2017 Fellows

Hilaria Cruz

Linguistics, Anthropology, and LALACS; Mentors - Dave Peterson, Laura McPherson, Deb Nichols


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I am a field linguist and a native speaker of San Juan Quiahije Chatino (SJQ), an endangered Zapotecan language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico. I received my PhD in Linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. My research project is entitled “Chatino, from Oral to Written to Digital: Using Technology to Expedite Transcription, Annotation, and Translation of the Chatino Language.”

My work as a Neukom Fellow will create a speech corpus for Forced Alignment and Automatic Speech Recognition technologies for SJQ. These tools will significantly reduce the workload involved in transcribing large collections of speech recordings of Chatino and other endangered languages.  This work will also help create pedagogical materials for documenting, revitalizing, and promoting this endangered language. Beyond advancing the scientific study of the Chatino language and supporting its preservation, my research will effect new and general methods for the study and preservation of complex tonal languages across the linguistic landscape.


Rick Smith

Anthropology and Genetics; Mentors - Zane Thayer and Brock Christensen


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Rick W. A. Smith received his doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin in the Summer of 2017. Broadly, his research merges molecular biology and social anthropology to explore the entanglements of matter and meaning, the ways in which social, political, and biological forces interact to shape human bodies past and present. Rick's primary interest is in the field of paleoepigenetics, an emerging area of ancient DNA research that reconstructs chemical modifications to ancient DNA and evaluates their environmental causes.

Rick conducts his paleoepigenetic work within theoretical frameworks from feminist and queer materialisms to understand the effects of class, gender, and ethnic violence in ancient civilizations of the Americas. He is also interested in critical science studies and the biopolitics of DNA research, how social, political, ideological, and historical factors influence knowledge production in genomics.

Grace Leslie

Music and Neurology and Neuroscience; Mentors - Michael Casey, Andy Connolly, Thalia Wheatley


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Grace Leslie is committed to harnessing the expression granted by new music interfaces to better understand the link between music and emotion. As a Neukom Fellow she will employ brain-music interfaces to promote wellness for healthy and clinical populations. She was most recently a postdoctoral fellow in the Affective Computing Group at the MIT Media Lab where she developed musical brain- and body interface systems to invite expression and experience of emotion.

On a parallel track, as a flutist and electronic music improviser she maintains a brain-body performance practice. She builds brain-computer interfaces that reveal aspects of her internal mental state, those left unexpressed by sound or gesture, to an audience. Grace completed her Ph.D. in Music and Cognitive Science at UCSD, where she studied the expressive movements and brain dynamics supporting music engagement at the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience. She completed her undergraduate and Masters work in Music, Science, and Technology at CCRMA, Stanford University.

Kyle Booten

English and Linguistics and Computer Science; Mentors - Aden Evens and Christiane Donahue


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Kyle Booten is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work combines ethnography, media studies, and computational linguistics to study the ways that old and new forms of literacy meet and transform each other. 

His most recent research has explored the circulation of literary quotations on social networks as well as the popularization of new, platform-specific literary genres; he believes that those who are interested in the fate of cultural categories like poetry and philosophy must contend with the ways that these entities are evolving on social networks, largely outside of longstanding literary and educational institutions. 

As a Neukom Fellow, Kyle will design tools and algorithmic agents that intervene politically and aesthetically in these networks, building bridges between them and traditional archives.  Kyle has a PhD from UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Education and the Berkeley Center for New Media.  He holds an AB (English) from Princeton University and an MFA (Poetry) from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.