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PhD Students

SAIS PhD students cover a broad range of research under the multi-disciplinary umbrella of International Relations. Some incorporate a significant degree of economic and quantitative analysis, while others are qualitatively-oriented or employ mixed-methods. We invite you to peruse their profiles below, drill down to “read more,” and/or contact them directly via e-mail.

Sarah Alaoui

Email: salaoui1@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Public Diplomacy, Political Communications, Media, Middle East


Sarah Alaoui is a Ph.D. candidate in the Middle East Studies department at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Her research focuses on Arab public diplomacy.

Anu Anwar

Email: aanwar4@jhu.edu

Research Interests: International Relations, International Security, Alliances, Strategic Affairs, Geopolitics, China, and Asia


Anu Anwar is a Ph.D. student at SAIS and doctoral researcher at the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies. He is a fellow at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a nonresident associate at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University. He is also an Asia 21 fellow at the Asia Society and a young leader fellow at the Pacific Forum. Previously, Mr. Anwar worked as a research fellow at the U.S. Department of Defense’s Institute—Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. He was also an affiliate scholar at East-West Center and a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo.

His works have been published in the Journal of Indo-Pacific Affairs, Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations, War on the Rock, East Asia Forum, The Diplomat, South China Morning Post, United States Institute of Peace, among other publications. Mr. Anwar obtained MPA jointly from Tsinghua University and the University of Geneva. He also holds a B.A and M.A. from the University of Dhaka. He speaks Chinese, Hindi, and Bengali.

For more information about Anu, please see his website.

Alejandro Baron Gandarias

Email: alejandrobgg@gmail.com

Research Interests: Comparative Political Economy, International Development, Governance, Public Policy, Public Sector Reform, Public Finances, State-Owned Enterprises Anti-Corruption, Open Government, Transparency

Alejandro Baron Gandarias is a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He focuses on the political economy of transparency, open data, anti-corruption, citizen participation, and public sector reforms more broadly. Alejandro has more than nine years of professional and research experience, and he has worked for organizations such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Organization of American States (OAS), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Spanish Ministry of Industry. He holds a degree in Law and Economics from the Carlos III University (Madrid, Spain) and a Master's degree in International Relations and Economics from the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS).

Jeb Benkowski

Email: benkowski@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Military Force Planning, Civil-Military Relations, US-China Relations, Nuclear Security, Strategic Studies, Diplomatic and Military History

James “Jeb” Benkowski is a Ph.D. candidate at SAIS, a predoctoral fellow at SAIS’s Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, and an adjunct policy analyst at the RAND Corporation. His dissertation, "Best Laid Schemes," is a history of the United States’ military force planning system from the late 18th through the late 20th centuries. It examines the impact of geography, technology, civil-military relations, and politics on both the effectiveness of U.S. preparations for the next war and the ability of U.S. policymakers to implement their defense strategies. His other research foci include U.S.-China relations, Chinese military affairs, and nuclear security. He received an M.A. in International Relations and International Economics from Johns Hopkins University SAIS and a B.A. in Global Affairs (with distinction) from Yale University.

Ankit Bhatia

Email: abhati17@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Economic Development, Public Infrastructure, Governance and Public Institutions, State Capacity, India


Ankit Bhatia is a Ph.D. candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) concentrating on international development with a regional focus on South Asia. Ankit’s research interests are in the field of development economics, public infrastructure, and state capacity. His research combines spatial and quantitative data analysis methods including machine learning to study the causes and effects of infrastructure development in low and middle-income countries.

Prior to his doctoral studies, Ankit has a decade-long experience in policy research and analysis working with policy think tanks and academic institutions in India including at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (Carnegie) India Centre, Brookings Institution India Centre, University of Chicago Delhi Centre, National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP), NITI Aayog (erstwhile Planning Commission, Government of India), and Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi. Ankit holds master's and bachelor’s degrees in Economics from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, India.

John Bolton

Email: jqb101@gmail.com

Research Interests: US Pacific ""Pivot""; US-China Relations; Grand Strategy


John Bolton is a US Army Goodpaster Scholar pursuing a PhD at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies. . He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College’s Art of War Scholars Program and holds degrees in military history and mechanical engineering. He has led and commanded a variety of Army units throughout his career. An AH-64D/E aviator with 800 combat hours, he has deployed with Engineer, Aviation, and Infantry units. He will assume command of the 601st Aviation Support Battalion at Ft. Riley, KS next summer.

Abby Budiman

Email: nbudima1@jh.edu

Research Interests: Broad interest in Political Economy, more specifically: Labor and Human Capital, Migration, Identity, Computational Social Science Methods. Regional focus on Asia and the United States

Past Experience: Before starting my PhD journey at SAIS, I started my position as an Associate Research Scientist at the Center for Social Media and Politics based in NYU. Currently, I am researching the public's use of social media during past U.S. elections.

Before that, I worked as a Research Analyst at the Pew Research Center in D.C., focusing on migration, race and identity research. I previously also worked at the Brookings Institution's Global Economy and Development team. In my past life, I worked as a journalist in Syracuse, NY and Jakarta, Indonesia.


Past Education: Pre-doctoral M.A. in Political Economy, New York University | Thesis title, "Leadership and Social Ties Within Collective Action Networks: An Analysis of the Stop Asian Hate Movement on Twitter"

Dual B.S. in Quantitative Economics and Broadcast Journalism , Syracuse University | Thesis title, "Effect of U.S. Dollar Volatility on Migrant Remittances"

Maya Camargo-Vemuri

Email: camargovemuri@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Political Violence, Genocide, Mass Violence, Mass Atrocities, War Crimes, Sexual Violence, Gender And War, Conflict Studies, Political Identity, Nationalism, Propaganda, Political Repression, Authoritarianism, Transitional Justice, Political Trauma, Political Sociology, Comparative Politics

Maya Camargo-Vemuri is a PhD student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. As a scholar of political violence, she focuses on civilian victimization, genocide, mass violence, and atrocity in modern states and societies. Her interest in questions of power, identity, and conflict in political arenas has also led her to do work on the role of nationalism, propaganda, repression, and authoritarianism. She is especially interested in cases in Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as Latin America. Her dissertation focuses on violence during genocide, examining trends within and across cases to develop a descriptive and comparative framework for such violence in the contemporary era.

During her time at JHU SAIS, she has been a Graduate Research Fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, an APSA Diversity Fellow, an instructor at the JHU Homewood Campus, and an Adjunct Professor at the United States Naval Academy. She is currently a Student Fellow at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Agora Institute. Before coming to SAIS, she was a Boren Fellow in Senegal and a Visiting Researcher at the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in Peru.

Hasta Colman

Email: dcolman1@jhu.edu

Research Interests: China Studies, Southeast Asian Politics, Comparative Politics, Bureaucratic Politics, Contentious Politics, Identity and Nationalism, State Building, International Relations

Hasta's research centers around China’s relations with neighboring states in South and Southeast Asia. During the 2022-2023 academic year, she will be a National Bureau of Asian Research Chinese Language Fellow. She holds a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College. Prior to joining SAIS, she was a Fudan Fellow at Fudan University in Shanghai, and then studied Chinese in the Inter-University Program (IUP) at Tsinghua University in Beijing. She also has a professional background in sustainable development research in South and Southeast Asia.

Deviana Dewi

Email: deviana.dewi@jhu.edu

Research Interests: The Politics of Food and Nutrition, Governance, Policy Process Theories, Impact Evaluation Methods, Comparative Politics, International Development

Deviana has a keen interest in the policy process and the political economy of food and nutrition. Her research project focuses on the agenda setting processes behind the salience of a child malnutrition policy as a political priority, working with Prof. Jeremy Shiffman. She holds a master’s degree in Development Studies at University of Sussex, UK and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations at Universitas Katolik Parahyangan, Indonesia.

Prior to joining SAIS, she has built her expertise in international development since 2012 as a project coordinator for World Vision in a remote Indonesian district, a research consultant for Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK, and recently as a senior program manager in poverty and social development for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in partnership with the World Bank. Aside from her PhD studies, she currently works as a graduate research assistant in Johns Hopkins’ Global Food Ethics and Policy Program and she enjoys hiking, reading, blogging, and swimming.

Silvia Fuselli

Email: sfusell1@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Turkish Politics, Intra-Party Politics, Authoritarianism, Democratic Backsliding, Comparative Politics, Political Economy, Social Policy

Silvia Fuselli is a PhD Candidate at the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS). Her research project centers on the impact of intra-party politics on processes of democratization, democratic backsliding, and autocratization, with a specific focus on Turkey. Silvia is also a social protection expert at the World Bank, specializing on adaptive social safety nets in contexts affected by fragility, conflict, and violence. Prior to joining the Bank, Silvia worked in the NGO and private sector. She holds a MA in International Relations and Economics from SAIS and earned a MA and BA in Diplomacy and International Affairs from University of Bologna, Italy.

Oskar Galeev

Email: ogaleev1@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Information Technology, Comparative Politics, China's Foreign Policy, Cybersecurity, History of Technology


Oskar Galeev is a Ph.D. candidate at SAIS and a fellow at the Alperovitch Institute for Cybersecurity Studies. His research is concerned with the cyber-geography of emerging markets and the political economy of technology.  He received a B.A. in International Studies from Leiden University, The Netherlands and an M.A. in China Studies from the Yenching Academy of Peking University. Prior to joining SAIS, he had worked at Huawei Technologies, at the European Commission, and taught at the University of Amsterdam. Oskar speaks Chinese, Russian, French, and Tatar.

Alex Haag

Email: ahaag3@jhu.edu

Research Interests: International Political Economy, Comparative Politics, Macroeconomic Policy, International Trade and Migration, European Integration, Labor Markets, Central Banking

Alex Haag is a doctoral student in international political economy working under the supervision of Professor Matthias Matthijs. He holds an MA in International Relations from Johns Hopkins and BAs in International Relations and Russian from Brigham Young University. His research broadly focuses on the political economy topics centered on the continuation of the European project. More specifically, he currently focuses on the generational dynamics of welfare state responses to economic crisis and what these entail for the future of European integration.

Yun Han

Email: yhan23@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Comparative Political Economy, Domestic Politics of International Relations, EU-China Relations, Chinese Foreign Policy, International Relations of Northeast Asia

Yun Han received her M.A. from Johns Hopkins SAIS, with concentrations in International Economics and Japan Studies. Previously, she earned a B.A. in International Affairs from the George Washington University. While at GWU, she spent a semester studying abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. Before starting her Ph.D., Ms. Han was a Policy Research Fellow at the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies, where her research focused on China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Sandra Joyce

Email: sjoyce4@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Cybersecurity, International Relations, Intelligence


  • EVP at Mandiant
  • LtCol Air Force Reserve
  • PhD student focusing on cyber intelligence

Zhuoran Li

Email: zhuoran0322@gmail.com

Research Interests: Chinese Domestic Politics and Foreign Policy, US Politics and Foreign Policy, Japanese Politics and Foreign Policy, Russian Politics and Foreign Policy, East Asian and Southeast Asian National Security, Constitutional Law, Environmental Policy, The Korean Peninsula

I was born in Beijing, China, and moved to the United States when I was thirteen years old. My Ph.D. topic focuses on China's mobilization capability and its relationship to policy implementation. Besides, I have been following China's economic development, the Chinese legal system, Chinese foreign policy in Asia, and US-China relations. Besides China, I am interested in the politics of Japan, Russia, Southeast Asia, and the Korean Peninsula. I am a constant contributor to the Diplomat, which I write on a wide range of issues in Asia, especially developments in China.

Meredith Ludlow

Email: mludlow1@jh.edu

Research Interests: China Studies, Political Economy, Economic Competitiveness, Industrial Policy


Meredith is a PhD candidate in China Studies. Prior to SAIS, Meredith worked in a variety of advisory, operational and research roles in the private, public and non-profit sectors. She is a trustee of The Asia Foundation, a member of the National Committee on United States-China Relations and a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

Meredith holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a master's degree in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.

Fernando Lujan

Email: flujan2@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Modern Propaganda and Disinformation, Terrorism, Conflict Termination, American Foreign Policy


Fernando Lujan is a PhD candidate in Strategic Studies and an instructor at the National War College.  He served for 25 years in the US Army as a Special Forces officer and Foreign Area Specialist.  His most recent assignments were with the State Department as a member of the US negotiating team seeking a political settlement in Afghanistan, and as a Director and Senior Director on the National Security Council at the White House.  His writing on Afghanistan and irregular warfare has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Small Wars Journal.  Fernando was selected as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow, where he researched small-scale approaches to counterterrorism, culminating in the Center for New American Security report "Light Footprints: The Future of American Military Intervention."  He holds a bachelor's degree in physics from West Point and a master's degree in public policy from Harvard.

Angelica Mangahas

Email: amangah1@jhu.edu

Research Interests: International Relations, Alliances, Southeast Asia, Democracy and Liberalism


Angelica (Gica) Mangahas is a PhD candidate at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies where she is a student of Southeast Asian politics. Her research is focused on the domestic sources of support for the US-Philippines alliance. She is currently working with the SAIS Foreign Policy Institute to develop a Diplomatic Capacity Index: a tool to measure the comparative investments that countries make to prepare for political, economic, and security diplomacy. Gica was previously Deputy Director for Research at the Stratbase – Albert Del Rosario Institute in Manila and an instructor at De La Salle University.

Prakhar Misra

Email: pmisra3@jh.edu

Research Interests: State Capacity, Political Economy, Public Sector Labor Markets, Bureaucracy -- Recruitment and Training


Prakhar is a Ph.D. Candidate in South Asian Studies working with Professor Devesh Kapur. His interests are in bureaucratic reforms and in improvements in the quality of governance in India.

He has a Masters in Public Policy from the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford where he was a Chevening Scholar; a Post-graduate Diploma in Economics and Finance from Meghnad Desai Academy where he was a Chanakya Scholar; and a Bachelors in Instrumentation Engineering from Ramaiah Institute of Technology.

For more on his research and other projects, visit his personal website.

Elor Nkereuwem

Email: enkereuwem@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Political Violence, Governance, Violent Extremism, Gender, International Development, Discourse


Elor Nkereuwem is finishing up a PhD in International Studies (African Studies concentration) at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, D.C. Her dissertation focuses on discourse and political violence. It proposes a renewed focus on the narratives that contribute to the emergence of extremist violence.

Before coming to SAIS, she graduated from the University of London (London School of Economics and Political Science) with a degree in International Relations. In 2013 she obtained a Master of Letters degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of St Andrews, Scotland where her dissertation, which analyzed media coverage of Al-Qaeda affiliates in West Africa, earned her the Sir Menzies Campbell Prize for Best MLitt Dissertation in International Relations. She is an award-winning investigative journalist and has recently finished visiting fellowships at the Henry L. Stimson Center as well as Transparency International Defense and Security in Washington, D.C. Her latest policy blog reviews Russia’s increased economic and strategic focus on Africa, and how this is further muddling up complex conflicts in many African countries.

Heejae Park

Email: hpark93@jhu.edu

Research Interests: International Relations, Economic Statecraft, Sanctions, Security, Russia, North Korea, Comparative Politics


Heejae Park is a Ph.D. student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) under the supervision of Dr. Kent Calder. Her research broadly focuses on economic sanctions, authoritarian regimes, and North Korea-Russia relations. Her dissertation explores how states adapt and cope with economic sanctions.

Will Quinn

Email: wquinn6@jhu.edu

Research Interests: National Security Decision-Making; Defense Policy; U.S.-Russian Relations; European and Eurasian Security; Congress and Foreign Policy; Strategic Studies; Diplomatic History; American Political Development

Will Quinn is a PhD candidate and Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, where he leads strategic planning, coordination, and program development for the Ax:son Johnson Institute for Statecraft and Diplomacy (AJI). He is currently completing a dissertation on U.S.-Russian relations in early decades of the twentieth century and their impact on the development of American foreign policy.

Prior to beginning his doctoral research, Will served as a Professional Staff Member on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee for Chairman John McCain where he conducted oversight and wrote legislation shaping Department of Defense policy on the Middle East, the Western Hemisphere, security cooperation, and homeland defense, among other subjects. Before joining the committee in 2015, he worked in strategic communications for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on the U.S. federal budget and economic policy.

Will has contributed research to several recent books, including Niall Ferguson's ""Kissinger: The Idealist, 1923-1968"" (2015), Eliot Cohen's ""The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force"" (2017), and Francis J. Gavin's ""Nuclear Weapons and American Grand Strategy"" (2020), and has worked as a Summer Associate and Adjunct Researcher at the RAND Corporation on subjects including fighting on nuclear battlefields, Sino-Indian military rivalry, and congressional oversight of the Intelligence Community.

At SAIS, he teaches a regular professional skills course on briefing and has served as a teaching assistant in courses on intelligence with Professor John McLaughlin and Shakespeare and politics with Professor Eliot Cohen. Mr. Quinn holds an M.A. in International Relations with a concentration in Strategic Studies from SAIS and an A.B. in History from Harvard College.

Keyi Tang

Email: keyi.tang@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Comparative and International Political Economy, African politics, Institutions, Resource Misallocation, Development Finance


Keyi Tang a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a Fellow at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center. Her research focuses on the institutional causes of resource misallocation in developing countries, with a regional focus on sub-Saharan Africa. Her dissertation combines geocoded administrative data on service delivery and extensive fieldwork in Beijing, Washington, D.C., Zambia, Ethiopia, and Ghana. For more information, visit her personal website.

Reja Younis

Email: ryounis1@jh.edu

Research Interests: Nuclear Deterrence, Nuclear Posture/Strategy, Diplomatic History, Emerging Military Technologies, Arms Control


Reja Younis is pursuing a PhD in International Relations at Johns Hopkins SAIS, concentrating in Strategic Studies. Reja is also a Predoctoral Fellow with the Kissinger Center at SAIS and an Associate Fellow with the Project on Nuclear Issues at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). At CSIS, she leads research on nuclear deterrence, nuclear strategy, and emerging military technologies. She holds a BS in Social Sciences and Liberal Arts from the Institute of Business Administration and graduated with highest honors in Political Science. She completed her MA in International Relations from The University of Chicago.

Yifan Zhang

Email: yzhan373@jhu.edu

Research Interests: Chinese Politics (Elite and Technocratic Politics, Political Institutions, Policy Process), Comparative Politics, U.S.-China Relations, Environmental Governance, Sustainable Development


Yifan currently is a Ph.D. student at Johns Hopkins SAIS under the supervision of Professor Andrew Mertha. Her research focuses on China's elite and technocratic politics, political institutions, domestic and foreign policy processes, and U.S.-China relations. She received an MA with honors in China Studies, American Foreign Policy, and International Economics from Johns Hopkins SAIS in 2019 and a BA degree in International Relations from Boston University in 2018.

Yifan also speaks Chinese Mandarin and is learning French. In her free time, she enjoys running, playing tennis, skiing, and playing with her cats.