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2021 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.

Natasha Chaiyarat is a rising senior at Brandeis University. She is pursuing a double major in International Studies and History and minors in Legal Studies and French. Born and raised in Chicago's Northside, she has always been immersed in diverse settings. Her environment and active curiosity sparked her interest in global affairs and social justice. Surrounded by different cultures and ideologies, she developed a deeper appreciation of storytelling and various ways of knowledge. Her passion for reading and studying human patterns is demonstrated in her research papers for classes such as American legal history and Haiti in the Modern Caribbean. Outside the classroom, Natasha serves as an active member on the Student Conduct Board and the Student Advisory Council for the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. She also works as an assistant at the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Collaborations where she is currently working on hosting the school's first undergraduate all-disciplines research symposium. Her future plans include preparing for the law school admissions exam this upcoming summer and studying abroad in Paris this fall. She is looking forward to working with Dr. Schmidt on his current project regarding the relationship between the U.S Supreme Court and the American people since 1930.

Laura Fagbemi is a rising senior at Rice University in Houston, Texas, double-majoring in Social Policy Analysis and English with a minor in Politics, Law, and Social Thought. She is passionate about protecting the rights of marginalized Americans, effecting progressive immigration reform, and restructuring the American criminal justice system. She works as a research assistant in Rice University’s sociology department and conducts research geared towards reevaluating and improving the prison, policing, and parole systems. Last summer, she worked for Evan Guthrie Law Firm and wrote several articles on legal history and policy analysis for the undergraduate legal website As an avid policy student, she worked in a student research group to develop a policy design for a pre-arrest diversion program to support victims of sex trafficking. At Rice, she is involved with several advocacy groups, including Rice for Black Life and the Rice African Association of Developmental Economics. She plans to pursue a J.D. in human rights law and a career in legal advocacy. She wants to use her education to be a force for the protection and advancement of human rights in the U.S. and abroad, to alleviate suffering, and to effect positive change. She is excited to work with Dr. Robert Nelson this summer.

Connor Herbert is from Lincoln, Nebraska, and he is a rising senior at the University of Cincinnati, majoring in Political Science and International Affairs. He plans to pursue a JD/Ph.D. program upon graduation to study international frameworks for developing the future of space. He has a fascination with revolutionary thinking, and throughout his college career, he has spent as much of his time building up his community as he has spent probing it to understand where change needs to occur. His activities on and off campus have also inured him with a deep passion for understanding the philosophical intersections between law, society, and markets, especially in connection to racism, capitalism, and authoritarianism. He hopes these will come in handy during his research on Chinese lawyer activism and international responses to human rights violations this summer with ABF Professor Terence Halliday. When he is not discussing issues in his community with his peers and university administrators, you can find him reading satire, philosophy, or history; psychoanalyzing the cultural and social implications of pop art like Olivia Rodrigo’s déjà vu; or watching classic films and documentaries. He fancies himself a renaissance man, but in reality, he’s just another adopted African American trying to find his way in this strange high-speed world.

Nicole Maria Mateo is from The Bronx, New York, and is a rising sophomore at the University of Chicago pursuing a double major in Psychology and Law, Letters, and Society. With this double major, she hopes to explore the systems that have been and are currently failing BIPOC communities that involve mental health, generational trauma, and environmental racism. Passionate about representation, she is currently running a national book club which she co-founded for high school and college students that center the stories of the unheard, the experiences of the silenced, and largely underrepresented communities that make up this country. Alongside this book club, Nicole is also the assistant audio engineer for the University of Chicago’s very own Kinda Sorta Brown podcast, which has been listed as one of NPR’s top ten college run podcasts. The podcast empowers the voices of students of color at UChicago while connecting with the greater Chicago community to discuss topics that they have lived through or may have not lived through but can grow to understand and share with others. A daughter of Black Dominican immigrants, her passion grows more and more everyday to uplift her intersectional identity and that of her own community. She looks forward to spending her summer working with ABF Executive Director Ajay Mehrotra on the Portrait Project 2.0.

Sasha Matsuki is a rising junior at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, pursuing a B.A. in History and Political Science, and minors in Spanish and East Asian Languages. At IU, Sasha is in the Honors College and has been on the Executive Dean’s List every semester to date. In their spare time they are a Student Ambassador for the 21st Century Japan Politics and Society Initiative. With a diverse background as the child of Russian-Jewish and Japanese immigrants, Sasha is fluent in Russian and Spanish, as well as is working towards fluency in Japanese. During Summer 2020, Sasha worked as a Translation and Interpretation Intern with Indiana Legal Services’ Immigrants’ and Language Rights Center, supporting immigration attorneys in providing legal services to victimized low-income Spanish speaking Indiana residents. They were also a Research Assistant with the IU Political Science Department on a team of undergraduate and graduate researchers to explore the effects of Russian soft power through the post-2000 diaspora. Currently, they plan to pursue a J.D. after graduation and eventually work in legal research. This summer they will be working with Professor Tom Ginsburg on his project Democracies and International Law: The Trials of Liberal Theory.

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