Graduate and Professional Students

Rethinking Regulation Graduate Scholars and Affiliates are graduate students whose research interests align with those of the program in Rethinking Regulation at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and who regularly participate in Rethinking Regulation events. In addition, Graduate Scholars are actively engaged in research projects funded by Rethinking Regulation.


The Rethinking Regulation Graduate Student Working Group (RR GSWG) is a forum for Graduate Scholars and Affiliates to collaborate on topics of regulatory governance. The Graduate Student Working Group meets monthly to present research, discuss interdisciplinary regulatory scholarship, and analyze contemporary regulatory policy issues.

Any graduate students interested in participating in the regular Graduate Student Working Group meetings should contact Hayden Hashimoto.

Aaron Ancell, Philosophy

Most of Aaron’s research is motivated by the question, “What political principles, practices, and institutions are appropriate for human societies given that humans are imperfectly rational and imperfectly good?” In his dissertation, he explores this question specifically in relation to moral and political disagreements. In addition to his dissertation work, he has also written about epistemic arguments for democracy, accommodating conscientious objections in medicine, and the place of regulatory agencies in normative theories of democracy.

Anna Birkenbach, Environmental Policy, Economics Concentration

Anna Birkenbach is a marine resource economist whose current research explores how rights-based fisheries management affects revenue-side benefits for fishermen and targeting/timing behaviors in complex multi-species contexts. This work is intended to inform ongoing discussions about the role of rights-based tools in fisheries management, as well as possible means of fine-tuning these policies to maximize the value generated from the resources and balance the goals of ecological and economic sustainability.

Jessica Brandt, Environmental Health

Jessica’s research focuses on regulated coal combustion residual waste streams to freshwater lake ecosystems, contaminant persistence, and impacts on native biota. She is interested in interdisciplinary systems thinking at the energy-water nexus as it relates to timely environmental issues.

Josh BruceSociology

Josh’s research is primarily in economic and organizational sociology, and currently focuses on diffusion processes, inter-organizational cooperation, and personnel careers in the US federal government.

Tom Cinq-Mars, History

Tom is a business historian writing a dissertation about the building of the longest oil pipeline network in the world, Druzhba, or “Friendship.” His broader interests include comparative political economy, environmental history, and the history of technology.

Lauren Czaplicki, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Lauren’s research involves engineering microbial processes in order to clean up creosote polluted soils. She is also broadly interested in the science-policy nexus, specifically policies encouraging environmental protection and sustainability and how these are affected by technical innovations.

Mercy DeMenno, Public Policy, Political Science Concentration

Mercy’s research focuses on the politics of the regulatory policymaking process, at both the U.S. federal and international levels. Her specific research interests include financial risk regulation, regulatory institutional design, and stakeholder participation in rulemaking.

Rob Fetter, Environmental Policy, Economics Concentration

Rob researches technological change and the interaction between regulation and innovation, particularly in the energy sector. He studies how firms engaged in hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas learn about emerging technologies and how they respond to regulations, as well as technological change in developing countries including the relationship between energy and economic growth.

Will Goldsmith, History

Will Goldsmith examines in his dissertation the construction and evolution of education and economic development policy in North Carolina from 1960 to 2000 in order to understand how a rural Jim Crow state with the nation’s lowest manufacturing wages and abysmal educational attainment became an emblem of the “New Economy.” His work traces how the civil rights revolution created policy space for the emergence of “education for economic growth” as a central focus of state economic development efforts as well as the uneven implications of such policies for rural areas and economic equality.

Katy Hansen, Environmental Policy, Political Science Concentration

Katy’s research interest focus on how institutions shape water service disparities in the United States.

Farah Hegazi, Environmental Policy, Political Science Concentration

Farah is a Ph.D. student in environmental politics at Duke University. She seeks to understand, explain, and address the challenges that governments in the Middle East face in delivering water and sanitation services to un-served and under-served areas.

Anna Johns, Law and History

Anna is interested in the intersection of business, the state, and society. Her dissertation will examine the use of class action lawsuits as a tool for consumer protection.

Ashton Merck, History

Ashton Merck’s research focuses on comparative risk regulation and its relation to the modern administrative state.  Her dissertation project examines a series of institutional shifts in the regulation of food safety during the twentieth century, focusing on poultry and meat products in the United States and the European Union.

Ruxandra Popovici, Environmental Policy, Political Science Concentration

Ruxandra is interested in incentive-based environmental policies that aim to protect the environment while at the same time improving people’s livelihoods. She specifically focuses on Payments for Ecosystem Services in Mexico, where landowners do certain activities that help conserve their forests (fencing, patrolling, garbage collection) and in exchange receive a payment which they can then reinvest in an environmentally sustainable economic activity.

Daniel Ribeiro, Law

Daniel is interested in evidence-based administrative law, in particular how (Regulatory) Impact Assessment (IA) can work to control and promote policies that are cost-effective, fair, sustainable, and that work as intended. He is also exploring how the intersection of law, policy, science, and technology underlying IA can improve political accountability.

Faraz Usmani, Environmental Policy, Economics Concentration

Faraz Usmani is an environmental economist, specializing in the economics of energy access and international development.


Cindy Cheng, Political Science

Jonathon Free, History

Justin Kirkpatrick, Environmental Policy, Economics Concentration

Marcelo Prates, Law

Louise Seamster, Sociology