Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellows (2022–2023)

Ali Greey in a light blue-gray blazer jacket with a dark blue-gray shirt, in front of a dark gray background.

Ali Greey

Ali Greey is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Sociology. Their doctoral research examines queer, trans, and non-binary youth agency and activism in K-12 schools.

In 2021-2022, Ali led the Beyond Bullying Project to study youth gender and sexuality in schools. Ali has also published on the experiences of trans and non-binary athletes and media representations of the Movement for Black Lives.

Ali is the co-editor of two volumes: Justice for Trans Athletes and Trans Athlete Resistance and is a co-author of the forthcoming book Trans Athlete Embodiment.

Ali is a SSHRC-Bombardier scholar and a retired member of the Canadian national Olympic Boxing team. Ali is actively involved with Athlete Ally, a non-profit devoted to advancing LGBTQ2SIA+ inclusion in sport.

Ali is also currently working with TransPulse and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport to assist national sporting organizations in making sport more trans-inclusive.

Ali’s doctoral work examines how K-12 schools are adapting practices that rely on binary understandings of gender (boys/girls) in response to the growing visibility of trans and non-binary youth.

Ali investigates how 1) trans and non-binary youth are reshaping these practices and structures, demanding that their schools accommodate and anticipate trans and non-binary students; and 2) how administrators and teachers are responding to the growing visibility of and activism from trans and non-binary youth in their schools.

Ali will use ethnographic research in two private schools in Toronto, schools in which students, teachers, and administrators are actively grappling with questions of how to accommodate and anticipate the increasing number of out and visible trans and non-binary youth. Youth Advisory Boards (YAB) are also an important part of their research. Ali will consult with 3 YABs throughout project design and dissemination.

Anam Shahil Feroz in a red top under a black blazer, sitting in front of a cream-coloured wall.

Anam Shahil Feroz

Anam Shahil Feroz is a Ph.D. Candidate at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto. She has received her BSc in Nursing and MSc in Health Policy and Management from Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. Shortly after, she began working actively in the field of public health to address health systems issues of access, affordability, and quality of healthcare services.

Her current topic of research for her Ph.D. is inspired by seeing countless pregnant women die of preeclampsia and eclampsia. Her doctoral research work will contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 3.1 of reducing maternal mortality ratio less than 70 per 100,000 live births and will also provide insights into methods and findings that can be applied to improve maternal health outcomes in other developing countries, that may face similar challenges.

As an early career researcher, she has published 55 papers (21 publications as the first author) in high-impact peer-reviewed journals in the field of maternal health and digital health research.

My Ph.D. research will explore how feasible it is to implement a mobile phone-based telemonitoring program for pregnant women at high risk for preeclampsia in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan.

Phase 1 will focus on the preparation for the feasibility study, including the development of a telemonitoring program using user-centered design principles as well as a comprehensive implementation plan.

Phase 2 will execute the implementation plan and assess the feasibility of implementing the telemonitoring program for high-risk pregnant women. Phase 2 will include 50 pregnant women at high risk for preeclampsia who will monitor blood pressures at home using the provided blood pressure machine and submit the readings and symptoms through the app to receive self-care instructions based on the entered data.

This will be the first study to explore the feasibility of having pregnant women in Pakistan use a telemonitoring system to support high-risk pregnancies. Lessons learned in this feasibility trial will be used to determine the appropriateness of a future large-scale effectiveness trial, as well as how best to implement such a trial.

Andrea Román Alfaro in front of yellow and green leaves. There is a red and orange patterned scarf covering Andrea's shoulders and neck.

Andrea Román Alfaro

Andrea is a Peruvian Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Toronto. She is a Vanier Canada Graduate scholar, a Mary H. Beatty fellow, and a Connaught Public Impact Fellow. She holds an M.A. in Sociology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and a B.A. in sociology and government from Skidmore College.

Currently, Andrea is working on her dissertation titled, Mothering in the Margins: Violence, care, and survival in Callao. In her dissertation, she examines the dynamics and politics of violence in Callao, Peru, from women’s perspectives. Andrea has published in Spanish and English.

Before her Ph.D., she worked in Peru as a course instructor and researcher, where she taught social science courses and did research on education, gender and inequality. She has published in Social Justice and Curriculum Inquiry. Her current areas of interest include the sociology of violence, punishment, criminalization, gender, and healing.

In November 2021, the Peruvian government declared the district of Callao, Peru, in a state of emergency due to increased criminality for the second time. This policy curtailed constitutional rights, allowing the deployment of the police and military to fight against crime. However, this policy has not changed the conditions that make violence possible since government decisions are based on stereotypes that portray residents as suspicious and violent.

My project seeks to challenge the perceptions of a marginalized urban community in Callao, Peru – perceived as violent – and give young people the tools to define themselves and their community differently. Using drawing, photography, and film, we will work with 25 kids between 10 and 14 to process and express their experiences through art. We will collectively curate an exhibit for community residents and the public. The project encourages participants to challenge how the public perceives their community through creative outputs.

Erin Willson in a bright blue top, with a black top underneath. Erin is in front of a supporting pillar of an archway.

Erin Willson

Erin is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education. Her research focuses on preventing, addressing, and understanding abuse in sport. Her passion for this topic was inspired by her own experience representing Canada at the 2012 Olympic Games in the sport of artistic swimming.

She embodies research to practice approach to her work, which can be seen with her role on the Board of Directors of AthletesCAN, the association of Canadian National Team athletes. In this role, she advocates for National Team athletes within the Canadian sport system to ensure Canadian sport is as athlete-centred as possible. This includes addressing issues of safe sport (abuse and discrimination), athlete representation, and sport policy.

In recent years, there have been several reports of athletes experiencing Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in sport. In Canada, athletes from rowing, artistic swimming, bobsled, and gymnastics have spoken publicly about the abusive cultures in their sports. There is limited research on GBV and its effects, particularly on mental health and withdrawal from sport among Canadian youth athletes. My dissertation study intends to fill this gap.

This study will be conducted in two phases. First, an anonymous, online survey will assess the rates of GBV and reported effects (mental health, satisfaction with sport, intent to leave sport). Second, interviews will be conducted with athletes from equity-deserving groups to better understand how identity factors (race, gender, sexual orientation, ability) influence experiences of GBV.

By advancing our understanding of the landscape of GBV in Canadian sport, recommendations for preventing and addressing GBV will be made.

Jaime Grimm in a dark blue-gray top, in front of a white-cream background.

Jaime Grimm

Jaime Grimm is a second-year Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolution under the supervision of Martin Krkosek (U of T) and Andrew Bateman (Pacific Salmon Foundation). As a first-generation university student with mixed European and Manitoba Saulteaux heritage, she grew up in coastal British Columbia.

She is driven by the need to find socially and ecologically-just solutions to wildlife conservation issues, especially in terms of recognizing Indigenous rights and sovereignty. She enjoys being outdoors and in water as much as possible, as well as knitting and reading SciFi.

Prior to beginning Her PhD, she completed a master’s degree in Invasion Ecology from McGill University and worked as a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society Canada.

My research uses a combination of field work, environmental DNA analysis, and mathematical modeling to explore the distribution of fish pathogens in coastal British Columbia. By identifying the areas and environmental conditions associated with elevated levels of pathogens, we can better understand and mitigate risks to wild salmon. In addition, this research will inform the spatial management of aquaculture facilities to minimize the spread of disease among farms.

My work takes place in partnership with, and on the unceded lands of many coastal First Nations, including the Ahousaht First Nation, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and the Mowachaht / Muchulaht First Nations. Additional project partners include Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Pacific Salmon Foundation and Cedar Coast Field Station.

Madison Giles in a sky blue sweater in front of a blurred out background of green-yellow leaves in front of a building.

Madison Giles

Madison is a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar (2019 – 2022) and Connaught Public Impact Fellow (2022 – 2023). Madison is committed to conducting qualitative or mixed methods research in collaboration with community that examines the micro, meso, and macro aspects of a person’s sexuality.

Madison is currently a Course Instructor and the Research Manager of a national working group collating resources on sexuality and disabled youth. She also has experience as a Research Coordinator with Bloorview Research Institute, Ontario HIV Treatment Network, and #CripRitual. During her MSc, she was the Principal Investigator of a community-based research project that evaluated a sexual health education program for Indigenous youth. Madison mobilizes knowledge through scientific and community-facing knowledge products (e.g., art galleries).

Madison’s long-term research goal is to teach and lead research that aims to ensure everyone can thrive as sexual beings.

Access to sexuality resources are critical for the wellbeing of young Canadians. Unfortunately, the needs of some groups of youth are not being met, such as youth with physical disabilities (ywpd). Many ywpd do not receive information related to sexuality and there are limited resources that are disability-specific. Therefore, it is essential to hear from ywpd regarding their experiences and needs for their sexuality.

To do this, we are conducting a community-engaged arts-based study that works with ywpd to explore their sexuality. Intersectionality framework was employed to centre on the experiences of diverse youth (e.g., BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ youth). A virtual adaptation of the method of body mapping was used, which helped 11 ywpd reflect on their sexuality and express themselves through art and conversation.

Findings from this research have the potential to initiate a paradigm shift in how ywpd are perceived, represented, and interacted with as sexual beings.

Maggie MacDonald in grayscale, wearing a collared shirt under a dark-coloured top.

Maggie MacDonald

Maggie is a SSHRC-funded Ph.D. candidate at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information, where she researches the ongoing platformization of the pornography industry. She holds a graduate specialization in Sexual Diversity Studies and is research assistant to the Bonham Sexual Representation Collection, Canada’s largest archive of sex work and adult film history.

Maggie has published work on digital methods, deepfakes, labour governance, and the changing dynamics of porn’s cultural production under platforms. Learn more at

My doctoral research examines transformations in pornography brought about by platforms using the case of and the site’s parent company MindGeek. Over the past decade, Pornhub and similar sites have influenced popular discourse and transformed production standards in porn. My work considers the development, influence and regulation of massive technology companies that now mediate our entertainment online and manage user data to reconfigure social interactions, cultural production, and work. Using a blend of critical policy and discourse analysis, ethnography, and digital methods, I hope to produce the first comprehensive scholarly review of Pornhub’s operating model and the many competing discourses surrounding it.

Peter Sterles wearing a light blue collared shirt with a pattern of foxes. Peter is leaning on a railing inside of a brightly-lit building.

Peter Serles

Peter Serles is a PhD Candidate, Vanier Scholar, and Course Instructor studying the mechanics of nano-3D printed devices and structures. His research combines nanomechanical design with machine learning, live cell dynamics, and ballistic defence to leverage the high performance of nanomaterials for a wide variety of end applications.

Peter has authored more than 15 peer-reviewed papers in top international journals such as Advanced Materials, Science Advances, and Materials Today and has held research positions with the National Research Council of Canada and the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées de Lyon.

Peter is a Junior Fellow of Massey College and is an advocate of evidence-informed policy who volunteers with the Canadian Science Policy Centre and the Journal of Science Policy and Governance. He received an M.A.Sc. from the University of Toronto and a B.E.Sc. from Western University where he was awarded the Canadian Society for Mechanical Engineers Gold Medal.

Nanoscale-3D printing has revolutionized the design capabilities and flexibility of small-scale structures and devices with feature resolution down to 200 nm recently becoming a reality. This design freedom unlocked by nano-3D printing enables a unique opportunity to create a variety of next-generation functional components for healthcare, electronics, aerospace, or defence applications. These structures and devices range from replicating the local microenvironment that a cell would experience in the brain to help it grow, to ultra-strong and lightweight structures designed by machine learning algorithms that make use of the increased strength of nanoscale materials, to print-in-place electronic devices like accelerometers or gyroscopes for phones and computers.

Through mechanical design, prototyping, and failure analysis, this next generation of small-scale devices can be crafted with superior accuracy and performance enabling wide-reaching impacts in almost every field.

Q. Jane Zhao in a black collared top in front of a gray background.

Q. Jane Zhao

Q. Jane Zhao is a Health Services Research PhD student with Dr. Andrew Pinto and the Upstream Lab. Forever compelled by the nuance of story, their work focuses on the intersection of health policy and health equity. Their interests lie in primary care, community-based research, rural health, and the history of medicine. From a policy and evaluation perspective, their thesis will explore the impact of primary care access on health, particularly on people living with complex conditions in rural and remote Ontario.

They are a settler, first-generation immigrant, writer, and climber. They are a recipient of the School of Cities Urban Graduate Student Fellowship Award (2021-2022), a graduate of the Narrative Medicine Masters at Columbia University, and studied neuroscience at McGill University.

Talk to them about Donna Haraway, comics, and climate change.

As an applied health services researcher, I am passionate about using science to illuminate stories of those less heard, whether these are stories of people living with chronic pain or systemic narratives of function (or dysfunction) in Canada’s healthcare system.

For my Connaught Public Impact Fellowship, I am excited to explore the perception of two Toronto communities around Anchor Institutions – public, place-based organizations embedded within cities that “invest in their surrounding communities as a way of doing business.” Building on existing community networks in Northwest Toronto and Scarborough, I aim to engage community members to guide local decision-making and identify local solutions. Both communities are poorer, more racialized, and under-represented in research.

To disseminate my work, I plan to host one community townhall session and launch a website. Drawing on the field of graphic medicine, I also plan to draw a comic to facilitate knowledge translation and share my findings.

Rebecca Lennox in a sleeveless bright blue top, in front of a green, leafy background.

Rebecca Lennox

Rebecca Lennox is completing a Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of Toronto. Her doctoral research uses focus groups, conversational interviews, and discourse analysis to investigate cis and trans women’s fear of violent crime in urban public places. Rebecca has published on street harassment, gendered public safety, and qualitative research methods.

She holds a Master of Arts in Sociology from Simon Fraser University and a Bachelor of Arts (High Honors) in Sociology and Social Studies from the University of Regina.

Public health messaging (PHM) addressing sexual violence is quotidian in Canada and largely focuses on the actions of prospective violence victims, rather than those of bystanders or perpetrators. While the pervasiveness of victim-centered PHM may have profound impacts on women’s mobility and fear of crime in public places, little is known about how women respond to such messaging.

During my term as a Connaught fellow, I will examine how race, class, and gender intersect to shape women’s responses to gendered safety messaging produced by police, media, and educators. I will focus on the experiences of women marginalized by racism, poverty, and transphobia.

The goal of my research is to produce usable knowledge for policy makers and frontline anti-violence advocates that uncovers the effects of victim-centered safety messaging on diverse women’s mental health and mobility, and that highlights the urgent need for community-based, trauma-informed service provisions for sexual violence survivors.

Rose Schmidt in a flower-patterned top, in front of a brick wall in the right foreground, and trees in the left background.

Rose Schmidt

Rose Schmidt, MPH, is a PhD candidate at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. Her mixed-methods research focuses on harm reduction and trauma-informed approaches to perinatal substance use. She addresses gender-based determents of health inequity and integrates social epidemiological methodology into applied policy research.

The goal of my project is to identify the different trajectories of opioid and opioid agonist treatment (OAT) use during pregnancy and distinguish the elements that lead to these different trajectories. In my mixed-methods thesis, I will conduct a time-series analysis using population-level administrative health data to examine the impact of new clinical policy guidance recommending buprenorphine over methadone and 2) COVID-19 on the uptake of OAT in Ontario. Then, I will conduct qualitative interviews with women to explore the influences on their different trajectories into and out of opioid and OAT use and their ideas for improving services.

My project is guided by a community advisory board. The outcomes will lead to a greater understanding of how factors at multiple levels impact decision-making during pregnancy will help us build the right tools, programs, and supports to save lives.

Roxana Escobar Ñañez in a black printed shirt with a black blazer on top, in front of a red-painted gate.

Roxana Escobar Ñañez

Roxana Escobar Ñañez is a 5th year Human Geography PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. She is an international student from Peru. She has a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and an M.A. in Political Science from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. Since her master’s in Social Justice Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE-UofT), Roxana’s research focuses on the livelihoods of the Afro-Peruvian population in Peru.

Currently, Roxana’s Ph.D. dissertation seeks to understand the ways in which the music and performance of Afro-Peruvian women in Lima have played a significant part in the city’s cultural identity.

In my dissertation, I plan to analyze Afro-Peruvian women’s spatialities in criollo culture to re-center Afro-Peruvian women within Lima’s cultural landscapes. Criollo culture is a mix of popular traditional expressions from the coast of Peru, mainly associated with Lima’s working class. There is an intrinsic relationship between criollo culture and blackness in Peru, which locates Afroperuanas within the Peruvian national imagination. Despite Afro-Peruvian women’s active participation in Lima’s cultural life since the 18th century, their presence in the city’s cultural geographies has been overlooked by the academy and the Peruvian mainstream. My project aims to historize contemporary Afro-Peruvian women’s performance practices in criollo culture as integral to producing urban domestic and public spaces. In documenting the historical and geographical conditions that undergird the production of criollo identity in Lima, I seek to contribute with a study that expands the current understanding of the Black geographies of Latin America.

Sneha Mandhan in a black top in front of a white curtain background.

Sneha Mandhan

Sneha Mandhan (she/her) is an urban planner, architect and educator with an interdisciplinary practice in planning, urban design, architecture, design research, and community engagement. She collaborates on city building and engagement projects with Monumental Projects, People Design Co-operative, and the Department of Words and Deeds. She teaches graduate courses in urban design at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, and holds a Master in City Planning from MIT, and an undergraduate degree in architecture from NIT, Bhopal.

Her work focuses on unearthing and incorporating culture into the planning and design of cities. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Planning at the University of Toronto, where she is working to discover and share the stories of banquet halls as important sites of cultural celebration for the South Asian diaspora in the Greater Toronto Area.

Event spaces are integral to the cultural lives of several ethno-cultural communities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). They are shared sites of memory-making and celebration, but have, through regulation, been relegated to some of the most utilitarian and oft-forgotten commercial and industrial parts of the city. Working with the South Asian diaspora in the GTA, my PhD research focuses on documenting the stories of these spaces. Through the Connaught PhDs for Public Impact Fellowship program, I will curate a photo exhibit and write an op-ed that will share the stories of celebration and gathering within these spaces and situate them as sites of living cultural heritage and memory for several immigrant communities within the GTA. The goals of these initiatives are to spread awareness and insert the narrative around the cultural importance of event spaces into the public realm, and ultimately to foster intercultural storytelling through these different mediums.

Tenzin Butsang in a blue t-shirt in front of a red brick wall.

Tenzin Butsang

Tenzin Butsang is a PhD candidate in Social and Behavioural Health Sciences at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. She is a Tibetan settler born on unceded Coast Salish territory.

Tenzin’s research examines the multi-dimensional and interconnected notions of settler colonialism, carcerality, parenthood, health, power, and Indigeneity in the lives of previously incarcerated Indigenous mothers, mother-figures, and Two-Spirit parents in the settler state of Canada.

Wen Yin (Elaine) Cheng wearing a brown jacket with a black top and light blue collared shirt underneath, in front of a white background.

Wen Yin (Elaine) Cheng

Wen Yin (Elaine) Cheng is a Ph.D. candidate in East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. She received her MSc from University College London. She has 18 years of archaeological experience as a field archaeologist, lab technician, and artifact analyst.

During her MSc research at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London, she had the opportunity to expand her archaeological knowledge to incorporate scientific research techniques in archaeometry.

She is currently researching the artisans of the Shang bronze vessel casters through the moulds housed at the Royal Ontario Museum. Her research incorporates archaeological theory, archaeometry, and area study to comprehend the past artisans. Her current goal is to expand and bridge her research on past artisans to include the voices of the descendants of these ancient cultures.

My work will focus on in-person interactions at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and creating a YouTube channel dedicated to presenting the hidden artisans at the ROM. The in-person discussions are central to changing our view of the artifacts displayed in museums, but this is only a part of the more extensive discussion. Inviting artisans and museum curators to interact and present to the public allows for more open dialogue between the public, artisans, and curators.

By incorporating a YouTube channel, we can reach a broader audience and increase public interaction with facilitated online discussions in the comment section. My project will invite artisans to interact with the museum visitors in-person and be interviewed at their workshops through the YouTube channel as a way to bring the world to the ROM.