Category Archives: Past Lab Members

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.

Gabriella Hall

Gabriella Hall is an undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo. She is currently pursuing degrees in Communication and Sociology with a certificate in Journalism. Gabriella joined the UB Food Lab while finishing up her senior year in high school in the spring of 2018 and has been a researcher since. Gabriella’s work aims to empower marginalized communities of color through research focused on addressing the cyclical nature of food injustice in local and national communities. Gabriella has conducted research on injustices experienced by African American farmers in the U.S. South as part of a series of written pieces and documented the capacity of community food organizations in Western New York. With her team, Gabriella also won the Innovation Award during the 2018 Global Innovation Challenge, a multi-disciplinary student competition designed to address food equity challenges in the Global South.

Most recently, Gabriella has co-authored a book chapter titled “Ethical Lessons from Yesteryear” (in review) about the historical underpinnings of community-led justice efforts in Black Buffalo to be in memory of the late food systems scholar and advocate, Jerry Kaufman. In addition, Gabriella was recently awarded the 2019 Carl R. Allen Memorial Scholarship through the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists for her commitment to journalism and Buffalo’s black community.  In the lab, Gabriella is the lead for project Levers for Change in which youth-centered community food organizations are evaluated and documented to learn of the ways local food leaders are empowering and educating Buffalo’s youth.

Avery Sirwatka

Avery is an undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo.  He is currently pursuing degrees in Urban & Public Policy and Sociology with minors in Public Health and Environmental Design.  Prior to joining the Food Lab, Avery attended Jamestown Community College (JCC), where he received degrees in Communication and Social Sciences.  While at JCC, Avery worked with fourth-grade students in a science education program and served as an academic tutor for the college community. Avery also participated in the SUNY Model European Union and was awarded the Palestinian Studies Award for his Scholars Day presentation, ‘Palestine: 70 Years of Nakba.’ Avery continues to work with Jamestown Community College as an Alumni Mentor.

At the Food Lab, Avery currently works across local and global projects, focusing specifically on work in the Buffalo-Niagara region as a coordinator of an assessment project through the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County and General Mills Foundation and in Kerala, India under Plan-REFUGE.  Avery traveled to Kerala this past summer to conduct fieldwork on smallholder farmer resiliency in the face of climate change, and will be presenting his findings at the national Association for Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) Conference this October. He also runs the Food Lab’s policy databases and websites, allowing him to pursue his research interests in participatory planning and in integrating food system plans into existing municipal-level policies, particularly in the context of the Global South.  Avery is also interested in rural economic development, planning in post-conflict areas, and the creation of new pedagogies in food systems planning curricula.

Outside of the Food Lab, Avery recently obtained grant funding to study the experiences of refugee students in higher education, and in particular how students utilize personal agency to adapt to new institutional environments.  Avery also recently received a fellowship from the Washington, D.C.-based Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress, where he plans to conduct research on the potential of public financing to strengthen community food systems. After graduation, Avery hopes to obtain his MUP/JD from the University at Buffalo, and later pursue a PhD to teach food systems planning at a university-level.  He can be contacted at

Camile Brown

Camile Brown recently received her Master of Science in Real Estate Development, with a focus on affordable housing. She has been with the Food Lab since June 2017, and currently serves as Lab Manager. Working directly with the Principal Investigator, Camile shepherds local and global projects from ideation to completion.

Camile enjoys painting and poetry in her spare time, and teaches others to draw as well. She encourages everyone to explore their artistic side. She says regardless of skill level, art allows one to have a “sense of release of one’s inner thoughts and feelings; it’s a way to tell a story in a provocative way; it’s a way to connect people; and, it’s plain fun!” Drawing on her creative talents, Camile intends to focus on the role of art in creating healing and affordable housing developments.




Archana Mohan

Archana Mohan is an undergraduate student at the University at Buffalo. She is currently pursuing degrees in Business Administration (Finance) and Mathematics.  Prior to joining the Food Lab in the fall of 2018, Archana attended Placid Vidya Vihar in her home of Kerala, India. She also served as a Research Aide on the Ground-Level Agriculture Survey System (GLASS) through the Department of Mathematics and Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity. Through her work at the Food Lab, Archana has been involved in global projects related to smallholder farmers’ well-being. She is looking forward to learning more about the connection between food systems and different economic classes, and how this intersection affects the global economy. Outside of the Food Lab, Archana is interested in learning new languages, and is currently pursuing Modern Greek.