Meet the MDI Fellows

Written by Carrie McDonald, MDI Journalism Intern 

MDI’s Fellows program hosts Policy and Postdoctoral Fellows who engage in research throughout the institute. This year’s cohort spans a wide range of different academic and professional backgrounds and research interests. 

“A fellow is a unique position,” Dr. Le Bao, an MDI Postdoctoral fellow, said. “We are not tenured professors yet and we’re also not students anymore […] But actually, we want to connect both roles.”

Each fellow conducts a range of interdisciplinary independent and/or directed research with MDI faculty, Student Scholars, and other Fellows. Postdoctoral Fellows also lead the MDI Data Workshop Series. The goal of the MDI Fellows program is to bring the newest research and policy ideas to MDI’s research projects.

This year’s cohort includes Dr. Le Bao, James Carey, Dr. Helge-Johannes Marahrens, Stephanie Straus, and Dr. Nathan Wycoff. Their research interests and projects encompass a wide variety of some of society’s most salient topics, such as forced migration, environmental justice, data privacy, and civil justice. 
For example, Bao is a second-year fellow who received his PhD in Political Science from the Department of Government at American University and completed a visiting graduate fellowship at the Harvard University Institute for Quantitative Social Science. Bao uses computational and statistical methods to study political behavior and environmental politics as an integral member of MDI’s Environmental Impact Data Collaborative (EIDC) and Measuring Online Social Attitudes and Information Collaborative (MOSAIC) teams. Read more about Bao’s work here.

Carey joined MDI as a Policy Fellow last September to focus on research at the intersection of technology law and justice. At MDI, his work focuses on the Civil Justice Data Commons (CJDC), a unique initiative that seeks to gather and securely store civil legal data from courts, legal service providers, and civil law institutions with a focus on consumer debt and eviction cases. Read more about Carey’s work here.

Marahrens joined MDI after completing his PhD in Sociology at Indiana University this past spring. Marahrens’ scholarly appointment at Georgetown is split between MDI and the Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM), focusing on Massive Data and Displacement (MaDD), in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Read more about Marahrens’ work here.

Straus has served as a Policy Fellow at MDI for over three years. She has a background in education and education policy research and previously served as a research analyst at the American Institutes for Research. At MDI, Straus works with Professor Amy O’Hara on projects at the intersection of education, data privacy, and increased safe data use. She is an expert on the use of privacy-enhancing technologies specifically within government, public institutions and nonprofits. Read more about Straus’ work here.

Finally, Wycoff is a Data Science Fellow at MDI. He has mainly worked on variational Bayesian methodology applied to forced migration and has recently started working on differentially private synthetic data techniques applied to government data. Read more about Wycoff’s work here.

The fellows will gather on September 21 for MDI Computational Postdoc Bits and Bites, an informal gathering geared toward postdoctoral researchers working on computational methods. Open to all Postdoctoral Fellows across campus, attendees will have the chance to foster a campus-wide postdoctoral community by meeting each other, discussing their research, and exchanging ideas over brunch.