Category Archives: Our Team

Yeeli Mui

Yeeli Mui is a scholar of public health and urban planning. Dr. Mui’s research, teaching, and practice are driven by a focus to advance health equity through the lens of planning for food systems and community development. Using mixed-methods, she has examined inequities in urban food systems, policies and programs to mitigate obesity risk, and the impact of housing restoration on social capital and mental health outcomes.

As part of a multi-country project in the Global South, Dr. Mui leads an interdisciplinary research team to examine how smallholder farmers’ adaptations – in the face of urbanization, globalization of food, and climate change – impact farmer food security and health in Kerala, India. In the US context, Dr. Mui directs a study that aims to strengthen linkages between neighborhood revitalization efforts and community health through more place- and health-conscious strategies in Baltimore, MD.

Affiliations: Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity


PhD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

MPH, Yale School of Public Health

BS, University of California, Irvine

Select Publications

Mui Y, Ballard E, Lopatin E, Thornton RLJ, Pollack Porter K, Gittelsohn J. A community-based system dynamics approach suggests solutions for improving healthy food access in a low-income urban environment. PLoS ONE. 2019;14(5).  

Mui Y, Hodgson K, Khojasteh M, Raja S. Rejoining the planning and public health fields: Leveraging comprehensive plans to strengthen food systems in an urban versus rural jurisdiction. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. 2018; 8(B):73-93.

Mui Y, Sirwatka A, Kumar R, Resor J, Goldberg D, Shulpani U, Radhakrishnan S, Raja S. Growing our food but nutrition insecure: Adaptations in the daily living practices of smallholder farmers in Kerala, India (under review).

See all publications by Yeeli Mui

Select Honors and Awards

Sylvia and Eddie C. Brown Community Health Scholarship, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2012-17

11th Annual Postdoctoral Research Symposium (1st Place), 2019


Athar Parvaiz

Athar Parvaiz is an award-winning researcher and writer based in Kashmir in the Himalayan region of South Asia. Mr. Parvaiz’s prolific writings illuminate environmental, health and agricultural challenges in the Global South with a special focus on the Himalayan region in South Asia. He has written about the ways in which the Himalayan region is adapting to changes posed by climate change.

His writings are based on grounded and detailed reporting from regions where there is limited availability of data, and data is hard to gather. As a writer, Mr. Parvaiz connects his understanding of locally-embedded environmental issues to global policy responses: In 2009 and 2015, he reported on global climate change negotiations from Copenhagen and Paris with a focus on the implications for the Global South.

Mr. Parvaiz’s work is routinely featured in international, national and regional venues including Thomson Reuters, Mongabay, Inter Press Service, HUFFPOST, Scidev.Net, , Scroll, IndiaSpend, Down to Earth, The Wire and Kashmir Observer.

Mr. Parvaiz is currently conducting research and writing about the value of localized food systems in the Global South through a collaboration with the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Community Lab (Food Lab) and the Community for Global Health Equity at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.

Syed Atqa Qadri

Atqa is interested in using artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics to create an efficient and effective healthcare system while promoting a positive social change in the health-tech industry. Atqa is a first-year Master of Engineering Science student with focus in Robotics at the University at Buffalo. Prior to working at the Lab, she worked as a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) engineer with General Electricals (GE) Ltd. in India. Outside of school and work, she enjoys gardening, painting, and hiking.

Samina Raja, PhD

Dr. Samina Raja is the Principal Investigator of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York.

Her research, teaching, and civic engagement focuses on the role of community-led local government planning and policy in building  equitable, sustainable, and healthy communities. Her current projects focus on using the food system as a lever and space for promoting food and health equity.

Her research is published in leading planning and health journals. She is the lead author of the Planners Guide to Community and Regional Food Planning: Transforming Food Environments, Building Healthy Communities, one of the earliest guidance reports on food systems planning published  by the national American Planning Association. For additional publications, please visit the publications page.

Rida Shams

Rida Shams is interested in changing policy landscapes to enable more equitable, accessible, and affordable healthcare. Rida is a fellow at the Food Lab, where she is focusing on leveraging urban agriculture for protecting public health in conflict cities such as Srinagar, Kashmir.

Rida is also pursuing a Master’s of Science in Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with a concentration in health policy. Previously, she earned her BS in Health Policy and Management at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Outside of academics, Rida enjoys digital art and painting, exploring coffee shops, and hiking.

Rose Thomas

Rose Thomas

Rose Thomas is a third-year graduate student in Public Health and Social Work with a focus in Health Services Administration and macro-level social work. They are interested in combating health inequities in both local and global communities by utilizing principles of co-production knowledge on an institutional level to achieve the liberation of marginalized groups of people. 

In the past year as a UB Food Lab’s research assistant, they have coordinated the evaluation project based on healthy community stores on the East Side of Buffalo. Aside from being a research assistant, Rose is also the Student Ambassador for the School of Public Health and Health Professions, where they piloted a ‘students of color’ mentoring program to best enhance their academic and career experiences. Outside of school and work, Rose enjoys exercising, cooking, painting, and growing plants.

Fuzhen Yin

A third-year doctoral student in urban and regional planning and a Presidential Fellow at UB, Fuzhen Yin’s research interests lie at the intersections of spatial modeling, social network analysis, and machine learning. Her research investigates how the evolution of urban technologies challenges and enriches our understanding of space and place. Particularly, she aims to answer how people interact in hybrid spaces (e.g., physical, relational, and cyberspaces), especially as digital technologies increasingly permeate every aspect of daily life. She is interested in unpacking the implication of these interactions for urban planning. 

At the UB Food Lab, Fuzhen is working on the Growing Food Policy from the Ground Up. She investigates the role of social networks (or social capitals) in the Buffalo Food System. 

Before joining UB, Fuzhen earned two Master’s degrees, a Diplôme d’État de Paysagiste (DEP) from ENSAP Bordeaux, France, and a Master’s in Spatial Data Science and Visualization from UCL, UK. In her spare time, Fuzhen likes to play video games (welcome to #wildrift!). She also enjoys reading, swimming, and cooking.


Rachel Grandits

Rachel Grandits

Rachel Grandits is interested in food systems planning, especially in issues of equity, accessibility, and sustainability. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Sustainability Leadership at the University at Buffalo. Previously, Rachel obtained a Master’s Degree in Social Work at UB, where she quickly realized that her passions lie in pursuing change at a broader, systemic level. Rachel has previously worked in mental health settings and continues to pursue interests in social and environmental sustainability. In the Food Lab, Rachel has been documenting the ways in which questions of equity inform urban agriculture policy. Rachel enjoys teamwork and uses her collaborative skills to coordinate projects in the Food Lab. In her spare time, Rachel loves to spend time in nature and with her cats, cook, play music, read, paint and laugh.

Nathaniel Mich

Nathaniel Mich’s professional and research interests include urban agriculture, health equity in refugee communities, and land use policy. In the Food Lab, Nathaniel is coordinating a nine-county effort to make food systems information publicly accessible. He is also a second-year Master of Urban Planning Student and Arthur A. Schomburg Fellow, specializing in Food Systems and Community Health. Prior to joining the Food Lab, Nathaniel worked in non-profit community development and program management for nearly a decade, most recently as the Edible Education & Urban Agriculture Specialist for Foodlink, Inc. in Rochester, NY. He is involved in food systems advocacy in the Rochester region, and is a member of the Rochester Food Policy Council. Nathaniel holds a BA from Oberlin College in Anthropology, Archaeological Studies, and Geology. Outside of work, Nathaniel is an avid gardener, aspiring potter and lover of table-top role-playing games.