LEADS Graduate Mentors

Jackie Abing


Hello! My name is Jackie Abing (she/her/hers) and I am a first year PhD student in Sociocultural & Linguistic Anthropology at UIUC. My current research project looks at the history of Mexican Repatriation in 1930s U.S. history and the (linguistic/social/political) implications of legal apologies. In my free-time, I enjoy spending time with loved ones, my cat (Tsubaki), and cooking! I'm looking forward to our time together this semester!





Margie Giacalone


Pronouns: She/they

Degree: 2nd year sociocultural & linguistic Anthropology PhD student

Research interests: I’m currently figuring out my research question(s), but I am interested in the intersections between identity and creative expression, social movements, migration, queer theory, gender, and the Andes.

Hobbies: I collect spoons and I like poetry, powerlifting, puzzles, dogs, and cooking (and eating more!)




Alex Orille


My name is Alex Orille. I am from Royal Oak, Michigan, which is a medium-sized city in the metro-Detroit area, and home to the Detroit Zoo! I got my bachelors and masters at Oakland University in Rochester Hills, Michigan where I studied biology and psychology. I am a first-year PhD student at UIUC in Biological Anthropology. I am a primatologist who is interested in the relationship between social bonding and health outcomes, and I am especially interested in parasite ecology and how social behaviors influence parasitism and vice-versa.

As for my non-academic interests, I love golf, reading, music, and TV! My favorite book is A Primate’s Memoirby Robert Sapolsky, my favorite music artists are The Strokes, Florence and the Machine, and Glass Animals, and my favorite TV shows are Peaky Blinders, Attack on Titan, and Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia.



Rachel Rusen

Rachel Rusen

Hello! My name is Rachel Rusen. I’m a PhD student in biological anthropology. I did my undergrad at McGill University in Montreal, where I fell in love with anthropology and discovered the amazing world of primatology. After graduating, I went to Peru to do an internship for a conservation organization. I followed groups of monkeys through the Amazonian rainforest. I did my master's at the University of Toronto (my hometown). My thesis was on early primate brain evolution. After that I spent a year in Uganda as a research assistant. I followed chimpanzees through the forest every day for a year. I came here to continue learning about chimps and the health problems they face in captivity.





Grace Shaw

Grace Shaw

I’m a graduate student in biological anthropology and my research focuses on how labor is biologically embodied through environment and stress that influence the epigenetic regulation of immune function. I am originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee and lived in Glasgow Scotland for a few years where I received my masters in cancer sciences. I worked in biotech industry in a cancer drug discover lab before pursuing my doctorate at UIUC. I am an avid backcountry backpacker and climber and enjoy dancing and rugby.




Jeongsu Shin

Jeongsu Shin

Hi! I am Jeongsu Shin (she/her). I am studying sociocultural anthropology focusing on environmental anthropology, East Asian Studies, and and Feminist Science and Technology Studies. My dissertation—Worldly Ecologies: Landscape, History, and Environmental Politics on Jeju Island—is an ethnographic exploration of the politics of ecology in Jeju Island, South Korea. I am originally from Seoul, South Korea and Urbana, IL is the first foreign city that I’ve lived in. I love reading and watching good stories for work (more reading) and free time (more watching).



Emma Verstraete

Emma V

Emma Verstraete (she/her) is a sixth year graduate student focusing on historical archaeology and the anthropology of health and medicine. In addition to her research background she has also worked in the private sector of archaeology (CRM), government oversight, and in a museum context. She is excited to mentor students looking to graduate school or who intend to enter the workforce.





Arielle Yvie Reich


Hi! My name is Arielle and I'm a first year PhD student studying forensic anthropology with a focus on how NAGPRA is implemented in the medicolegal context (or rather, is supposed to be implemented). This involves a lot of collaboration, which is great for me because I love meeting new people!

I grew up in Los Angeles then moved to New Orleans to attend to Tulane University. After graduating in Winter 2018 with my BS/MA, I took a few months to save up before attending field school. That same summer, I was invited to help with some bioarchaeological projects in Peru, which is where I applied for and accepted a job in CRM in Bismarck, North Dakota. I worked there for about two years before starting at UIUC. With all the moving around, I am very happy to feel settled here at UIUC for the first time in a long time!

I was involved in LEAD last fall and loved the program! I'm excited to meet my new group and am looking forward to a great semester!


Sahara Zitlali Vilchis


My name is Sahara Zitlali Vilchis, I do not have preferred pronouns. My concentration is in biological anthropology and this is my second year in graduate school. I am a single parent of two wild kids and we like adventures, doing arts and crafts, and reading silly comics. My research interests are in understanding the paleo-diets of ancient American populations through the analysis of dental calculus and its microbial composition. I am also interested in discussions on the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and how we can improve better practice research with indigenous peoples, their land, and their ancestors.