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Four new Harvard students have been awarded the Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellowship

by , Posted on 25th Apr 2019

Let us introduce Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellows for the 2019-2020 academic year – meet Jacob, Emily, Gabriel and Michele! These four Harvard doctoral students have been awarded by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and the Novak Djokovic Foundation and will receive a grant to support her or his independent dissertation research.

The Center and the Novak Djokovic Foundation launched the Djokovic Fellowship in 2016, with the aim of creating a new generation of leaders who will leverage science for innovation in early childhood policy and practice settings to make research actionable. The Fellowship program fosters interdisciplinary collaboration and builds each Fellow’s capacity to design, conduct, and translate research into practices and policies that will improve outcomes for children facing adversity.

The year-long fellowship experience is designed around a cohort model that prioritizes the development of a multi-disciplinary learning community. Fellows are encouraged to share learning across their respective fields and constructively question their own thinking as well as each other’s.

Fellows attend training in the IDEAS Impact Framework ™, a new science-based innovation approach to program development and evaluation. They attend workshops to learn strategies for effectively framing and communicating their research to non-scientific audiences, as well as how to develop effective policy design and good leadership practices.

Fellows give a capstone academic round table to an invited group of interdisciplinary Harvard experts. This unique opportunity allows Fellows to receive different perspectives and constructive feedback on their research.

This year’s recipients and their topics of study include:

  • Jacob Beckerman—Preventing obesity by improving early childhood nutrition
  • Emily Hanno—Evaluating interventions aimed at improving caregiver practices
  • Gabriel Schwartz—Examining the links between neighborhoods, social policy, and racial and health inequities
  • Michele Zemplenyi—Utilizing biostatistics to determine the effects of prenatal exposures to toxins

Since its launch, the Fellowship program has supported seven emerging scholars whose research is focused on a range of factors that can affect early childhood development, with a view to finding novel solutions to persistent challenges.

This feeds directly into the mission of the Novak Djokovic Foundation, which is to promote healthy child development and high-quality early education by empowering and training teachers and supporting innovative academic research. The Foundation believes in giving every child the opportunity to grow up, play, and develop in stimulating, creative, and safe settings.

The 2019-2020 Djokovic Science and Innovation Fellows

Jacob Beckerman is a doctoral candidate in population health sciences, a program offered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research interests lie in early childhood nutrition, obesity prevention, and the social determinants of health. His current research focuses on the timing of weight gain in early childhood to inform when is best to intervene, as well as the relationship between neighborhood context and early childhood obesity. Jacob is also investigating the impacts of a peer-led health promotion program for the parents of preschool-aged children in low-income communities. Jacob received a B.S. in biology with a minor in Spanish from Georgetown University, and an M.P.H. in community health sciences from the University of California, Los Angeles. His mentor will be Kirsten Davison, Donald and Sue Pritzker Associate Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan Departments of Nutrition and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

*Photo credit-Lisa Rau

Emily Hanno is a doctoral candidate in education policy and program evaluation, a program offered by the Harvard Graduate School of Education in collaboration with the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Through her research, Emily seeks to unpack the processes of common professional development interventions aimed at improving caregiver practices, to understand what about coaching interventions works and what doesn’t. Emily received a B.A. in economics and international relations from Tufts University, and an Ed.M. in human development and psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her mentor will be Center-affiliated faculty member Dana Charles McCoy, Assistant Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

*Photo credit-Tan Pham

Gabriel Schwartz is a doctoral candidate in population health sciences, a program offered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His research in social epidemiology examines links between neighborhoods, social policy, and racial and health inequities. Currently, Gabriel’s work explores the impact of eviction on children’s well-being and the relation between discriminatory policing regimes and birth outcomes. Gabriel received a B.A. in human biology and sociology from Brown University. His mentor will be Lisa Berkman, Director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, Director of the Ph.D. Program in Population Health Sciences, and Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy, Epidemiology, and Global Health and Population at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Michele Zemplenyi is a doctoral candidate in biostatistics, a program offered by the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in collaboration with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Her research examines the intersections of genomics, environmental science, and children’s health. Michele wants to explore how prenatal exposure to toxins can affect long-term health outcomes for children. Michele received a A.B. in statistics and a Secondary Field in chemistry from Harvard College, and an A.M. in biostatistics from Harvard University. Her mentor will be Brent Coull, Professor of Biostatistics, Associate Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health.

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