MA Student Profiles

Tanzoom Ahmed

Tanzoom Ahmed  is a Second Year Graduate student at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Her academic interests lies in the intersection of Gender, Nationalism and Popular Media.  She is currently working on the changing portrayals of woman and womanhood in literature and films. She is a US State Department Alumni and a Fulbright Fellow.

Xelef Botan

I am deeply interested in languages, history, arts, politics, human rights and in/justice. Inanc High School and Brown University have been two important milestones in my life that have changed my outlook on life. No matter how small, one should always do whatever s/he can to contribute to the betterment of the world and humanity. 

Bahattin Demir

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.

Maria Derbani

An alumni of the University of Florida, Maria is currently a second year CMES student with research focused on conceptualizing armed conflict as a public health challenge as it pertains to the Syrian Civil war. Specifically, how the violation of medical neutrality by the Syrian Regime will impact adult mortality and noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). In addition, Maria is also a graduate supervisor at the Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) and a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellow. 

Ahmed Ghani

I am enrolled in the University of Chicago's Master's in Middle Eastern Studies. My focus is on Akkadian, 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.

Aram Ghoogasian

I graduated from UCLA in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and English. My current thesis project is on the 1862 Armenian rebellion in Zēytʻun in the Taurus Mountains, using articles from contemporary Armenian periodicals published in the Ottoman and Russian empires as my source material. I’m interested in the early Armenian national liberation movement more broadly and hope to study it in further depth in the near future.

Steven Gingold

I am a first-year CMES student originally from Reno, Nevada. I hope to add Arabic to my Persian, learn all about the Middle East, and someday find work with the federal government or with a research institution.

Krishna S. Kulkarni

Krishna S. Kulkarni is a second-year M.A. student in CMES studying the history of Afghanistan in the 20th century. His thesis will examine visions of Afghan nationalism through the lens of print sources from the 1930s. He speaks Persian and is currently a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow (FLAS) in Modern Standard Arabic. Outside of class, he is an intern for Women for Afghan Women (WAW), and also cooks a mean lamb curry. 

Adam Matvya

My research interests are secularism, Islamic political thought, transnationalism, law, and state religious policies. I focus on contemporary Pakistan, India, Syria, and the Gulf. I am also interested in Sikh political formation and philosophy and have studied Punjabi through CLS in India in 2017 and 2018 in addition to Urdu and Arabic.

Twitter: @adammatvya

Jacob Potts

Jacob Potts is a second-year Masters Candidate in Middle Eastern Studies. He graduated from Emory University in 2017 with a degree in Political Science, where he focused on international security and non-state actors. His Master's thesis will examine the different governance strategies of radical Islamist groups such as IS and the Taliban.

Lauren Poulson

Lauren Poulson is a second-year Master's student in Middle Eastern Studies focusing her studies on Turkish language and archaeology. Her academic and career interests include cultural heritage, human rights, and education. She received her Bachelor's degree in Linguistics and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, and hails from Seattle, WA.

Niko Shahbazian

Niko is a person of Armenian, Chaldean-Assyrian, and Persian descent doing research on imperialist effects and queer performativity in post-Soviet Armenia. They are primarily interested in the impact of post-colonial gay international rights movements on queer agendas/visibility within Armenia.

John Shannon

John Lafe Shannon is a first-year MA student studying the archaeology of the ancient Near East. In 2018, he received his BA in sociology from Saint Xavier University with minors in history, anthropology, and Middle Eastern studies. He has worked on excavations at Yangguanzhai in central China and at Kerkenes Dağ in Anatolia. John’s research interests include metallurgy, trade, and political economy in ancient Mesopotamia.

Andrew Strakna

My primary research language is Arabic. However, I am interested more broadly in the portrayal of the Middle East on maps. I am tentatively writing my thesis on the erasure of the local population of maps of Middle Eastern cities. 

Maja Sunleaf

I am a 2nd year Master's student studying Egyptology/Egyptian Archaeology. My research focuses on the realism in cinematic depictions of Egyptian Archaeology compared to contemporaneous archaeology conducted by the Oriental Institute.

Cem Turkoz

I received my B.A. in 2016 from St. John’s College, Annapolis as an Ertegun Scholar while majoring in philosophy and history of mathematics and science. As an M.A. student at CMES, my primary areas of interest include late ancient philosophy and Arabic philosophy. Currently, I focus on the transmission of Greek scientific and philosophical works into the Islamic world through the Graeco-Arabic translation movement in Baghdad during the 8th-10th centuries A.D.

Darren Wan

My research centers on the movement of people, ideas, and sentiments across the Indian Ocean during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In particular, I am invested in the interactions between different diasporic communities in British-occupied port cities, and the ways that these intimacies were generative of transregional anticolonial thought and action.

Twitter: @darrenwan

Lydia Yousief

I'm interested in Middle Eastern marginalized identities, particularly the Copts and Palestinians, and their intersectionality. Currently, my thesis is on the issue of pilgrimage to Jerusalem among Copts in Egypt and in diaspora, who hold different and various positions on the issue, and the desire to assimilate as the crux of the identity dilemma. In the future, I hope to continue to a Ph.D. program centered on recording, narrating, and analyzing Coptic diasporic identities with an emphasis on the growing push for English-only (missionary) churches in Canada and the United States, and the contradictions this implies for Coptic identities in diaspora here.