What drew you to your field?
I became interested in Russian literature in high school, and began studying Russian in college. After I graduated, I went on an exchange program to work at the Red Cross in Siberia. I became fascinated by the subject of public health in the former Soviet Union, and worked in that field for several years. Eventually, I returned to my first love—literature—and entered the PhD program at Columbia.
How would you explain your current research to someone outside of your field?
I am researching the use of Russia's greatest cultural hero, the writer Alexander Pushkin, in evolving ideas of Russian national identity during the transition from communism. I am particularly interested in how a cultural hero can be used as a kind of bridge to reduce the sense of trauma and loss associated with major political and historical ruptures.
What is your favorite thing about being a student at Columbia GSAS?
The libraries. It gives me endless delight to know that I have access to almost any book on any topic in any language. I love to fall down research rabbit holes.