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2022 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows

Use the links on the left hand side to see information about our past fellows. More information on the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program can be found here. 

Mohammed Shwani grew up in the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk in the midst of Iraq’s conflict. The lack of access to a proper education encouraged Mohammed to teach himself English at age 12 and learn from online resources. In 2016, the U.S. The Department of State selected Mohammed for its leadership program. Inspired by his experiences in Iraq and the US, Mohammed co-founded NMUNA to encourage civil and political discourse in Iraq and has provided programming to over 300 individuals across Iraq since then. Mohammed also served as International Programs Coordinator at Soran University, where he bridged the university and students to opportunities abroad. He managed a grant project funded by the US Department of State to create partnerships with US institutions and introduce global citizenship curriculums to students and faculty. The grant also supported hosting Iraq’s first Model United Nations conference. Mohammed’s work for the Kurdistan Regional Government has included briefing government officials on human rights policy and the creation of local tribunals. During his time in Bosnia, Mohammed conducted a comparative analysis of federalism and ethnic conflict in Bosnia and Iraq.

Mohammed’s background in Iraq showed him the effects of a system devoid of basic legal rights. He aims to pursue a career in law to use the legal system to empower and protect people at risk. Mohammed is excited to work with his research mentor, Professor Terrance Halliday, on the role of international institutions in protecting legal freedoms around the world. His experience with Professor Halliday will be a key step toward his interest in an international law career. After ABF, Mohammed will work for the DC law firm Kellogg Hansen on an Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) case in the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit against top pharmaceutical companies for their activities in Iraq.
Mohammed graduated from United World College in Bosnia & Herzegovina and is currently enrolled at Bates College, studying philosophy and politics. Mohammed will join the University of Oxford in the fall to study law.

Charlotte McDermott is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is a rising senior at Bryn Mawr College, with a major in International Studies, and a minor in Russian and Political Science. Charlotte is interested in the United States' relationship with countries of the Global South, as it may destabilize them or contribute to their development. She’s particularly interested in how the U.S. can improve its policies to respond to the displacement of immigrants and refugees and wrote a paper this year on the mistreatment of undocumented Mexican workers in the U.S., which was published by the joint law review of Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore Colleges. She’s also interested in how citizens of restrictive countries can demand improvement of the law, like during the protests of the Arab Spring or the more recent movements in Hong Kong, Russia, Sudan, and Chile. After graduation, Charlotte plans to either pursue a master's degree in International Law or to pursue a JD. She’s excited for her summer with the ABF because she’s eager to explore the different ways one can work with and contribute to the American legal system.

Noor Mryan a rising second year at the University of Chicago, where she is studying Economics with a Specialization in Business and minoring in Education and Society and Architectural Studies. She is curious about the different ways that communities occupy physical spaces, especially in relation to issues of segregation and race. On that note, she seeks to further explore how this all connects to schools and education. At UChicago, Noor is a contributing writer and Assistant Editor for the fashion magazine MODA, which was named by Teen Vogue as one of the best college fashion publications in the nation. She enjoys using the creative space to write about how fashion connects to her own identities, as well as the racial inequalities that manifest themselves in the fashion industry. Her most recent piece focuses on the ways that educators make judgements about a student’s present and future capabilities based on their clothing, which is often closely connected to their race. Also at UChicago, Noor is a Teaching Assistant for Professor Beatrice Fineschi’s Principles of Biology course. In hosting 3-hour lab sessions per week, Noor has appreciated fostering collective learning for herself and her peers. As an Indian and Jordanian daughter of immigrants, Noor feels passionately about cultivating safe spaces for students and her larger communities alike. She is thrilled to be working with Dr. Hardeep Dhillon this summer.

Nkemjika Emenike is a rising senior at Washington University in St. Louis. She is a native of both Los Angeles and Las Vegas and is a first generation American born to immigrants of Nigeria and the Philippines. Nkemjika is getting her degree in History with minors in African American Studies and Chinese, hoping to pursue a J.D./PhD in History upon graduation. Her interests include Black history, Chinese history, transregional social movements, and Black political movements of the 20th century. At Washington University she has served in student government as the Student Union Diversity and Inclusion chair as well as Speaker of the Senate advocating for better mental health resources, racial justice, and socioeconomic equity. In the past she has worked as an intern on the Civil Litigation team for ArchCity Defenders, a legal non-profit dedicated to combating the criminalization of poverty and racialized state violence. Currently, Nkemjika works as a researcher for the WashU and Slavery project, which helps to unravel the relationship between the university and its history with enslavement, as well a teaching assistant for the WashU and Slavery first-year course. She works as a research assistant and intern for the Prison Education Project which educates students who are incarcerated in Missouri prisons. Her current passion project has been doing community engagement work at Washington Park cemetery, a Black cemetery in St. Louis that has suffered from years of neglect. Nkemjika is excited to learn more about Chicago history, connect with local organizations working on issues of systemic inequity, and conduct research under Dr. Schmidt this summer on his civil rights project.

Aja Sparks is a senior at Tufts University pursuing a B.S. in Physics. Academically, she loves exploring her curiosity in high-energy particle physics and other unfamiliar topics. As an undergraduate researcher on the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), she is currently researching neutrino oscillation phenomenology and will write her upcoming senior thesis analyzing why atmospheric neutrinos are a good laboratory for studying neutrino oscillations and making measurements of fundamental quantities of the Standard Model. Outside of her studies, Aja is passionate about furthering equitable opportunities in education as well as advancing the representation of Black and African-American students in physics. Within the Physics and Astronomy Department at Tufts, Aja is an active member and advocate on the DEIJ Committee, an enthused learning assistant for introductory physics courses, and the Founding President of Tufts University’s Society of Black Physicists Chapter. A Coding It Forward First Act Fund grantee, she is the founder of PrepSolo, formerly a mobile test prep app that will be integrated into a centralized, online platform designed for traditionally marginalized students to learn from the experiences and advice of other underrepresented students regarding standardized test preparation and graduate school applications. Aja also serves as a volunteer mentor of Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit mentoring program that creates equitable opportunities for students to thrive in school and beyond by providing hands-on learning and career mentors. She plans to explore the intersectionality of these interests in science, technology, society and law by pursuing a J.D. and a legal career in intellectual property law. Aja is excited to work with ABF Research Professor Dr. Shari Diamond this summer on Science and the Legal System: Phase Two.

Alejandro Sandoval is a rising sophomore at the University Chicago born in Mexico and raised in Miami studying Philosophy and Sociology. He is passionate about studying philosophical insights into the processes of discrimination in modern society, as well as the sociological roots of varying degrees of discrimination and integration experienced by different immigrant groups. Growing up as a Mexican immigrant in Miami, observing disparities in systemic treatment and material conditions across different immigrant populations has driven his passion to investigate the intersection between sociology, philosophy, and the experiences of immigrants in the United States. He is excited to utilize his passion and curiosity for these subjects to assist ABF Post-Doctoral Fellow Hardeep Dhillon on her research on the legal history of the exclusion of South Asian immigrants in the United States. He also hopes to continue learning languages past English, Spanish, and Arabic to be able to expand his investigation of the treatment of underrepresented diasporas in the United States.

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