Graduate Students

This page lists current graduate students and their projects. For a listing of previous graduates of the department and their dissertation topics, visit this page.

Current Graduate Students

Zain Alattar

Primary area: Islamic Studies

Zain Alattar was born to Iraqi parents in Houston, TX who fled Baghdad at the outset of the Iran-Iraq war in the early 1980's. His research interests, broadly speaking, include Platonism, Neoplatonism, falsafa, kalam, Sufism, classical Islamicate poetry, Islamic jurisprudence, and Arabic grammar (nahw). In his spare time he likes to fly, climb, and bike.

Syed Shiraz Ali

Primary area: Islamic Studies

Shiraz is a doctoral candidate in Islamic Studies and focuses on intellectual and cultural history of the Islamic east. He is also pursuing a designated emphasis at Berkeley's Center for the Study of Religion. His current research concerns the development of philosophy and rhetoric between early modern Iran and South Asia. He received a master’s degree in Islamic Studies from Harvard University in 2018.

Wihad Al-Tawil

Primary area: Islamic Studies

Wihad Al-Tawil is from Detroit, Michigan, and studies the ninth-century intermingling of cultures and ideas from the Islamic, Syriac and Byzantine milieux, as well as the development of learning during the early Abbasid era. She has earned Master’s degrees from the University of Chicago (2020) in Middle Eastern Studies and Wayne State University (2015) in Art History. Her research centers on the ways intellectual, philosophical and visual expressions reflect ideological trends across culturally related, but religiously and linguistically varied social spheres. She is also engaged in an ongoing pursuit of Baghdad’s Bayt al-Hikma. Wihad is a lover of art, music, history, and wisdom.

Doaa Atamna

Primary area: Arabic Language and Literature

Doaa is a student of classical Arabic poetry and comparative literary studies. Her interests are in narrative, translation, and philology.

Rachel Barnas

Primary area: Egyptology

Rachel (she/her) is a PhD student in Egyptology, with a focus in the composition and use of magical texts in ancient Egypt, particularly those of daily life. Her research interests include the use of language and literary devices in these texts and its implications for the ancient Egyptian worldview, as well as the introduction of a wider range of theoretical and comparative approaches into Egyptology. She holds an MA from the University of Toronto and a BA from Yale University, and is a former Terrace Research Associate in Egyptian Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Miriam Bernstein

Primary area: Ancient Iranian Studies

Huzaifah Bharucha

Primary area: Islamic Studies

Sumayya Bostan

Primary area: Islamic Studies

Sumayyah is a graduate student specializing in Islamic Law, with a particular focus on Hanafi Law, and Arabic Literature. She holds a BA degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies from SOAS, University of London. Prior to her undergraduate studies, Sumayyah completed a seven-year Dars-e-nizami program, which laid a strong foundation for her academic pursuits. Alongside her studies, she has gained valuable experience as an Arabic manuscript reader. Her research interests revolve around the language-law nexus, the evolution of the Hanafi school, orthodoxy within Islamic law, and the complex dynamics of authority in lawmaking, specifically the dynamic interplay between popular practice and judicial/scholarly authority. Sumayyah has recently presented on such topics as Abu Hanifa’s opinion on reciting the Qur’an in Persian it appears in the Post-Classical commentary tradition.

Daniyal Channa

Primary area: Islamic Studies

Nayereh Doosti

Primary area: Persian Language and Literature

Shirelle Maya Doughty

Primary area: Hebrew Language and Literature

Shirelle Maya's research examines the sexual politics of women's gradual inclusion in the formation of modern Hebrew and Yiddish literatures over the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, exploring the relationship between rapid changes in marital and sexual norms and women's increased cultural participation. Shirelle's recent courses on women writers of Hebrew literature also engaged with questions of how incorporating women's voices alongside canonical texts by men complicates common narratives about Zionism and assumptions about its relationship to Hebrew literature.

Beatrice de Faveri

Primary area: Egyptology

Currently a second-year PhD student in Egyptology, I received my BA in Classical Archaeology from the University of Padua, Italy. I then graduated from the University of Bologna, Italy with a MA in Civilizations and Cultures of the Ancient World focusing on Egyptology. Since 2019, I am also a member of the IFAO archaeological mission to Coptos.
As for my current research interests, I specialize in ancient Egyptian magical texts and their materiality. While being especially interested in the philological aspects of the composition and transmission of magical spells, my research also extends to the relation between magical texts and the material culture connected to their ritual use in religious practices.

Nesma Gewily

Primary area: Arabic Language and Literature

Nesma Gewily holds an M.A. in Arabic Literature from the American University in Cairo, where she completed a thesis on the representation of Cairo as a neoliberal city in modern Egyptian literature. Her work currently centers on post-revolution literature, the intersection between history and literature, Arab-American literature, secularism, and political Islam. Nesma is a published writer and translator. Her book, Irth al-Hikayah, was published by Dar al-Shorouk. She co-translated This Is What Has Come to Be, published by AUC Press. She is currently the non-fiction editor of Rowayat.

Evan Grennon

Primary area: Islamic Studies

Dylan Guerra

Primary area: Cuneiform Studies

Dylan Guerra obtained his B.A. in Anthropology from UCLA in 2015. While he was there he studied cuneiform alongside archaeology, and excavated in Tunisia and Ethiopia. His academic interests include scribal schools, lexicography, genre and textual transmission, scribal identity, the performance of magic, and humor in Mesopotamian literature. In addition, he is greatly interested in the Digital Humanities as way to model and strengthen Assyriological research.

Jessica Johnson

Primary area: Egyptology

Jess received her B.A in Art History from New York University in 2013 and her M.A in Egyptian Art History and Archaeology and a Graduate Certification in Museum Studies from the University of Memphis in 2015-16.  Her M.A thesis focused on the synecdochical relationship between Gate Guardians and the demon Ammit in New Kingdom Books of the Dead.  Jess's interests include Demonology and narrative constructions within religious texts, tombs, and temple wall decorations. Jess is also interested in the museological well being of Egyptian collections and their public outreach ability.  She has experience working within the museological field for the past ten years within university settings, galleries, and auction houses. She hopes to continue both her Egyptological and Museum Studies passions interchangeably through pursuing a career as a Curator.

Jason Moser

Primary area: Cuneiform Studies

Jason is a PhD student in Cuneiform Studies. His academic interests include the transmission and reception of languages and writing systems throughout the Near East, historical/comparative linguistics and applying computational techniques to assist these endeavors. He has a background in Mathematics, Classical languages and computer programming.

Brooke Norton

Primary area: Egyptology

Brooke Norton is a Ph.D. Candidate in Egyptian Archaeology and Art History at UC Berkeley. She is also the Associate Curator of the Badè Museum of Biblical Archaeology. Her research interests focus on cultural connections between New Kingdom Egypt and the Southern Levant. She has conducted archaeological research in the Middle East and Mediterranean region but primarily works with the Wadi el-Hudi Expedition in the Egyptian Eastern Desert. She received her B.A. in Archaeology from Boston University and her M.A. in Ancient Near Eastern and Egyptian Studies from New York University. Her M.A. thesis focused on an examination of the archaeological contexts of Execration Texts. Her dissertation examines New Kingdom Egyptian and Egyptianizing temples in the Sinai and the Levant.

Matthew Ong

Primary area: Cuneiform Studies

Matthew Ong obtained a BA in mathematics from Princeton cum laude in 2003, and an MA in Near Eastern Studies from UCLA in 2010 and one in Linguistics from UCSC in 2013. In 2008 he was a Fulbright Scholar in Syria doing research on cuneiform collections in museums and studying Arabic. During 2022-2023 he was a scholar in the Israeli Sandwich Fellowship program, working at Ariel University on applications of machine learning to Assyriology. In addition to the digital humanities, his research interests include applications of cognitive linguistics to Assyriology, the conceptual history of religion, and historiography. His PhD thesis, provisionally titled “A Conceptual Metaphor Theory Approach to Divine Enumerative Description in Akkadian”, argues for the existence of an implicit poetic modality in late Akkadian divine hymns that he terms ‘divine enumerative description’. This modality, he argues, combines the generative potential of conceptual metaphor with the structuring principles of conservative cuneiform scholarship to produce what we could call a form of literary creativity. Matthew’s GitHub page:

Betty Rosen

Primary areas: Arabic and Hebrew Language and Literature

Betty Rosen is a doctoral student focusing on Arabic and Hebrew literature. She earned her A.B. in Comparative Literature from Harvard in 2012 and her MA in Arabic Literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London in 2013. She is interested in medieval Arabic theories of poetics and rhetoric—as well as Hebrew texts that respond to those theories—and in reading this Near Eastern critical tradition as an equal partner alongside the Continental tradition. In doing so, she aims to enable new, productive, and genuinely multicultural ways of thinking about the possibilities of literature and literary thought.

Chloë Piazza

Primary area: Hebrew Language and Literature. Designated emphasis in Jewish Studies and Gender and Women’s Studies.

Chloë (Zisl) Piazza's areas of study are Talmud and Yiddish literature, which they approach through a queer theoretical lens. Their research focuses on depictions of racial, sexual, and social difference in Jewish literature as a mechanism for both exploitation and solidarity in service of clarifying a Jewish self-concept. They received a 2018 Translation Fellowship from the Yiddish Book Center for a translation of Di Agune, an early Yiddish play by Maria Lerner, which will appear in an upcoming volume on women in Yiddish theatre from Syracuse University Press. When not in academic drag, they perform original queer Jewish gorelesque.

Lubna Safi

Primary area: Arabic Language and Literature. Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory.

Lubna Safi holds an M.A. in Comparative Literature from The Pennsylvania State University, where she completed a thesis on 20th century Spanish poets and the ways they invoked and mobilized al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia) in order to negotiate Spain’s changing national, racial, and literary identities. Her work centers on aesthetic experience, knowledge formation, reading praxis, and theories of vision and the imagination, with a focus on al-Andalus and the Maghreb. Her dissertation examines the relationship between vision, poetic representation, and knowledge in the poetry and literary theory of premodern al-Andalus and 20th century Morocco.  She has previously published in The Comparatist and Exchanges and has a version of her M.A. thesis forthcoming in Comparative Literature.

Fernando Sanchez

Primary area: Arabic Language and Literature

Ahmad Rashid Salim

Primary area: Persian Language and Literature

Ahmad Rashid Salim (احمد راشد سليم) is a doctoral candidate in the fields of Islamic studies and Persian literature. His areas of scholarship include classical Persian literature - particularly mystical poetry, translation, Sufism, Qur’an interpretation, language and power, Persian literature in Afghanistan, the Kabuli dialect, Shi’i - Sunni polemics, and religious thought in Afghanistan. His dissertation is titled: The Harmony of Hayrat: Words, Wonder, and Worlds in Persian Mystical Poetry and Poetics. Salim is also the founder of Aleff Institute, a premier online instruction program for the Persian language, with a special emphasis on the Kabuli dialect. He is the author of Islam Explained, a best-selling book utilized in a number of university courses throughout the United States. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a focus on Islamic studies, and was awarded a master’s degree by the Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley.

Jason Silvestri

Primary area: Egyptology

Jason Silvestri is a PhD student in Egyptian Archaeology and Art History. He received his B.A. hon. in Ancient Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations from the University of Toronto in 2019. His current research interests focus on issues of multiculturalism, diversity, and migration in New Kingdom and Third Intermediate Period Egypt. Additionally, he is interested in applications of the Digital Humanities to Egyptology, particularly with regard to archaeological data.

Darryl Smith

Primary area: Egyptology

Smith received earlier training from the University of Manchester and Cambridge University. At the latter, he wrote his MPhil thesis on critical topologies of multi-burials in ancient Egypt and Nubia from the Old to early New Kingdom. His research interests include curvilinear architecture, nautics of the Egyptian afterlife, archaeological theory and ancient Egyptology, and the construction and representation of “piety” through Egyptian religious titles. Smith’s other scholarly home is in modern religious and philosophical thought. From outlooks on theodicy, his work there to date has ground some analytic prisms for tracking diffractions of the problem of evil around premises of civilization. Smith teaches Religious Studies at Pomona College.

Rachel Webberman

Primary area: Middle Eastern Art & Archaeology

Rachel Webberman is a Ph.D. student focusing on the body, performance, and
spectacle in the Bronze Age Middle East. She received a B.A. in religion from
Oberlin College in 2015 and an M.A. in public history, with a concentration in
museum studies, from North Carolina State University in 2021. Her M.A. thesis
examined acrobatic performance in Bronze Age Mesopotamia and Anatolia.

Jordan Weitzel

Primary area: Middle Eastern Art & Archaeology

Jordan Weitzel's research interests revolve around the society, economy, and polities of the Levant during the Bronze and Iron Ages. His publications can be found at:

Madeline Wyse

Primary area: Hebrew Language and Literature

Madeline Wyse received her B.A. in Classics and Mathematics from Pomona College in 2011 and a second B.A. in Arabic Language and Literature from Portland State University in 2015. She is interested the construction of “religion” and demarcation of religious communities from the advent of Christianity to the rise of Islam.

Oren Yirmiya

Primary area: Hebrew Language and Literature. Designated emphasis in Jewish Studies and Critical Theory.

Oren Yirmiya is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in Modern Hebrew Literature. He is also affiliated with the Center for Jewish Studies and the Program in Critical Thinking. Oren's research centers around the exploration of tradition in secularized literature, with a particular focus on the enduring presence of late-antique Jewish prose and poetry throughout modern history. His current dissertation project, titled "The Other('s) Lyric: Piyyut, Agency, and Alterity in 20th-century Hebrew poetry" delves into the intersections of lyric theory and the Hebrew premodern genre of Piyyut. Through this investigation, Oren sheds light on the lasting impact of piyyut's intertextual practices on the works of modern Jewish poets, such as Avraham Shlonsky, Jiri Langer, Erez Biton, Loren Milk, and Shimon Adaf.