View of the UMass Amherst campus pond.

2024 Public Engagement Project Faculty Fellows Announced

The Public Engagement Project (PEP) has announced the eight 2024 Public Engagement Faculty Fellows from across campus who will draw upon their substantial research records to impact policy, the work of practitioners and public debates.

Public Engagement Project at UMass Amherst

The PEP Fellows Program, of which this group constitutes the 10th cohort, facilitates connections between fellows and lawmakers in the U.S. Congress and Massachusetts State House, journalists, practitioners and others to share their research beyond the walls of academia. The faculty fellows will receive a stipend and technical training in communicating with non-academic audiences.

“Over the past decade, the expanding network of PEP Faculty Fellows has made significant impacts,” says Lisa M. Troy, director of the Public Engagement Project and associate professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences and the Commonwealth Honors College. “By training UMass faculty to translate their scholarship to an audience beyond academia, UMass faculty are having broader impacts locally, nationally, and internationally. PEP Fellows have been invited to governor task forces, onto the National Academy of Sciences committees, and for congressional testimony, as well as informing the general public through various media outlets. In this way, PEP Fellows are facilitating the mission of UMass Amherst as a land grant university, ‘to advance knowledge and improve the lives of the people of the Commonwealth, the nation and the world.’”

The Public Engagement Project is a faculty-driven initiative building on a collaboration of the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR), the Center for Research on Families (CRF) and the Transportation Center (UMTC). The PEP Faculty Fellowship has been made possible by funding from the College of Education, College of Engineering, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, College of Natural Sciences, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, Office of the Provost and University Relations.


Jynessa Dutka-Gianelli

Jynessa Dutka-Gianelli – Research Assistant Professor of Environmental Conservation

Jynessa Dutka-Gianelli uses community-based research that engages coastal communities, government agencies, scientists and decision-makers to explore local fisheries and seafood industry challenges. Her research integrates fisheries science and participatory approaches to understand changing climate and socio-ecological impacts on fishing communities. As a PEP fellow, she will develop a series of short articles for policymakers and public audiences and share her research through media interviews and blog posts to communicate her work on topics related to renewable energy, ocean ecosystems and shoreline communities.

Song Gao

Song Gao – Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Song Gao studies transportation systems from both the users’ and providers’ perspectives. Her current research designs an app to improve decision-making of ride-sharing drivers. As a PEP fellow, Dr. Gao will engage local and online communities to understand what factors are relevant in ride-sharing drivers’ decision-making and connect with policy makers to inform regulatory actions on the ride-sharing economy.

Jamie Hartmann-Boyce

Jamie Hartmann-Boyce – Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management

Jaime Hartmann-Boyce’s research involves bringing together and interpreting evidence so that patients, carers, healthcare providers and policy makers have the best available evidence in hand when making decisions. She works across a range of topics, including tobacco and nicotine, diabetes, COVID and healthcare access. As a PEP fellow, Hartmann-Boyce will write news articles and engage with the media and share her work with policymakers.

Jaime C. Piñero

Jaime C. Piñero – Extension Professor, Stockbridge School of Agriculture

Jaime Piñero is an entomologist with a research focus on applied ecology and sustainable pest management in fruit crops. His main goal is that fruit growers produce healthy crops while reducing pesticide use in support of sustainable agriculture. Jaime is passionate about supporting underserved students and engaging in student mentorship. As a PEP fellow, Jaime will disseminate his research findings via various media channels, aiming to enhance public awareness of agricultural sustainability.

Catrina Kim

Catrina Kim – Assistant Professor of Music Theory

Catrina Kim studies how music and sound convey messages about “the grind” in spaces where runners train and race. Kim is writing a book that explores how these messages form idealized—but exclusionary—narratives about how a “marathoner” looks and behaves. As a PEP Fellow, she will pursue writing and speaking platforms where she can communicate findings from her research to runners interested in making their own running communities more welcoming.

NEWS Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts – Associate Profeessor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Shannon Roberts studies the human factors of transportation safety. Her research applies knowledge about how humans behave to the design of safe and equitable transportation systems. As a PEP fellow, Dr. Roberts will focus on sharing results of recent research focused on automated trucking through public media, stakeholder workshops and the development of material for public audiences.

Rachel “Rae” Walker

Rae Walker – Associate Professor of Nursing

Rae Walker is a nurse inventor who studies artificial intelligence and other forms of automation in health care. They co-founded Health Tech for the People, a think tank that focuses on tech ethics and increasing community power over the design of care technologies. Walker will use their PEP fellowship to educate policy makers shaping legislation to regulate A.I. for health care, to improve public A.I. literacy, and to increase representation of nursing expertise in media reporting about these technologies. 

Kevin A. Young

Kevin A. Young – Associate Professor of History

Kevin A. Young studies how the fossil fuel industry wields political power and how the climate movement can overcome industry resistance to a Green New Deal. His research draws lessons from historical social movements that defeated other capitalist industries. As a PEP fellow, he will write a series of op-eds and build a network of media contacts.