Graduate Student

Entered 2018

Claudia Cohen Hall 329


A.B. Washington University in St. Louis, magna cum laude

My interests lie at the intersection of the history of chemistry, engineering, empire, and the environment in late colonial India, though my curiosity stretches much wider. The First World War first captured my historical imagination, and I continue to be fascinated with how this pivotal event reshaped global empires, social orders, scientific practice, and random cultural phenomena (the use of Cubist art to disguise Allied naval vessels, known as dazzle, is probably my favorite) for the rest of the twentieth century. Previously, I studied how the war kickstarted British Imperial responses to the nitrogen problem, or the global crisis of the scarcity of nitrogen, a critical component of both fertilizers and explosives. This manifested itself especially in colonial India, which was undergoing its own agricultural modernization of sorts, and administrators were eager to see how nitrogen could facilate an expansion in production of the local sugar industry. My argument is that these colonialists seized the First World War as a moment of opportunity and used science to enact their vision of the future of agriculture in India, which has parallels to development regimes that historians of South Asia tend to associate with the post-independence period.
Given this foreshadowing, in my graduate career, I am interested in connecting these earlier developments with the large-scale transformations of India's "Green Revolution" in the 1960s and 70s. I hope to gain a fuller picture of how empires facilitated the spread of nitrogenous fertilizers throughout the world, drawing on environmental history and food studies, as well as Tamil vernacular sources from South India.
Prior to beginning graduate school, I studied chemistry and history at Washington University in St. Louis. As a Merle Kling Undergraduate Honors Fellow, I was involved in several capacities with the Center for the Humanities at WashU. This experience, as well as being a member of Phi Beta Kappa and working for two years as a program associate at the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS)--a non-profit organization devoted to advanced research in the humanities--has left me with a deep commitment towards multidisciplinary research and the value of a liberal arts education.

Research Interests

South Asian history, history of chemistry and chemical engineering, environmental history, colonialism and empire, history of agriculture, food studies, animal studies, history of technology, history and anthropology of infrastructure

Faculty Bookshelf