Category Archives: Past Lab Members

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.

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.

Yifan Wang

Yifan Wang is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geography, University at Buffalo (UB). His research involves formal ontology, computational ontology, geospatial semantics in flood response, and artificial intelligence in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Yifan finished his M.S. in Geographic Information Science at UB, and he also holds a B.Eng. Degree in Electronic Engineering from the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. While pursuing his Ph.D. in Geography, Yifan also took courses in Philosophy and Computer Science. His philosophical thinking has motivated him to think of information systems from diverse perspectives, and has provided him insights into the development of GIS. During college, Yifan worked as a volunteer teacher in the farms of Phonsavang, Laos, and in Sukabumi, Indonesia, where he interacted with children and low income populations. Such experiences have motivated him to devote his expertise to help people and the community. Yifan worked as a Teaching Assistant and has taught various courses and labs, including Maps, Web-based GIS, Earth, Climate and Environment, and GIS. In his spare time, Yifan plays the trumpet in the UB symphony orchestra and also enjoys photography and playing soccer.

Nina Sayles

Nina Sayles is a joint Master of Urban Planning (environmental planning) and Master of Public Health Nutrition student at Harvard University. Her undergraduate program, a BA in Health: Science, Society, and Policy from Brandeis University, drew a clear connection between the built environment and community health and led her to combine urban planning and public health; practical experiences before graduate school, including market gardening, food retail, and food service, steered her focus to a specialization in food systems. Nina is interested in cultivating urban and rural synergies to improve regional food systems coordination. In her spare time, Nina trains as a competitive sabre fencer, and she enjoys gardening, cooking, and playing music. 

Claire Finnerty

Claire Finnerty is a Master’s of Public Health candidate in the Individualized program at the University at Buffalo, focusing on Food Systems and Nutrition. Her passions include reducing food insecurity in communities and exploring agriculture-nutrition linkages. Claire has previously worked in the emergency food world, coordinating food access for children at a food bank and working on a mobile produce market.  In her spare time she enjoys crafting and being outdoors.

Saima Malik

Saima Malik is an aspiring PhD scholar from Kashmir Valley. She completed her Master’s in English Literature from the University of Kashmir, and her Bachelor’s in the same discipline. Previously, Miss Malik has interned as news editor with The Kashmiriyat, an online news portal. Currently she is working as a Research Investigator for a project run by Tata Institute of Social Sciences, dealing with a study of migrant workers in Kashmir. In the Food Lab, Saima is part of the “haakh project” team, supporting research with smallholder haakh growers. Saima is a voracious reader, and her research interests are in folk literature of Kashmir.

Rosanna Valencia

Rosanna Valencia is an undergraduate student in her last year of the B.S Architecture
program. She became interested in the field through her experiences living in NYC, and is particularly interested in urban anthropology and placemaking of migrant groups in cities. Through design she hopes to facilitate more public spaces of leisure, gathering, and outdoor recreation for disadvantaged communities. During this summer she was part of the LSAMP research program and focused on the role of environment and community in food systems. She worked with a local project that looked at the role of corner stores in food security and accessibility. She currently serves as the President of DoubleASAP (AASAP), a student-lead club catered to African American students and students of African descent within Architecture and Planning. For leisure, she enjoys music, photography, reading and painting.

Danielle Anderson

Danielle AndersonDanielle Anderson is a recent Master of Urban Planning graduate from the University at Buffalo, with specializations in economic development and community health and food systems. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from UB in 2015. Her interests include working to improve access to clean water sources in the global South, improving deteriorating water infrastructure, and freshwater conservation. During the past two years, she has gained knowledge in local and international planning techniques while developing skills in research, survey design, data collection, team coordination, and project management. She is also a University at Buffalo Kaufman Fellow for the 2020-2021 year. Danielle began working at the UB Food Lab in Summer 2020, following her work in Kerala, India on a food systems planning studio project. Outside the lab, Danielle enjoys spending time outdoors, traveling, being with friends, and cooking.