TCI Scholars

TCI Scholars include Cornell graduate students or Indian university graduate students who are in progress towards a Ph.D, masters, or equivalent degree, who are actively engaged in research aligning with TCI’s key research priorities.

Jocelyn Boiteau: Ph.D. student, Nutritional Sciences

Jocelyn is a first year PhD student in the field of International Nutrition. She is interested in studying agriculture and nutrition linkages, specifically how changes in food systems impact women’s roles in agriculture and contribute to nutrition outcomes. Jocelyn received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutritional Sciences from Cornell University, completed a dietetic internship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital to become a registered dietitian, and briefly worked with a local NGO in Rajasthan on agriculture and nutrition activities. Most recently, Jocelyn worked as the Project Administrator for the Food Aid Quality Review at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.


Rohil Sahai Bhatnagar: Ph.D. student, Food Science and Technology

Rohil is a first year Ph.D. student in the field of Food Science and Technology at Cornell University. Rohil holds a Bachelor’s engineering degree in Biotechnology from Delhi’s Baba Saheb Ambedkar Institute of Technology, and a Master’s degree in Food Science and Technology from Cornell University. During his time at Cornell University, he studied the mechanisms of phytochemicals in cancer prevention, and developed grape-pomace based extruded snack products. He also has product development experience working in the food industry in New York. His research interests lie in bridging the gap between nutritional intake and optimal health. He aspires to alleviate the state of persistent micronutrient malnutrition by utilizing scientific strategies to develop affordable and nourishing food therapies.  He is also interested in translating promising bench work findings to real life applications in order to achieve health optimization.


Payal Seth: Ph.D. student, Applied Economics and Management

Payal is a second year Ph.D. student in the field of Applied Economics and Management. Her work is primarily focused on development economics and applied econometrics. As a TCI Scholar, her fieldwork focuses on linkages between sanitation and nutrition. Working with the partner NGO Grameen Development Services, Payal will examine the behavior change methodology known as Community-led Total Sanitation which stimulates a collective sense of disgust and shame among community members as they confront the crude facts about mass open defecation practices and its negative impacts on the entire community. She desires to analyze the bearing of this behavior change along with construction of toilets on the sanitation practices, diarrheal incidence in children and the safety of women. Prior to joining Cornell, she graduated first in her class attaining a Bachelors in Economics from I.P College, Delhi University (DU) and ranked seventh in the Delhi School of Economics, DU during her master's degree. She has also worked as a RA with Dr. Parikshit Ghosh, Reserve Bank of India and Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister.


Vidya Bharathi Rajkumar: Ph.D. student, Applied Economics and Management

Vidya is a second year Ph.D. student in the field of Applied Economics and Management. Vidya’s research interests lie in the field of Development Economics and Public Policy. Prior to joining Cornell, Vidya worked with a team of economists headed by Dr. Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard University) on a Randomized Control Trial (RCT) in Chennai, India, aimed at understanding the impact of chronic physical pain on productivity and cognitive function. Vidya holds a Master’s degree in Economics from Madras School of Economics, and a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Chennai’s Stella Maris College, securing the #1 rank in both the programs. Her master's thesis assessed the linkage between Political competition and Development Outcomes in Indian States, and she is currently working towards publishing it. She has briefly worked on a research project under the guidance of Dr. C. Rangarajan (Former Governor, Reserve Bank of India), studying the effectiveness of the Indian Government’s Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). As a summer intern at the Reserve Bank of India, Vidya studied the performance of government sponsored, lost cost credit opportunities for poor Indian farmers. Having worked in a neighborhood which houses some of India’s most underprivileged, Vidya strongly feels that her experiences have increased her drive to understand and study development issues better.


Kathryn Merckel: Ph.D. student, Nutritional Sciences

Katy is a second year Ph.D. student in the field of International Nutrition. She is interested in studying maternal and child nutrition in India, particularly the ways in which education and empowerment influence the consumption patterns of mothers and their families. Katy has been involved with TCI in several capacities over the past two years, first as a summer intern, and then as a Research Support Specialist. She holds a Master's in International Development from Cornell, during which she studied patterns of intra-household food allocation in Maharashtra and Telangana. She completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She has studied Swahili as a Boren Scholar in Tanzania, and most recently was awarded a FLAS Fellowship from the US Department of Education to study Hindi.


Anthony Wenndt: Ph.D. student, Plant Pathology

Anthony is a second year Ph.D. student in the field of Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology. He is interested in the biology and ecology of toxigenic fungi infecting crop plants and the impacts of mycotoxins on food security and nutrition. Before joining the research program of Rebecca J. Nelson at Cornell, Anthony received B.A. degrees in Biology and Russian Language with a concentration in Global Development Studies from Grinnell College. He has conducted research in the disciplines of plant pathology (USDA-ARS; University of Costa Rica), agricultural development (ICIPE; Mbita, Kenya), and land reform policy (United Nations FAO; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan), with especial emphasis on the intersections of agriculture, policy, and society. Anthony plans to engage with smallholders in India to characterize the extent of mycotoxin contamination in village-level food systems, and to develop context-specific survey methodologies for sustainable, scalable mycotoxin management.


Shiuli Vanaja: Ph.D. candidate, Applied Economics and Management 

Shiuli is a third year Ph.D. candidate in the field of Applied Economics and Management. Her research interests lie in the field of development economics and resource economics. She is interested in exploring the linkages between nutrition and poverty in a backward but natural resource-rich region of India. Shiuli has an M.Phil and M.S degree in Economics from Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University. As part of her M.Phil dissertation, she researched the changes in the development status of local population as a result of changes in the occupational structure, land availability and  forest based livelihood practices in the Sundargarh District of Odisha. Growing up in a tribal village in Madhya Pradesh and taking part in different socio-political human rights movements have inspired and encouraged her towards development economics.


Vidya Vemireddy: Ph.D. candidate, Applied Economics and Management

Vidya is a third year Ph.D. student in the field of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell's Dyson School. Vidya is interested in Development Economics and, in particular, exploring the linkages between agriculture and development. Prior to joining Cornell, Vidya received a Masters degree in Economics from Boston University and a Bachelors degree from Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women. In her view, her experience with social work and travel has helped her to understand the intricacies and complexities of the societies she cares about.


Maureen Valentine: Ph.D. candidate, Animal Science

Maureen is a third year Ph.D. candidate in the department of Animal Science who is continuing as a TCI scholar after completing her Masters degree with the program. During her Masters, Maureen's research focused on goat nutrition and feeding practices in the Udaipur District of Rajasthan, a part of India where goat farming is a vital source of income for many families. For her Ph.D, she plans to focus on the widespread deficit of biomass for animal consumption in India. Dairy products are a critical source of income for small farmers and high quality nutrition for the Indian population. Animal nutrition is a major limiting factor for dairy production, and if improvements could be sustained for better-quality feeding of dairy animals, livelihoods and human nutrition could be improved. Maureen plans to work with women’s dairy cooperatives to research how livestock feeding and nutrition could be improved.


Phil Frost: M.S. student, Crop and Soil Sciences

Phil's research lies in the field of Soil Health and the development of an appropriate Soil Health Assessment Framework for Indian agriculture. With soil health, as in all agriculture, measurement precedes effective management. Therefore quantitatively measuring the physical, biological and chemical components of soil precedes remediation to allow for optimum crop and nutrition output. He will be working in collaboration with Indian entities such as PRADAN in Jharkhand province.


Tanvi Rao: Ph.D. candidate, Applied Economics and Management

Tanvi is a fifth year Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University in the Applied Economics and Management (AEM) department. Her primary research interests are in the field of development economics and applied econometrics. For her dissertation and as a TCI Scholar, she is studying the demand for different types of higher (post-secondary) education in India. For this she conducted a primary survey of 12th grade students, across ten public colleges spanning urban and rural areas, in the East Indian state of Jharkhand. Her research identifies students who are constrained in their ability to borrow for enrolling in different education tracks and experimentally evaluates the role of providing information regarding the measured returns to higher education types in the region, on the borrowing behavior of students and their education choices. Tanvi also works with ICRISAT’s VDSA panel dataset to study the relative importance of agricultural versus non-agricultural pathways of reducing malnutrition in India and on evaluating the effectiveness of India’s flagship village-level community health worker program, known as the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) program. She holds an M.S. degree from the same department, and prior to coming to Cornell, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in economics from Delhi University’s Shri Ram College of Commerce.


Amit Anshumali: Ph.D. candidate, Development Sociology

Amit is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Development Sociology. Amit's work focuses on the connections between seasonal labor migration and local economic development in central India, spanning the fields of rural sociology, development economics and anthropology of labor. His broad research objective is to examine the linkages and tensions between the effects of non-farm employment on seasonal migrant worker households’ vis-à-vis the development of the local economy in rural Vidarbha. Amit will examine the effects of non-farm employment on the distribution of household expenditures in farm worker households’ and intra-household gender inequality. He believes that decisions on how money is spent, who benefits from the money, and its short- and long-term effects on household poverty are critical to understand the implications of non-farm employment. For carrying out his field research, Amit will primarily use the techniques of survey design and semi-structured interviews. Before coming to Cornell, Amit finished a Master’s in Agricultural Economics as well as Environmental Sciences from the Ohio State University (OSU), and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT) in Mumbai.