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September 24, 2014

Assef Ashraf (History) has won a fellowship in recognition of his “excellent work and potential to expand scholarship in Persian Studies,” according to the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute. His dissertation, advised by Abbas Amanat, is tentatively titled “From Khan to Shah: The Formation of the Qajar State in Iran, 1785-1848.” In it, Assef examines the consolidation of power and the creation of a state by the Qajars, an Iranian dynasty that ruled from 1785 to 1925. His broader focus is on the governance practices of the Qajars – including diplomacy with neighboring and European empires – and the political culture of early 19th century Iran.

The dissertation draws on archival research at Yale (in both the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and in Sterling Memorial Library’s Manuscripts and Archives), as well as in Russia, Turkey, Britain, and France.

It is a challenge to do research on Iran, and unfortunately I have not been able to go there myself,” Assef says. He relies on digitized manuscript collections in Iran “of which there is an abundance, as well as on local research assistants to track some things down for me.”

Assef’s interests include the history of Iran from the early modern era to the present, comparative early modern Muslim empires, travel literature, and the culture and economy of gift-exchange.

Born in Lisbon, Portugal, to Iranian parents, he grew up in the United States and earned his BA from New York University, where he won the Rumi-Biruni prize for excellence in Persian Studies.

Allison (Allie) Stielau (History of Art) has won a pre-doctoral fellowship at the Getty Research Institute’s annual scholars program, dedicated this year to the theme “Object–Value–Canon.” She will be in residence at the Getty from September through June. The Getty website explains the theme, saying, “Art-historical interpretation has traditionally proceeded from the description of an object to discussions about its artistic, cultural, or commercial value, and then to attempts to place the object in a canon with other works.” Participants in the scholars program will examine these concepts in new ways.

Allie’s dissertation, “The Unmaking of Metalwork in Early Modern Europe: Case Studies, 1529-1630,” explores the liquidation of precious metalwork such as church chalices and processional crosses in the context of financial crisis and confessional change. Her advisers are Ned Cooke and Christopher Wood.

I am particularly interested in attitudes to the melting down of metalwork in this and other historical moments,” she says. “It’s a process that constitutes, unusually, a formal loss but a material preservation. A basic taken-for-granted fact of the study of metalwork, it deserves more research and historical contextualization.”

Allie earned a master’s degree from the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture in New York and a BA in English from Yale. Her article on leather étuis appeared as “The Case of the Case for Early Modern Objects and Images” in kritische berichte 3 (2011). In 2012 she delivered a talk on 15th-century German engravings at the Frühe Neuzeit Interdisziplinär Conference at Duke University. An essay drawn from this talk is forthcoming in the volume Visual Acuity and the Arts of Communication in Early Modern Germany (Ashgate). During the academic year 2012-2013, she was a Baden-Württemberg Exchange Fellow in Heidelberg, Germany, and received a grant from the Silver Society of New York. She delivered the annual New York Silver Society lecture at the Bard Graduate Center in October 2013, which was based on research she conducted in Germany and the United States on silver ingots found in archaeological contexts.

When not pursuing research, Allie enjoys cooking and visiting museums with friends. She is originally from North Granby, Connecticut.

Kathryn Chew (Chemistry) was awarded a 2014 Rao Prize for her talk, “To Tunnel or Not to Tunnel, Proton Transfer Is the Question,” which she gave at the International Symposium on Molecular Spectroscopy (ISMS) in June. Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. The prize was created by a group of spectroscopists who, as graduate students, benefitted from the emphasis on graduate student participation that is an important feature of the ISMS conference. Each year, three Rao Prizes are awarded to outstanding graduate students for the work they present at the conference.

Kathryn’s doctoral research is conducted in the laboratory of Patrick H. Vaccaro and focuses on the simplest of chemical reactions – the transfer of a proton between donor and acceptor sites – with an emphasis on quantum phenomena that enable particles to pass (or tunnel) through potential-energy barriers rather than surmount them (akin to a car driving through a mountain instead of over or around it).

By choreographing sequences of interactions with multiple pulses of laser light, she demonstrated the dramatic roles that selective vibrational motion and nuclear-mass effects can play in governing the rates of such hindered proton-transfer events. The fundamental molecular paradigms uncovered by her dissertation studies have implications for a variety of chemical and biological processes. The award will be presented at the next ISMS meeting in June 2015 in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where Kathryn will serve as a judge for the attendant Rao Prize competition.

Born and raised in Singapore, Kathryn did her undergraduate work at Mills College in Oakland, California, earning a BSc in Chemistry and engaging in summer research that spurred her interest in lasers and molecules.

At Yale, when not in the lab, she likes to bake “lots of tasty treats to share with friends.”

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