Directory of current CMES M.A. Students

Wasil Engel

I really liked the focus on quantitative methods and data, which I felt a need to further explore when working in the migration sector in Sudan. By the time I graduate, I want to better understand big data and know how to apply quantitative tools, amongst other, to be able to design evidence-based migration policies, and deal with related questions of that magnitude. In addition, I've developed a strong interest in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region, which was sparked by a study trip to Iraq in 2014 and followed by my subsequent work assignment in Sudan that ended with the overthrow of the Bashir regime in April 2019.

Alex Estrada

My name is Alex Estrada and I am originally from Austin, Texas. I am interested in the late Ottoman Empire, the histories of diplomacy and imperialism as expressed through ‘the Eastern Question’, and the connection between nationalism and mass violence in the Ottoman context. Lately, I have been fascinated by the relationship between the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, particularly in the Balkans. I am studying Turkish and pursuing a career in international affairs.

Ahmed Ghani

I am enrolled in the University of Chicago's master's in Middle Eastern Studies. My focus is on Akkadian and Sumerian, and I hope to do a PhD in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in the Comparative Semitics sub-field. I have a reading knowledge of French, German, Italian, Latin, Arabic, Persian, modern Turkish, Urdu, Hindi, and Hebrew. I was a TA for Arabic in the summer quarter 2018-19. I was also Dr. Michael Sells' RA and worked with him on a Classical Arabic text last year (2018-19).

Naomi Harris

Naomi is a second year master’s student in Hittitology.  Her research interests include literary analysis of ancient Near Eastern texts, metaphor theory, and Hittite art and graphic conventions. She is writing her MA thesis on apiary metaphors in Hittite literature.  Naomi teaches academic writing with the UChicago Writing Program, is magnetically drawn to dance floors, and bakes sourdough bread daily.

He Huang

He Huang is a master student in CMES in the ancient track of Egyptology. She received her B.A. in World History from Peking University with a thesis focused on the analysis of symbolic representation of the eastern staircases of the New Year's Festival in the Temple of Edfu. Her interests include Egyptian festivals and the changes of related rituals and processions in temples and tombs during different periods. 

Bahadin H. Kerborani

Bahadin earned his first MA in history from Binghamton University (SUNY), where he focused on the relationship between the Kurdish population and the Ottoman Empire in 19th century Ottoman Kurdistan. Specifically, he is interested in how the Ottoman state attempted to govern its Yezidi Kurd population on the periphery of the empire, and how local Yezidis reacted. He is a Persian FLAS Fellow, and studied Mughal Persian in Lucknow, India.

Adam Matvya

Adam's research interests include Islamic law, hermeneutics, codification, South Asian scriptural and moral reform, and comparative monotheism. His thesis is on how early Deobandi jurists reconcile a strictly Hanafi hermeneutics with the legacy of Shah Wali Allah through hadith.  He has research and language study experience in Egypt and India is a current Urdu FLAS Fellow.

John Melling

My name is John Melling and I am a Master's Student in the CMES program majoring in Assyriology (specializing in Mesopotamian economics and policy). I received a Bachelor of Arts from St. Olaf College majoring in Classics. I hope to go on to a PhD program to further my education and to contribute what I can to the field of Assyriology.

Nima Rafiei

I am 1st year student in M.A. program for Middle Eastern Studies. I am interested in approaches to Qur’ānic exegesis and eschatology by Islamic reformers and mystics in the modern period and in studying the sacred texts and history of the Bahā’ī faith. I hope to pursue a PhD in Arabic language and literature and want to teach both Arabic and Persian as second languages at the university level. I am also pursuing proficiency in the Levantine dialect of colloquial Arabic. The Who and Farīd al Aṭrash are two of my favorite musicians.

Tyler Tumblety

Tyler is a first-year CMES MA student in the ancient track. His focus is Assyriology with respect to colonization and he intends to continue that study at the PhD level after graduation. He hails from New Hampshire and enjoys exploring the city in his free time.

Sam Winikow

Sam is a second-year MA student at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Chicago, having done his first year while finishing his BA in history from the same institution. He is interested in the social and cultural history of early modern Iran and Central Asia. His current project deals with discursive innovation in Safavid cookbooks and their connections to Qizilbash ritual.


Zak Witus

Zak Witus studies the modern political history of the Middle East, with a focus on Palestine/Israel. His master's thesis analyzes how the Israeli media behaves during times of heightened violent conflict, using the Great March of Return as its case study. After graduation, Mr. Witus intends to work for a human rights organization, either in the United States or in Israel/Palestine. Find him on Twitter @zakwitus