Postdoc Profile

Ellen Block 

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Population Studies

Ellen_Block@brown.eduEllen in LesothoEllen in Lesotho

"My academic aspirations are fueled by my love of ethnographic fieldwork. It is fascinating, engaging, challenging, and affords a view into the inner lives of people that helps increase our understanding of cultural diversity as well as global inequality."   

Ellen Block received her Ph.D. in Anthropology and Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2012. As a W. K. Kellogg Family Fellow in Children and Families, she conducted fieldwork in Lesotho for her dissertation, “Infected Kin: AIDS, Orphan Care, and the Basotho Family,” which won awards from the University of Michigan and the International Association of Qualitative Inquiry.

Ellen is currently working on her book, “AIDS is a Kinship Disease: Orphan Care and the Changing Family in Lesotho.” This book addresses the impact of AIDS on kinship beyond the individual who is sick, while recognizing that AIDS has become a proxy for the social anxieties that exist in the contemporary world. The ethnographic case study at the center of this book is the conundrum of how, when, and why extended family members care for AIDS orphans in rural Lesotho. The book argues that AIDS is at the center of a crisis in African kinship and that orphan care provides a lens through which to examine the complex webs of belief, social relations, biomedical practices, and structural realities that characterize that crisis. In addition to working on her book manuscript, Ellen is working on several journal articles and plans to return to Lesotho in 2015 to continue her investigation on the impact of the mortality of grandmothers.   


Julia Burdick-Will

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) and Population Studies

Julia Burdick-Will is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) and Population Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 2012, where she was an Institute of Educational Sciences Predoctoral Fellow.

Her research examines the role of neighborhood and school contexts in shaping educational inequality. Specifically, she has studied the impact of violent crime in neighborhoods and schools on student achievement.  In other work, she has examined the relationship between neighborhood demographic change, changes in school-level achievement, and the geography of elementary school openings and closings. Burdick-Will is currently examining the relationship between neighborhood disadvantage and patterns of high school attendance and school choice as well as national trends in school segregation and school district fragmentation.


Andrew Fenelon

NICHD Postdoctoral Fellow in Population Studies

Andrew Fenelon received his Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. He is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Population Studies and Training Center. His dissertation, entitled "A Population-based Approach to Cigarette Smoking and Mortality," examined the contribution of smoking to disparities in population health in the U.S. He has received funding from the National Institutes of Health and has published research in Demography and the International Journal of Epidemiology. His work on the immigrant paradox was featured in Scientific American.

Fenelon's current research examines adult health disparities in a comparative perspective. Using harmonized HRS, ELSA, and SHARE, he is studying differences in socioeconomic gradients in chronic conditions, functional limitations, and mortality across 20 developed countries. The goal of the project is to identify factors that may help to ameliorate the negative impacts of socioeconomic disadvantage on health outcomes. He is also working on a project examining the contribution of cigarette smoking to widening educational disparities in life expectancy over the past several decades using the National Health Interview Survey and the National Longitudinal Mortality Study.


Peter Richards

National Science Foundation SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Peter Richards received his Ph.D. in Geography from Michigan State University in 2012. During his studies there, he specialized in international development.

Peter is currently working on a National Science Foundation project researching the role of capital access and institutions in driving land use changes in the State of Mato Grosso in Brazil.  His past research has focused on the tradeoffs between agricultural growth, development, and environmental change in Brazil and Paraguay, with a particular interest in the Amazon region. His work to date includes research on indirect land use change, the links between urbanization and agricultural change, studies of migration and the movement of capital and labor resources as drivers of socioeconomic and land use change, and the environmental impacts of a fluctuating exchange rate. 

Visit Peter Richards' website.


Richard Turner

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) and Population Studies

Richard Turner is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Spatial Structures in the Social Sciences (S4) and PSTC.  He received his Ph.D. in Policy Analysis and Management from Cornell University in 2012. 

Richard's research focuses on the social and economic integration of immigrant populations in the U.S.  In his dissertation, he examines how Hispanic migrant workers are being incorporated into the economies of nonmetropolitan “new destinations,” rural portions of the country that have only recently become important sites of Latino settlement.  Furthermore, he is now conducting post-dissertation analyses that investigate the demographic factors influencing high school completion levels within the Mexican American population. 


Weiwei Zhang

Postdoctoral Research Associate in Population Studies

Weiwei Zhang has research interests in assimilation, health, immigration, migration, and race.