Graduate Student Biographies

Graduate students in a variety of departments (English, Slavic, German, Hispanic, History of Art and Architecture, etc.) focus on Film Studies for their Master’s or Doctoral degrees.  The Film Studies Program itself also offers two graduate certificates that can be earned in conjunction with a departmental degree — one at the master's and one at the doctoral level.

A PhD in Film Studies is offered at the University of Pittsburgh. While the student will earn a PhD in Film Studies (granted by the Film Studies Program), he or she will also be a full member of one of six Associated Departments (English, French, German, Hispanic, History of Art and Architecture, or Slavic), fulfilling its requirements (many of which will overlap with those in Film Studies). 

Below you will find a list of some current graduate students who are working in the area of Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.


Jesse Anderson-Lehman

Jesse holds an MA in Film and Media Studies from Emory University and a BA in Comparative Literary Studies from Northwestern University. He works on the intersections between animation and new media, such as the changes in animation production, form, and aesthetics with the introduction of computers, particularly from the 1990s onward. His other interests include the temporality of animation, film phenomenology, science and technology studies, and science fiction television.

Jordan Bernsmeier

I was born in Denver, grew up in California, Las Vegas, and Cincinnati, Ohio.  I received my B.A. in English and an M.A. in Poetry from the University of Cincinnati. I followed that with a MA in Film Studies at Ohio University completing a thesis entitled “From Haunting the Code to Queer Ambiguity: Historical Shifts in Adapting Lesbian Narratives from Paper to Film.” My current areas of interest include queer film, the impact of representation and visibility of lesbian characters in film, adaptation studies and cultural studies.

Katie Bird

Katie Bird is a doctoral candidate in Film Studies and English at the University of Pittsburgh. She holds BA degrees in English and Film production from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Katie worked as a filmmaker and in a number of production capacities from camera operation, to editor, to production coordinator before returning to graduate school. She also holds an MA degree in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University where she worked on a thesis length project on Pittsburgh Art House Exhibition in the 1950s and 60s. She has written articles on 1920s German mountain film camera operators and 1970s Steadicam and Panaglide labor and technology. Her dissertation focuses on the history of film style through film production workers' theories of craft labor and technology. She has taught courses in media production, film history, film analysis, and composition. Her other interests include: silent film, 16mm projection, and sports cinematography. Katie is a 2015-2016 Tobias Dissertation Fellow in the English Department. 

Kelsey Cameron

Kelsey Cameron holds a BA in Literature from Duke University. Her work explores the politics of participatory cultures, particularly in relation to historically marginalized populations. Other research interests include digital pedagogy, new media, and the history of technology. 


Evan Chen

Evan Chen is a second-year student in the Film Studies program. He is currently interested in how theories of physiognomy and scientific racism intersect with theories of “faceicity” and the close-up, with particular attention paid to yellowface practice in the silent era. He is interested in how this research might refigure recent controversies over race and representation in Hollywood and the use of face filters in smartphone applications like Snapchat. Further interests include the Frankfurt School, especially Kracauer and Adorno, and the structure and aesthetics of long-narrative and/or “quality” TV shows. 

Kelsey Cummings

Kelsey Cummings studies new media and popular culture as a PhD student in film studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Her master's research in media studies at the University of Oregon focused on the mechanics of mobile and online girl games. Her other research interests include contemporary blockbuster film, critical race theory, cultural studies, and theories of gender and sexuality. 


Veronica Fitzpatrick

Veronica Fitzpatrick holds a BA in English with specialization in Women's Studies from Michigan State University and an MFA in Writing from the University of Notre Dame. Her dissertation concerns sexual trauma, film form, and modern horror, and she is a 2015-16 Carol Kay dissertation fellow. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The Apartment Complex: Apartment Plots in Global Context (ed. Pamela Wojcik), cléo: a journal of film and feminism, and World Picture, among others.

Jedd Hakimi   

Jedd Hakimi is doctoral candidate in Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is completing his dissertation “Press Play: Video Games and the Ludic Quality of Aesthetic Experiences across Media.” Jedd holds a BA in English from NYU, and an MA in Humanities from The University of Chicago. Jedd’s research is focused on the complex relationship between film and videogames, and his recent article on historical cities in video games and film can be found in the journal Wide Screen. Other areas of interest include auteurism, spectatorship, moving image aesthetics, media specificity, design theory, detective narratives, dystopia, and representations of architecture and urbanism.

Adam Hebert

Adam Hebert holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cinematography from Emerson College and a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies and English from North Carolina State University. In between these endeavors he worked as a freelance cinematographer and digital content pre-mastering technician in the Hollywood environs. His research interests include visual rhetoric in the war film, questions of influence and intertextuality, skateboard culture and its image making, and the so-called “transcendental” style of cinema.

Jeff Heinzl

Jeff Heinzl works on the emergence and circulation of visual and narrative styles, which has led him to write about hip-hop music video, contemporary global arthouse cinema, and the long-take aesthetic as it appears in the work of, for instance, Lisandro Alonso, Nabil Elderkin, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul. He graduated from Furman University with a B.A. in English and taught high school English for a year before beginning the program at Pitt. He also has spent the last several summers teaching gifted high school and middle school students through Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth program.

Sonia Lupher                                             

Sonia Lupher holds a Bachelor of Arts from Willamette University and earned a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies from Columbia University. She also completed a summer-long film studies course in Paris with a focus on French women filmmakers. At Columbia University, she held a research assistantship with the Women Film Pioneers Project under Dr. Jane Gaines. Her research interests include the horror genre, women in film production, horror film exhibition practices, and the overlap of high and low-brow forms in film style and distribution, particularly in the horror film.

Julie Nakama

Julie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film from Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. Her current research interests include architectural design and theory, fashion theory, and issues related to time and space in cinema. 


Benjamin Ogrodnik

Ben earned his Master’s of Arts in English from The Ohio State University and his Bachelor’s of Arts in English and Media Studies from The Pennsylvania State University. He is currently a PhD student with joint entry in Film Studies and History of Art and Architecture. His research focuses on the blurry and often problematic distinctions between the film world and the art world — known as the “black box” and the “white cube” in critical discourse. When he isn’t reading about or watching films, Ben enjoys drinking micro brews and listening to Delta blues.

Javier O'Neil-Ortiz

Javier received his BA in Film and Media Studies from Swarthmore College. His doctoral work focuses on new media, science and technology studies, and the representation of animals in contemporary cinema.


John Rhym

John received his MA in Cinema Studies at New York University and is currently a PhD student in the Critical and Cultural Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh.  His research interests lie somewhere at the intersections of film and philosophy.


Natalie Ryabchikova

Natalie is a PhD student at the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Pittsburgh.  She received her BA in Film Studies from the Russian State University of Cinematography (VGIK, Moscow) in 2008. During her years as an undergraduate she worked as a film critic, and then as an interpreter for the Moscow International Film Festival. She then moved from contemporary cinema to film history and published articles on early Soviet film in Russian and international scholarly journals. Her research interests include Soviet film production of the 1920s, historiography of Soviet cinema, and theory and practice of Sergei Eisenstein.

Felipe Pruneda Sentíes

Felipe is from Mexico, and has been an international student for nearly eight years, first in Singapore, then in Middlebury, VT (where he received his BA in Film and Media Culture), and now in Pittsburgh, which he loves. A collector of fountain pens, Felipe's main and current research interests include Script Studies, Latin American Cinema and Film Theory, and the experience of foreign languages through film art - a topic he's sure has a name, but which he hasn't found yet. He is also a theater buff, museum dweller and a fairly competent cook of enchiladas.

Laura Stamm

Laura Stamm holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies from Grinnell College. Her current research interests include feminist aesthetics, queer theory, and issues related to film historiography.


Kuhu Tanvir                 

Kuhu Tanvir holds an M.Phil in Cinema Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Before turning full-time to Film Studies, she earned a Master's and a Bachelor's degree in English literature from Delhi University. She wrote her M.Phil dissertation on the encounter between popular Hindi cinema and digital technologies in post-Globalization India. Her areas of interest include piracy, stardom, historiography, film archives, television, liveness etc.

John Taylor

John is interested in political and temporal divisions of space in visual media. How do visual representations produce spaces with particular temporalities? What are the political implications when certain spaces (and by extension, their inhabitants) are configured as past and others as contemporary? To that end,  he is currently studying the way rural space has been conceived in North American and Western European film studies and the impact of this conception on film historiography. His other general interests include the history of neo-conservatism in the cinema, and how we might conceive of utopian filmmaking in the midst of so much apocalyptic thinking.

Nikhil Thomas Titus 

Nikhil Thomas Titus is a PhD student in Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. He holds an MA from the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, where he has also taught. He has been involved in documentary production and his research interests focus on the ideas of stardom, 'B' grade, minor cinemas and audiences. He was part of the team that initiated the first Diploma Program in Community Media in India.