Current Scholars Bios

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Lydia Abebe, 2014
Department of Environmental
Sciences & Engineering
Rodrigo Adem, 2014
Department of Religious Studies

Robbie Burger, 2015
Department of Biology

Danielle Christmas, 2014
English & Comparative Literature

Lamar A Graham, 2015
Department of Romance Studies

Sharonda LeBlanc, 2014
Department of Chemistry

Kyle T. Mays, 2015
Department of History

China Medel, 2015
Department of Communication

Lavar Munroe, 2014-2016
Department of Art

Scholars Bios

LYDIA ABEBE – Lydia Abebe received her doctorate at University of Virginia in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in 2013. In 2009, she received the SREB-State Doctoral Scholars Award, which supported her graduate research. Her research examined silver-impregnated ceramic water filters for the improvement of water quality and health. In specific, her dissertation focused on three projects: a clinic based randomized controlled trial in Limpopo, South Africa, using ceramic water filters; ceramic water filter treatment of Cryptosporidium parvum, a harmful waterborne parasitic protozoa; and the process of establishing a ceramic water filter factory in Limpopo, South Africa. Abebe helped establish the filter factory as a small business that produces easy to use, low cost filters in Limpopo as an enterprise that will not only generate revenue for local ceramicists, but will also improve human health in the surrounding area. Additionally, Abebe won a national competition that supported entrepreneurship and the development of sustainable, green technology. She is currently working with Professor Mark Sobsey in the Environmental Science and Engineering department at UNC Chapel Hill. Her research will focus on the human health impact of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the environment and will continue to explore household level water purification.

RODRIGO ADEM – Rodrigo Adem received his doctorate from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago in 2015. His dissertation, which he completed with the assistance of a Charlotte Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship, undertook a historical study of the scholarly lineages synthesized in the intellectual formation of the influential yet misunderstood medieval Muslim scholar of Syria known as Ibn Taymīya. His research interests encompass classical Muslim social and intellectual history, confessional identity, and urban history of the Muslim world.

ROBBIE BURGER – Robbie Burger received a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico, an M.S. in Biology from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, and a B.A. in Economics and International Studies from Francis Marion University in South Carolina. Trained as an interdisciplinary ecologist, he is generally interested in the macroecology and sociobiology of mammals, including modern humans. As a masters student he collaborated with scientists at Universidad Catolica de Chile to study social behavior in wild populations of Octodon degus—a caviomorph rodent—at field sites in central Chile. As a Ph.D. student he became interested in macroecology and the use of metabolic theory to reveal pattern and process in complex biological and social systems using currencies of energy and information. This approach is currently being used to understand how the life-histories and ecologies of modern humans compare to thousands of other mammals and the biological adaptations and technological innovations that make us unique. His research has been published in diverse journals including PLoS Biology, BioScienceTrends in Ecology and Evolution, Animal Behaviour, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, and the Journal of Mammalogy. His work has been supported by a NIH Fellowship in the Program in Interdisciplinary Biological and Biomedical Sciences, a Shadle Fellowship from the American Society of Mammalogists, the Tinker Foundation and the Latin American and Iberian Institute at UNM, The Sigma Xi Scientific Society, the Santa Fe Institute, and the National Science Foundation. For more information and publications see his webpage:

DANIELLE CHRISTMAS –  Danielle Christmas is a former recipient of a number of national awards, including the Cummings Foundation Fellowship at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2014) and the Mellon / ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship (2013-14). Her manuscript, “Auschwitz and the Plantation: Labor and Social Death in American Holocaust and Slavery Fiction,” concerns how representations of Holocaust and slavery perpetrators contribute to American socioeconomic discourses. Danielle has taught and published on topics ranging from American narratives of Nazi fugitives to the so-called African Hottentot Venus Saartje Baartman. You can find out more about her work at her website,

LAMAR A. GRAHAM – Lamar A. Graham is a linguist with primary research interests in language variation and change in Spanish and the comparative historical development of the Romance languages.  Originally from Newport News, Virginia, Dr. Graham earned his Bachelor of Arts (2005) in Spanish and his Master of Arts in Education (2006) in Curriculum and Instruction from Virginia Tech, his Master of Arts (2009) in Spanish: Latin-American Studies from American University, and, most recently, his Doctor of Philosophy in Romance Languages (concentration in Hispanic Linguistics) from the University of Georgia in 2015. His dissertation, entitled The history of the future: morphophonology, syntax, and grammaticalization, focused on the diachrony of the future and conditional tenses in Spanish as they developed from periphrastic structures in Vulgar (Spoken) Latin. His current projects include several refereed articles investigating hesitation discourse marker usage in Latin America, variation in demonstrative use in deictic contexts, and competence in the acquisition of referential clitics by non-native Spanish speakers, as well as a chapter in a volume describing changes in cliticization and interpolation parameters from Old to Modern Spanish.  In his spare time, Dr. Graham enjoys spending time with his wife and children, singing and playing music, and reading.

SHARONDA JOHNSON LEBLANC – Sharonda Johnson LeBlanc is a December 2012 graduate of the Nanoscale Science Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. In 2008, she was awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which supported her graduate studies in single quantum dot fluorescence spectroscopy. During her tenure, she was selected to attend the 60th Lindau Meeting of Nobel Laureates and Students in Lindau, Germany.  LeBlanc earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from UNC Charlotte in 2007, where she also competed in collegiate track and field. She became the first UNC Charlotte student athlete to garner both academic and athletic All-America Honors. She is a two-time All-American in the women’s triple jump, and a three-time Academic All-American. She is currently conducting her postdoctoral research with Professor Scott Warren in the Chemistry Department at UNC Chapel Hill. Her research projects focus on making new materials and devices for converting sunlight into electricity. Following her postdoctoral training, Sharonda looks forward to accepting a tenure-track faculty position at a research university. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter.

KYLE T. MAYS – is an historian of modern U.S., Afro-Indigenous, and Indigenous studies, with a particular focus on how various actors construct indigeneity and other social meanings in modern U.S. cities. During his time as a postdoctoral fellow, he will be working to transform his dissertation into a book. A cultural and social history, the book will tentatively analyze how indigeneity functioned in the city’s modern development. An idea central to the project is that we cannot comprehend the development of modern U.S. cities without also understanding how indigeneity was central to their development. Dr. Mays earned his Ph.D. from the Department of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in 2015. During his time as a graduate student, he received numerous awards, most notably the Newberry Consortium in American Indian Studies Graduate Student Fellowship. During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) awarded him a dissertation completion fellowship. He also served as a founding editorial manager for the Native American and Indigenous Studies Journal published by the University of Minnesota Press. Believing that education can be used for social transformation, Dr. Mays, has contributed pieces to various educational and news outlets, including Indian Country Today Media Network, Decolonization, and Native Appropriations.

CHINA MEDEL – China Medel received her Ph.D. in Literature and Women’s Studies from Duke University in 2014. Dr. Medel’s research focuses on the role of art and media in imagining and generating new modes of political recognition in the Americas. Her dissertation “Border Images and Imaginaries: Spectral Aesthetics and Visual Medias of Americanity at the U.S.-Mexico Border” examined aesthetic means by which artists and filmmakers generated alternative forms visibility of the U.S.-Mexico border and migration that do not rely upon the racialized and militarized modes of visibility that work to criminalize immigrants. As postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Communication at UNC Carolina, Dr. Medel is at work on a book project, “Spectral Aesthetics: Media and Movement(s) at the U.S.-Mexico Border.” The book expands the scope of her dissertation to put art and filmmaking practices into dialog with the experiments and thinking emerging from on the ground activist projects in immigration justice in order to understand the crucial role of these different types of praxis in imagining and shaping new forms of political life. Dr. Medel is also at work on a second research project that maps a constellation of popular struggles over water in visual media, performance, and activism in the Americas. She has taught courses in film and media studies and border studies. Hailing from a rural community in Idaho, Dr. Medel is a first generation college student and proud Chicana. In addition to her scholarship and teaching, Dr. Medel is also a SONG (Southerners on New Ground) member working on local anti-criminalization campaigns.

LAVAR MUNROE – Lavar Munroe was born on November 19th 1982 in Nassau, Bahamas. In 2004, Munroe relocated to the United States where he earned his Bachelors of Fine Arts from Savannah College of Art and Design in 2007. He then went on to earn a Masters of Fine Art degree from Washington University in St. Louis in 2013. Munroe’s career has fostered much national and international recognition. In the summer of 2010, Munroe represented The Bahamas in the country’s first and only appearance at the Liverpool Biennale. In 2013, Munroe appeared in issue no. 105 New American Painting where he was recognized as an Editor’s Choice. He is an alumnus of the prestigious Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2013). Munroe was awarded a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting and Sculpture Grant (2013). Most recently in 2014, Munroe was awarded a Post Doc Fellowship at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, where his tenure will begin in July 2014. Other noteworthy awards, grants and fellowships include The Kraus Family Foundation, Beach Institute’s: Yes We Can Grant, The Mildred Suliburk Dennis Memorial Scholarship, Sam Fox Dean’s Initiative Fund, Mary Beth Hassan Fund, The Skowhegan Scholarship Award, The Central Bank of The Bahamas Grant, and The National Endowment for the Arts: Nassau Bahamas Grant, among many others.