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 Islam, Gender Politics and its depiction in literature and cinema .  Her ongoing MA Thesis focuses on the construction of the 'new Muslim woman' and her changing portrayals in colonialist literature from Egypt and India. Tanzoom is fluent in Hindi, Urdu and Bengali is currently learning Arabic. She is a US State Department Alumni and a Fulbright Fellow.

Wihad Al-Tawil

Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Wihad holds an MA and BA in Art History and taught Art History before joining the University of Chicago. A first year CMES master’s student, Wihad is interested in the syncretic histories of Arabia, Africa, and the Mediterranean world under Islam, as well as the correlation between Arab science and literature with art and architecture. Wihad hopes to study the global ramifications of the Golden Age through the material and visual manifestations of Arab-Islamic aesthetic culture in the West and beyond. Wihad is also interested in and has written about race, representation, and socio-politics in America.

Ariadne Argyros

I am a first-year MA student studying Egyptian archaeology in the CMES program. I received my undergraduate degrees in Anthropology and Classical Civilization from the University of Vermont in 2018. I have participated in four excavations: one in Greece, an underwater survey in Spain/Italy, and two in Mexico. My research interests include mythology, gender studies, the mummification process, sacrificial practices, and portrayals of archaeology in the media.

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. 

Cat Crofton

Cat is a first year MA student studying Egyptology.  She plans on researching animal diet and domestication in ancient Egypt, while studying the evolving human-animal relationship through time.  She graduated from North Carolina State University with a Bachelor of Science in zoology and hopes to incorporate her work with isotope analysis into her future research.

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.

Pia Hecher

I am a Fulbright Austria grantee and a first-year M.A. student in CMES. I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Politics and Social Anthropology from Cambridge University in 2017. My research interests are in the anthropology of the Middle East and religion; as well as in colonial power, the politics of memory and social movements.

Aidan Kaplan

Aidan Kaplan is a second-year CMES student interested in the development of modern Arabic with a focus on the Nahda, or Arab Renaissance. He is a Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) fellow in Arabic, and he spends his summers studying Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language at Middlebury's Arabic School. Next year, he hopes to be an Arabic instructor in the Chicago area.

Bahadin Hawar 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.

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 examines the legacy of Muslim modernist Jamal al-Din 'al-Afghani' in print media and its implications for Afghan national identity. He speaks Persian and is currently a Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow (FLAS) in Modern Standard Arabic. Outside of class, Krishna is an intern for Women for Afghan Women (WAW), and also cooks a mean lamb curry. 

Adam Matvya

Adam's research interests are critical secular studies, Islamic law, transnationalism, and ulama-state-Islamist interactions. He focuses on Pakistan, India, Syria, and Iraq. He is also interested in Sikh sovereignty and philosophy and 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.

Dina Rehab

Dina is an Alumni of the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and a first-year CMES graduate student. She is interested in studying spiritual thought, with a particular focus on early and medieval Islamic thought.  She is also interested in the art of illumination and has studied at the Sühyel Ünver Nakışhanesi in Turkey.

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.

Caroline Wade

Caroline Wade is a first-year M.A. student in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. She graduated from Louisiana State University in 2018 with a dual degree in International Diplomacy and Comparative Religion. Her research interests are political Islam, international security, and Islamic fundamentalist political movements and non-state actors focusing on the contemporary Middle East.

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.