic Affairs Administrator in the Office of the Dean of the Faculty is the central point of contact for the program. She is responsible for administering the nomination, selection, and recruitment processes, and fields inquiries and requests for assistance from prospective nominees, from faculty interested in the nomination process, from PIs, from department managers and other department staff, and from the postdocs themselves.

 

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Current Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellows


2020-21 cohort

Rodrick Kuate Defo is appointed in the Department of Electrical Engineering. His proposed research will answer several open questions in the field of nanophotonics and provide new tools and design insights in the area of materials engineering. Kuate Defo completed his Ph.D. in physics with a secondary field in computational science and engineering at Harvard University. His bachelor’s degree in math and physics is from McGill University. Kuate Defo is advised by Alejandro Rodriguez, associate professor of electrical engineering and director of the Program in Material Science and Engineering.

Paola Estrada is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Molecular Biology, where she studies how small molecules are made by the human microbiome and how these molecules are involved in mediating interactions with the host and surrounding microbes. Estrada holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, master’s credits in biochemistry from Hunter College, and a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She is advised by Mohamed Abou Donia, associate professor of molecular biology.

 

Javier Masís is appointed in the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, studying the phenomenon of learning within the framework of bounded optimality, working toward a broader, more comprehensive theory of cognition. Masís holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Harvard University, a master’s degree in biology from Harvard and a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology from Princeton. He is advised by Jonathan Cohen, the Robert Bendheim and Lynn Bendheim Thoman Professor in Neuroscience, professor of psychology, and co-director of the Princeton Neuroscience Institute.

Samantha McBride is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Her research combines materials science, fluid physics and water chemistry toward developing antifouling materials for improving sustainability and lowering costs associated with water treatment. McBride holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Nevada.  She is advised by Howard Stone, the Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Diogo Melo is appointed in the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics, with a focus on the general problem of mapping genotype to phenotype for complex traits, and understanding how genetic networks drive phenotypic evolution. Melo’s degrees are from the Universidade de São Paulo, from which he has a Ph.D. in genetics and evolutionary biology and bachelor’s degrees in evolutionary biology and in biology and applied mathematics. He is advised by Julien Ayroles, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics.

Lotanna Micah Nneji is appointed in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where he will conduct the first DNA metabarcoding analyses of the diet composition and niche relationships of herbivorous birds—ostrich, guineafowl, spurfowl and bustard — at Princeton’s Mpala Research Centre in Kenya. Nneji holds a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, a master’s degree in zoology from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Abuja, Nigeria. He is advised by Robert Pringle, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Elizabeth Paul is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences, with interests in problems at the intersection of advanced numerical methods and plasma physics applications. She holds a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Maryland-College Park and a bachelor’s degree in astrophysical sciences from Princeton. She is advised by Amitava Bhattacharjee, professor of astrophysical sciences.

Jose Roque is a postdoctoral research associate the Department of Chemistry, focused on broadening his scientific repertoire to include transition metal catalysis, particularly with Earth abundant metals such as iron and cobalt. Roque earned a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of California-Berkeley, where he worked under Professor Richmond Sarpong. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Florida International University. Roque is advised by Paul Chirik, the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Chemistry.

Anthony Urena is appointed in the Department of Sociology. He earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University and holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and human biology from Brown University. Urena employs qualitative methodologies to examine the social dimensions of disease risk perception within disproportionately affected communities. At Princeton, Urena’s postdoctoral research will focus on how Black and Latino men who have sex with men make sense of the contemporary HIV epidemic in the United States. Urena is advised by Frederick Wherry, the Townsend Martin, Class of 1917 Professor of Sociology.


2021-22 Cohort

Aala Abdelgadir is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Politics, with a focus the legacy of initial government responses to newly arrived Muslim immigrants to Europe, and the extent to which early policies governing the settlement of immigrants determined Muslims’ opportunities to become incorporated into the host society and thereby shaped their socioeconomic outcomes. Abdelgadir holds a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and a B.A. from Yale University. She is advised by Rafaela Dancygier, professor of politics and international affairs and director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice.

Esteban Cisneros-Garibay is postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His research focuses on simulation-oriented prediction for efficient combustion-system design; state-of-the-art reactive flow simulation via reduced chemistry; and uncertainty quantification to guide sub-grid moment methods. Cisneros-Garibay holds a PhD in Theoretical and Applied Mechanics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received a MS in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington and a BS in mechatronics engineering at Universidad Panamericana. Cisneros-Garibay will be advised by Michael Mueller, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Ashley Fidler is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Chemistry, advised by Marissa Weichman, assistant professor of chemistry. Fidler holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, a MPhil in chemical engineering and biotechnology from the University of Cambridge, and a BS in chemistry and biology from The College of William and Mary. Fidler is interested in applying tailored spectroscopic techniques to answer fundamental scientific questions with far-reaching implications. In the Weichman lab, she utilizes her previous experience developing novel spectroscopic techniques for the study of ultrafast electronic dynamics in the Leone and Neumark Groups at UC Berkeley/LBNL to design and execute experiments controlling benchmark, condensed-phase chemical reactions via strong light-matter coupling in optical microcavities.

Jahmour Givans is appointed in tthe Department of Astrophysical Sciences, focused on cosmology theory and use observations of the universe to measure the masses of tiny neutrino particles. Givans holds a PhD in physics from The Ohio State University and a BS in astrophysics from Brown University. He is advised by Jo Dunkley, professor of physics and astrophysical sciences.

Philip V. McHarris is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of African American Studies and the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab. Philip’s main areas of research include racial inequality, housing, and policing. His current research focuses on the experiences of residents of a high-rise public housing development in Brooklyn, NY as they navigate concerns surrounding safety, policing, building conditions, and cycles of poverty. He holds a PhD in sociology and African American studies from Yale University and a BA in sociology from Boston College. McHarris is advised by Ruha Benjamin, professor of African American Studies and the founding director of the Ida B. Wells Just Data Lab.

Elise A. Mitchell is appointed in the Department of History. She holds a Ph.D. in history from New York University and a B.A. in history from the University of Pennsylvania. Her work examines the social and cultural histories of enslaved Africans and their descendants, focusing on the history of the body, gender, public health, and medicine in the early modern Caribbean and Atlantic World before 1800. Mitchell is working on a book manuscript about enslaved Africans' social, political, and therapeutic responses to smallpox epidemics and how they endured and contested European public health and medical interventions in the Caribbean region. She is also developing a digital history project based on her research database of over 300 smallpox outbreaks, which occurred among enslaved people in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and British ships and Caribbean islands and coastal territories between roughly 1518 and 1806. Mitchell is advised by Keith Wailoo, Henry Putnam University Professor of History and Public Affairs.

Diego Reinero is appointed in the Department of Psychology, where his interdisciplinary research investigates how people's moral and political views change through conversations and social networks, and why such changes can be so difficult. Reinero holds a Ph.D. in social psychology from New York University and a B.S. in both psychology and business from Skidmore College. He is advised by Alin Coman, associate professor of psychology and public affairs.

Tommy Rock is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Geosciences where he will initiate a program to expand the identification, monitoring, and communication of environmental hazards related to legacy uranium mining and ongoing oil and gas exploration in the Navajo Nation. Rock holds a Ph.D. in earth science and environmental sustainability and a M.A. in sustainable community from Northern Arizona University, and a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies from Arizona State University. He is advised by John Higgins, associate professor of geosciences, Mark Zondlo, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Eduardo Cadava, Philip Mayhew Professor of English.

Lucia Stein-Montalvo is appointed in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering where she applies her mechanics expertise to adaptive architectural design, aimed at reducing energy needs and improving ventilation in urban landscapes. Stein-Montalvo holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Boston University and B.S. in mathematics from Davidson College. She is advised by Sigrid Adriaenssens, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Elie Bou-Zeid, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Mathurin Wamba is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Geosciences. With a focus on the volcanic plumes underlying the French Polynesian Islands, Wamba seeks to understand their geodynamical role and relationships with oceanic plates and continents. Wamba holds a Ph.D. in seismology from the University of Paris, a M.S. in geophysics from the University of Paris Cité Sorbonne, and from the University of Dschang a M.S. and B.S. in physics. He is advised by Frederik Simons, professor of geosciences.

2022-23 Cohort

Francisco Apen is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Geosciences. His research asks how Earth’s first continents came to exist during the Archean eon (> 2.5 billion years ago) and subsequently evolved into the state we see them today. Apen holds a Ph.D. in Geochemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a B.Sc. in Geology from the University of California, Davis. He is advised by Blair Schoene, Professor of Geosciences.

Diane-Jo Bart-Plange is appointed in the Department of Psychology, where she plans to examine how interpersonal and institutional racism interact and impact racial and ethnic minority students’ well-being and sense of belonging. Broadly, Diane-Jo’s research focuses on how primarily white-controlled institutions, policies, cultural standards, and people maintain white supremacy. Diane-Jo holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in African and African American Studies and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. She is advised by J. Nicole Shelton, Stuart Professor of Psychology.

Rodolfo Brandão is appointed in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, with a research focus on the theoretical modeling of physical phenomena, especially those involving fluid dynamics and wave phenomena. Brandão holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from Imperial College London and a M.Sc. and B.Sc. in physics from Federal University of Pernambuco. He is advised by Howard A. Stone, Donald R. Dixon '69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Chair, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Diag Davenport is a postdoctoral research associate the School of Public and International Affairs. His current research uses tools from economics, psychology, and machine learning to tackle social and economic problems that contribute to undue inequality. This work includes a wide range of topics including criminal justice, startup investing, motivation, discrimination, and social capital. Davenport holds a PhD in Behavioral Science from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, an MS in Mathematics and Statistics from Georgetown University, a BS in Economics from Pennsylvania State University, and a BS in Management from Pennsylvania State University. He is advised by Betsy Levy Paluck, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs.

Camilo Hernández is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Operations Research and Financial Engineering, where his research focuses on financial engineering, primarily in the field of stochastic control and its applications, including behavioral economics, contract theory, and financial mathematics. Hernández was a Chapman Fellow in Mathematics at Imperial College London, and holds a Ph.D. in Operations Research from Columbia University and, from Universidad de los Andes, a M.Sc. in Mathematics, a B.Sc. in Economics, and a B.Sc. in Mathematics. He is advised by Ludovic Tangpi, Assistant Professor of Operations Research and Financial Engineering.

Jodi Kraus is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular Biology, advised by Sabine Petry, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology. Kraus’ research interests include biophysics and cell biology, particularly related to understanding structure, function, and regulation of the cytoskeleton during dynamic cellular processes like cell division. Kraus holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from the University of Delaware and a B.Sc. in Chemistry from Drexel University.

Francisco Lara-Garcia is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Sociology, where his research focuses on Latinx immigrants in the US, specifically on the Mexican immigrant populations in Tucson, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico—a critical case comparison—to elucidate how differences in institutions shape integration trajectories. Lara-Garcia holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Columbia University, a M.U.P. in Urban Planning from Harvard University, Graduate School of Design, and a B.A. in Sociology, Latin American Studies, and Political Science from the University of Arizona. He is advised by Filiz Garip, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs.

Uyen Mai is appointed in the Department of Computer Science, where she plans to leverage her expertise in species evolution to develop more realistic models of cancer evolution. Mai holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, San Diego and a B.S. in Computer Science from Portland State University. She is advised by Ben Raphael, Professor of Computer Science.

Victoria Muir is appointed in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, where she will expand on her expertise in soft granular materials to explore a new application – using granular hydrogels to investigate bacterial and phage community interactions in real-time. Muir holds a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from the University of Pennsylvania and B.S.E. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Delaware. She is advised by Sujit S. Datta, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering.
Tiffany Nichols is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of History, where she plans to focus on the history siting highly precise, large-scale scientific instruments, including the Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), implications of conflicting land use and ownership, and the establishment of an environment to allow for physicists and engineers to distinguish gravitational waves from background noise.  She will also explore the evolving meaning and scope of "clean-up" at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Hanford, Washington.  Nichols holds a Ph.D. in the history of science from Harvard University, a J.D. from the University of Virginia, School of Law, and B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia. She is advised by Angela Creager, Thomas M. Siebel Professor in the History of Science, Professor of History, and Chair, Department of History.

Julia Wilcots is appointed in the Department of Geosciences where she plans to focus on a quantitative approach to interpreting Earth history from carbonate rocks. Wilcots holds a Ph.D. in Geology, Geochemistry, and Geobiology from MIT and B.S.E. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Princeton University. She is advised by Adam C. Maloof, Professor of Geology.

Muni Zhou is appointed in the Department of Astrophysical Sciences, where she plans to conduct the first-principles study on the origin and evolution of cosmic magnetism and to branch into new research areas at the intersection of plasma physics and astrophysical applications. Zhou holds a Ph.D. in nuclear science and engineering from MIT and a B.Sc. in physics from Zhejiang University. She is advised by Matthew Kunz, Associate Professor of Astrophysical Sciences.