Heller Launches Undergraduate Research Fellows Program

March 14, 2022

2022 Heller Undergrad Research Fellows
From left: Vanessa Palomares, Ethan Schwartz, Mahamed Mohamud, Michaela MacCormick, Anne Liu

In January 2022 Heller launched a competitive fellows program for five Brandeis undergraduate students to work with mentors in the school’s 10 research centers and institutes. 

The Heller-wide pilot program, modeled after the Lurie Institute’s undergraduate fellowship in disability policy, has already enjoyed great interest from students and mentors and is expected to grow. The Heller Fellows program aligns with ongoing efforts to increase Brandeis undergraduates’ exposure to social policy research, including the popular Health: Science, Society and Policy major. 

“Integrating more Brandeis undergraduates into Heller research projects is something we’re really excited about,” says Associate Dean for Research Cindy Parks Thomas, PhD’00. “These students have a thirst for social science research experience, and we have a lot of it going on here at Heller. They make great contributions to our work with a new perspective, so this is a win-win for everyone involved.”

Each fellow works closely with a mentor, assisting them on primary research in health policy; child, youth and family policy; economic and racial equity; or behavioral health. The fellows commit to up to eight hours of work per week and receive a $2,000 stipend for the semester, funded by the Heller School. They will present their work at the Brandeis Undergraduate Research Symposium on May 3, and some will continue working with their mentors through the summer.  

“As a Heller research fellow, I am learning what it takes to become a successful researcher,” says student Mahamed Mohamud ‘23, who is working with Institute for Behavioral Health researchers Margot Davis, PhD’08, and Robert Dunigan, PhD’04, on projects related to substance use disorders in underserved populations. “I hope to use this invaluable experience to make an impact in the field of medicine, as an aspiring physician who will have the training to establish effective health interventions to substance use disorders.” 

Meet the 2022 Heller Undergraduate Research Fellows

Ethan Schwartz

Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Ethan is a senior studying Economics and Health: Science, Society, and Policy at Brandeis. In his spare time he plays club soccer and loves to ski. After graduation he hopes to stay in Boston and work in health care to transform care delivery. This semester he is working on a survey to assess the impact of COVID on working conditions for frontline nurses with Professor Karen Donelan and her team at the Institute on Healthcare Systems.

Vanessa Palomares

Vanessa was born and raised in Houston, Texas, and is currently co-president of the Brandeis Latinx Student Organization on campus, which promotes community and education on Latinx culture. She is also an MLK Fellow and Gilman Scholar, and she recently studied abroad in South Korea. Academically and professionally she wishes to learn about the relationship between disparities in health and socioeconomic status, and how to eventually dismantle it. She is working with researchers at the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity.

Michaela MacCormick 

Michaela is a third-year undergraduate student studying Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) with minors in History and African and African American Studies (AAAS). Before attending Brandeis she was a volunteer peer educator with the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. Those experiences led her to write a thesis about racial disparities in medical research participant enrollment in her senior year of high school. This semester as a Heller research fellow she is working with researchers at the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity on research related to employment and housing.

Anne Liu 

Anne is a junior majoring in Health: Science, Society, and Policy and Violin Performance. She is also pursuing a minor in Computer Science. On campus, she is on the Executive Board for Laurel Moon (a literary magazine) and Top Score (a student-run orchestra) and she performs in Brandeis' chamber ensembles. Her interest in research on health equity inspired her to apply for the Heller research fellowship. She is excited to work at the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy under mentor Clemens Noelke on the development of American Community Survey data assets that will be published on diversitydatakids.org.

Mahamed Mohamud 

Mahamed is a first-generation, Muslim Somali-American, third-year premedical student at Brandeis majoring in Biology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy with a minor in African and African American Studies. Outside of the classroom, he volunteers as a greeter at Newton Wellesley Hospital, is a laboratory assistant at the Rosbash Laboratory on campus, and has leadership roles in the Brandeis Education for Students by Students club and the Muslim Student Association club. He is also on the student leadership board for the Student Support Services Program for first-generation college students. As a Heller Research Fellow he is working with Margot Davis and Robert Dunigan at the Institute for Behavioral Health in the Schneider Institutes for Health Policy and Research.