Lab Members

Join our team!

The FED lab is currently recruiting graduate students for the upcoming academic year. We’re seeking ambitious, committed students interested in qualitative and mixed-methods approaches to food, inequality, and families/relationships. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Dr. Oleschuk at


Headshot of Dr. Merin Oleschuk, a woman standing with her arms crossed against a white background

Dr. Merin Oleschuk

Dr. Merin Oleschuk is an assistant professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research sits at the intersection of household food provisioning, gendered labor, consumer politics, and health equity. She is truly a trans-disciplinary scholar, with a B.A. and M.A. in anthropology from the University of Alberta, a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Toronto, a Postdoc in Gender Equity and Excellence in the Provost’s Office at the University of Guelph, and applied experience in food policy and community-based participatory health research. When she’s not working or chasing after her determined 3-year-old, Merin enjoys hiking, cooking, road trips, and finding the best food in town. 

Graduate Students

Shannon Tang, B.S.

Shannon is a master’s student in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Prior to her master’s program, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition, also at UIUC. Shannon is passionate about studying how different social determinants of health affect people’s diet quality and behaviors around food. She wishes to contribute to the elimination of barriers and work towards achieving health equity. Her research examines how living alone affects people’s relationships with foods that are important to their cultural identity. She has previously worked on research projects that investigated the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of community nutrition interventions. Shannon’s future goal is to become a registered dietitian working in clinical settings prioritizing evidence-based practice and compassion. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with her family, friends, and her two cats. She also enjoys working out, playing mini tennis, and watching tv shows.

Tani Akinbode, M.S.

Tani is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies. She previously completed her master’s degree in Community Health from the same university in 2019. Her research interests focus broadly on studying how trauma contributes to increased stress among vulnerable populations, particularly women and children. Her current area of research focuses on how IPV affects parental functioning and behavior. Tani is training to be a trans-disciplinary scholar and through the FED lab, her main goal is to explore qualitative research methods and advance her expertise in both qualitative and quantitative methods that ultimately promote healthy relationships and lifestyles for women and children. In her leisure time, she enjoys trying out new recipes, binge-watching crime documentaries, and traveling.

Matthew Rivas-Koehl, M.S.

Matthew is a doctoral student in Human Development and Family Studies (HDFS). He completed his Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Science with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies at Texas Tech University in May 2021. Matthew’s main areas of research are the intersection of sexuality and relationships, and the general promotion of health and wellbeing for queer individuals across the lifespan. Some of Matthew’s recent work includes projects related to sexual satisfaction among queer men, examining patterns of teen dating violence, and work related to promoting the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ youth in schools. Matthew frequently employs feminist and queer theories in his work to interrogate structural oppression that marginalized individuals face. In his spare time, Matthew loves to run and play sports, cook, and explore new restaurants with his husband, Dane.

Ha Young Choi, M.A.

Ha Young is a doctoral student in Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She achieved a B.A. and M.A. in Child Development and Family Studies from Seoul National University, South Korea. She is broadly interested in developing the best strategies for evidence-based family and gender policy and examining policy-induced changes in participants’ life domains such as paid labor, caregiving, food life, and personal care. Particularly, her research area is in organizational or social initiatives, including flexible work arrangements and care policies that impact the intersections of work, family, and leisure. Ha Young’s work is also motivated by a desire to benefit families by translating research into the policy or legislative sector. For this aim, she seeks to fill gaps between academia and practice in order to build a more responsive family science. In her free time, she enjoys watching documentary films, strolling with ballad music, and having tea time with her family and friends.

Siyao Cheng, M.S.

Siyao Cheng is a doctoral student at the School of Information Science (iSchool). Prior to joining the Ph.D. program, she earned her master’s degree in Library and Information Science (LIS) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2021. Her primary research interest explores broadly copyright education. Specifically, Siyao proposes to conduct a study consisting of a diverse group of people to gain further insights into their level of copyright awareness as they seek information. She hopes to remedy shortcomings in people’s education about copyright-related matters. Beyond her area of study, she is also engaged in a research project concerning racial and ethnic categories among different countries’ census metadata. In her leisure time, she enjoys listening to music, browsing cosmetic websites, and exploring new local Chinese restaurants.

Iulia Ciubotariu, B.S.

Iulia Ciubotariu is a second-year master’s student at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) studying human nutrition. Her area of research focuses on the mental health and eating habits of individuals living alone. Previously, she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from UIUC, focusing on clinical psychology. She is a co-director of the Lifestyle Medicine team at Avicenna, a free medical clinic in the Champaign-Urbana area. There, she works with patients to improve their lifestyles by changing their food intake, expanding their cooking knowledge, and increasing exercise. Her future goals are to attend medical school, become a psychiatrist, and open a private clinic. She would like to have a holistic approach to mental health with her patients, bringing together her background in psychology and nutrition. Iulia was born in Romania and moved to the US with her parents when she was 8 years old. She goes back every summer to visit her family, sightsee, and enjoy the delicious food. Besides traveling, her other hobbies include photography, painting, sewing, playing piano, and running.

Alejandro “Alex” Suñé, M.S.

Alejandro (Alex) is a doctoral student in Education Policy, Organization & Leadership in the College of Education at Illinois. He earned his Master of Science in Counseling & Student Development and his Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems, both from Kansas State University. His primary area of research is college food insecurity, which he plans to pursue as his dissertation topic. A student affairs practitioner and administrator, Alex currently serves as the Senior Associate Director for Student Engagement, overseeing student organizations, Illinois Student Government, and spirit/tradition initiatives. In addition, Alex enjoys running, working out, hitting the restaurant scene, and having fun with friends in his free time.

Undergraduate Students

Ellie Sander

Valentina Mosca


Past Students

  • Lo Lee, Ph.D.
  • Chris Maniotes, M.S.
  • Alyssa Billington, M.A.
  • Taylor Wen, B.S.
  • Yulin Song, B.S.