People Notes July 2021


Mengxi Du, a Ph.D. candidate in the nutritional epidemiology program at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, was a finalist for the Emerging Leaders in Nutrition Science Abstract Recognition Award Program, sponsored by the American Society for Nutrition. Du’s abstract, “Trends in Whole-Grain Food Intake Among Adult Americans, Based on Different Definitions of Whole-Grain Foods NHANES 2003–2018,” was one of 800 submissions.

Lilian Mengesha, Fletcher Foundation Assistant Professor of Dramatic Literature, has been elected to the executive committee of the American Society for Theatre Research. She also has been named as a 2021 Career Enhancement Fellow by the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The fellowship aims to increase the presence of underrepresented faculty members in the humanities, social sciences, and arts by supporting career development opportunities for outstanding faculty awardees. 

Ramya Palacholla, director of the online MS in Health Informatics & Analytics Program at the School of Medicine, has been selected by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society as a member of its Future50 Community for 2021.

Sarah Sobieraj, professor in the Department of Sociology and director of the Digital Sexism Project, has been honored by the American Sociological Association with a 2021 book award (Communication, Information Technologies, and Media section) for Credible Threat: Attacks Against Women Online and the Future of Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2020), which examines the impact of identity-based digital abuse on women’s participation in social and political discourse.

Natasha Warikoo, professor in the Department of Sociology, has been awarded Best Article by both the American Sociological Association’s Sociology of Education section and the Sociology of Emotions section for her paper published in the American Journal of Sociology titled “Addressing Emotional Health while Protecting Status: Asian American and White Parents in Suburban America.”


Julian Agyeman, professor in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, weighed in on President Biden’s proposed Reconnect Communities Act in an article in The American Prospect. Building Back Severed Communities” takes a close look at an act that will remove infrastructural barriers that impede development in communities across the U.S. and allow for development of urban spaces.

Erik Hoel, an assistant research professor of biology, is profiled—along with his bookstore-owning mother—in the Boston Globe about his new novel The Revelations.

Justin Hollander, A96, professor in the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, had his research on cognitive architecture profiled by the American Society of Landscape Architects in their publication The Dirt: United the Built and Natural Environments. Planners, landscape architects, and architects have a responsibility to design a built environment that increases well-being, he noted, as humans “are deeply influenced by our surroundings—even more than we know. . . . We have an automatic (non-conscious) response to shapes, patterns, and colors.” He explores these and other findings in Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment, co-authored with Ann Sussman, F86.

Sulmaan Kahn, associate professor of international history and Chinese foreign relations and Denison Chair of History and Diplomacy at The Fletcher School, recently published the article “Wolf Warriors Killed China’s Grand Strategy” in Foreign Policy.

Kareem Khubchandani, Mellon Bridge Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, is quoted in a Mic article “Makeup for men wants to defy the gender binary—but does it really?

Ethan Murrow, a professor of the practice at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA), and a team of artists created a 75-foot panoramic mural at the Cahoon Museum of American Art in Cotuit on Cape Cod, part of a new exhibition called Ethan Murrow: The Greenhouse, on display through October 3. The exhibit evokes Cape Cod’s past as a forested land. “I look at the plant life around us almost as if they’re looking at us with a cynical view, rolling their eyes at our ridiculous behavior,” Murrow said in a Boston Globe article. “At the end of the day, plants have an ability to outlast us. I see them as part of a longer cycle.”

Kasso Okoudjou, a professor in the Department of Mathematics, and Todd Quinto, Robinson Professor of Mathematics, have been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for the Visiting and Early Scholars’ Experiences in Mathematics Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Mathematics. The intensive 10-week summer research program in applied and pure mathematics will recruit students from groups underrepresented in mathematics. Okoudjou will serve as principal investigator and Quinto as co-principal investigator. Fulton Gonzalez, professor in the Department of Mathematics, also contributed to the NSF proposal. The work will involve approximately 10 math department faculty and some graduate students.

Laura Rogers, senior lecturer emerita in the Department of Education, and Jacqueline Dejean, assistant dean of research for Arts and Sciences and assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, have been awarded a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support the Behavioral Health Enhanced School-based Training (BHEST) Collaborative Program, a partnership between Tufts, Northeastern University, and University of Massachusetts-Boston.


Sam Belisle, MFA18, and Cal Rice have started Nearby Gallery in Newton Centre. The gallery includes works by graduates of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts, including Kathryn Gearon, MFA18; William Van Beckum, MFA17; and Teddy Benfield, MFA18. For more on Belisle, check out his personal website

Glenn Bell, E74, E06P, EG08P, an internationally renowned structural engineer and engineering leader, has been honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). As a distinguished member, he is recognized as a visionary leader whose expertise spans structural design, earthquake engineering, and forensic engineering. He is also the co-founder of the ASCE Forensic Engineering Division and Confidential Reporting of Seismic Safety–U.S. The principal and structural engineer of record on hundreds of projects, he has passed on his technical knowledge in his teaching role at Tufts and MIT, and as visiting scholar at the University of Bath in the UK. Read about the rewards of his career as a structural engineer as he reflects on serving as president of the Structural Engineering Institute.

Valerie Bolling, J87, is a winner of a 2021 Crystal Kite Award (New England) for Let’s Dance! (Boyds Mills & Kane, 2020), a picture book that features dances from around the world and children of diverse backgrounds. The Society of Children’s Book Writers presents the annual awards to authors and Illustrators of books that represent excellence in the field of children’s literature. Bolling has other books on the way: two next year, five in 2023, and one, so far, in 2024; check out her work at

Neil Cohn, AG10, AG12, is the author of the recently published book Who Understands Comics?: Questioning the Universality of Visual Language Comprehension. Cohn received an M.S. and a Ph.D. in psychology at Tufts and is an associate professor at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, where he runs the Visual Language Lab. In the book, he argues that although comics are increasingly used for communications in humanitarian, educational, and experimental contexts, it’s wrong to assume that they are universally comprehended.

Leah Flickinger, J88, edited the story “Twelve Minutes and a Life” by Mitchell S. Jackson, which won the Pulitzer Prize and National Magazine Award for feature writing. The article, published in Runner's World in June 2020, tells the story of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery while he was out for a run. Flickinger is the director of content at Hearst Enthusiast Group, a division that publishes Runner's World, Bicycling, and Popular Mechanics. 

Meron Langsner, AG11, an award-winning playwright and performance scholar and noted theater educator, shares that his play, Bystander 9/11: A Theatre Piece Concerning the Events of September 11, 2001, has been published in an acting edition by YouthPLAYS, a leading publisher of educational theater. The play, performed in 2004 and 2007 at Tufts, has also been anthologized by Bloomsbury.

Julie Salamon, J75, A11P, A16P, building on a celebrated career as a journalist and author (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, 11 books), is enjoying a creative shift to the audio world, “requiring me to learn how to tell a story for the ear instead of the printed page,” she writes. For Audible Originals, she narrates Unlikely Friends, a book about her “odd childhood”—the daughter of Holocaust survivors growing up in a rural town in southern Ohio. Her 1990 book The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco, about Brian De Palma’s adaptation of The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe, is the focus of season two of the podcast series The Plot Thickens, with Salamon teaming up with fellow Jumbo Ben Mankiewicz, A89, as co-hosts. And through Tantor Media, Salamon is also narrating an audiobook version of the book, considered a classic of life inside Hollywood.

Trina Spear, A05, and Heather Hasson set a New York Stock Exchange milestone in June when their firm was the first led by women co-founders to go public. FIGS introduced direct-to-consumer health-care apparel that offers comfort, durability, function, and style. Read more about their entrepreneurial success story in Fortune.