About the team

NY Immigrant City is a guided research seminar with participation from the NYU New York, Abu Dhabi, and Shanghai. It uses a team-based research program called Vertically Integrated Projects, piloted by Georgia Tech and coordinated through NYU Tandon School of Engineering

Principal Investigator

Heather R. Lee

Heather R. Lee is an Assistant Professor of History at NYU Shanghai. She studies the transnational flows of people and capital between North America and Asia during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She focuses on legal immigration status—the bright line separating citizens from both documented and undocumented migrants—to uncover the experiences of Asians, who faced severe forms of immigration control. Her work contributes to our knowledge of migration patterns and economic integration of migrant workers in host nations.

Professor Lee is developing a historical database of immigrant restaurants, which she will make publicly available through an interactive digital platform. Her research has been featured in NPR, Atlantic magazine, and Gastropod, a podcast on food science and history. She has advised and curated exhibitions, including shows at the New York Historical Society, the National Museum of American History, and the Museum of Chinese in America.

Learn more at www.heatherruthlee.com

Research Assistant

Deirdre Harkins

Deirdre Harkins is a second year Master’s student graduating this semester from the World History Program in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at NYU. She was a BA/MA student and received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Anthropology and Linguistics in Fall 2018 from the College of Arts and Sciences, also at NYU. Her research interests revolve primarily around that of race, ethnicity, and migration. Specifically, Deirdre studies the concept and creation of an Argentine identity, and the invisibilization of marginalized groups in Argentine society. In August 2019, she presented her work on Japanese immigration to Argentina at the NYU Shanghai Global Asia Conference.

Deirdre was a curatorial intern for the Northwest Coast Hall at the American Museum of Natural History in Fall 2018, which helped to expand her interest in researching marginalized groups who have essentially been labeled invisible by dominant powers, as well as participate in revising how these groups have been portrayed in history. This is Deirdre’s second semester working as a research assistant for the VIP Immigrant City project, and she has enjoyed learning about the different stories that each group member has decided to focus on.

Past Principal Investigator

David Ludden

David Ludden is Professor of Political Economy and Globalization and Chair (2016-2019) in the Department of History at New York University. He began his academic work in South Asia in 1968, as a public health intern, in a village near Chennai. He then studied Tamil literature and published translations of Tamil poetry, before shifting to graduate studies in economic and social history. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978, and served on the Penn faculty from 1981 until 2007.

He chaired Penn’s Department of South Asian Studies and the South Asia programs at the Social Science Research Council and Fulbright Senior Scholars program. In 2001, he served as President of the Association for Asian Studies.

His research concerns the very long-term history of agrarian economic development and its interaction with globalization in Asia. His publications include four edited volumes, three monographs, and dozens of academic articles and chapters. He current writing a book entitled Global Asia: Making Space for Modernity, which traces the interactive history of mobility and territoriality around the Silk Roads and Indian Ocean from ancient times through the mid-nineteenth century. He is the founding director of the New York Center for Global Asia and very active in efforts to expand Asian Studies across disciplines and faculties around the NYU global network.

Faculty Researchers

Yun Dai

I like to call myself the data services person at the Library of NYU Shanghai. I support research involving data, broadly speaking, for a variety of projects.


Adrian Hodge

As the head of the research and instructional technologies group I work with the Library and other technologists in support of a wide range of projects. These include platforms, emerging tech, digital mapping, and in this project consulting on programmatic OCR.

Student Researchers

Andre Wu

Sustainable Urban Environment Major

Andre is currently a sophomore attending Tandon School of Engineering. As someone who has participated in the NYC 1917 Immigration Act last semester, Andre is now researching how this act relates to the 1924 Immigration Act. In addition, he’s doing other school projects and is part of NYU’s D1 Ultimate Frisbee team. He loves to read, exercise, play video games and nap.

Spring 2019, Fall 2019

Angie Tang

Architecture and Urban Design Major

Angie is currently a junior at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She is interested in the history of the development of New York City, particularly in regards to traditionally marginalized groups, and of how discriminatory attitudes and actions have been manifested in the spatial environment of the urban fabric. Her research has primarily focused on cultural depictions and media representations of Asian immigrants during the decades surrounding the 1917 Immigration Act and analyzes how these ideas fueled anti-Asian sentiment in 20th century America.

Fall 2019

Dana Kirkegaard

History Major

Dana is a history student at New York University, interested in 20th Century American and Latin American history. She is an editor for NYU’s undergraduate history journal, The Historian. Dana also works in Communications for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, the UN’s sexual and reproductive health rights agency. She is from Des Moines, Iowa and lives in New York City.

Spring 2019

Finn Clarke

History Major

Finn Clarke is a History Major at NYU’s College of Arts and Science. Thanks to his Irish roots, he has always taken an interest in Irish culture, particularly how it sustains itself in the US. Working on this project, especially the interviews, proved a rewarding experience and he encourages others to go out and speak to people they find interesting.

Spring 2019

Grace Gao

Computer Science Major

Grace majors in Computer Science and minor in Interactive Media Arts at NYU Shanghai. Most of her previous work are explorations of creative coding, interactive installation, video and photography arts as well as front-end software development. She spent her junior year in New York and fell in love with the city.

Spring 2020

Ivy Johnston

Metropolitan Studies

Currently residing in Astoria, Ivy will graduate from NYU in May 2019 with a B.A. in Political Science and History. She hopes to pursue a future in Education and Public History. Her interest in NYU’s VIP stems from a desire to learn more about the community she lives in and to communicate the layered fabric of Astoria to others on a digital platform.

Spring 2019

Jessica Molina Abdala

History Major

Jessica is a junior at NYU Abu Dhabi, majoring in History. She is originally from Mexico City, where she discovered her passion for the environment. Her research interests lie on the relationship between media, politics and social movements – particularly emphasizing the role of transnational connections. In her free time, Jessica enjoys reading, playing baseball, going to the cinema and playing piano.

Spring 2019

Karla Wang

high school senior | 2019 Founder’s Prize recipient

Karla Wang is a high school senior at BASIS Tucson North who will be attending Cornell University in fall 2020 to continue her education. There, she plans to study business administration and statistics.

During her senior year, she conducted a senior research project exploring the idea of authenticity within the context of gastronomy and ethnic food. Her research aims to identify what factors Americans believe are necessary for Chinese cuisine in America to be considered authentic through a retrospective discourse analysis of online Yelp reviews. Karla’s research was awarded a 2019 Founder’s Prize, a recognition given to BASIS students with the most unique, innovative, or rigorous senior research projects.

Katherine Platz

History Major

Katherine is a senior studying History in the College of Arts and Science. She is originally from California, and loves to read and drink boba in her spare time. She is excited to learn how to use digital tools for data visualization, storytelling, and archival preservation.

Spring 2019

Leo Zhang

Physics and Mathematics Major

Leo is currently studying in Tandon double majoring in physics and mathematics and minoring in computer science. He enjoys building mathematical models to express visual effects.

Fall 2019, Spring 2020

Margaret Chirdo

Journalism Major

Margaret is a junior studying journalism and history at NYU. Her reporting and research focus on queer activism, immigration, and the Global South. She was born in Texas and spends most of her time at museums with free student admission policies. She hopes to bring lesser-known American history and all its jagged edges to the forefront of public consciousness.

Spring 2019

Marina Victoria Pascual

Interactive Media Arts Major

Marina Victoria Pascual is a New York-born and Madrid-raised undergraduate student majoring in Interactive Media Arts at NYU Shanghai, with a minor in Studio Art and Psychological Studies. Most of her work involves either creative coding, 3D animations, video art or audiovisual performances.

Spring 2019

Natalie Behrends

History Major

Natalie is a graduating senior in History at NYU and a PhD candidate in Global History at Harvard. Her work focuses on global intersections of labor and migration at the turn of the twentieth century, expanding narratives of citizenship, engagement, and identity in the history of labor and political radicalism.

Spring 2019

Omar Hammami

Computer Science Major

Omar is majoring in Computer Science, with a minor in Data Science. Born in Ohio and raised in Saudi Arabia as a teenager, he found an alike interest in a project that involved people moving across the Atlantic Ocean. Omar also enjoys data visualization, as they help him fulfill his fantasy of being a real artist.

Spring 2020

Rebecca Levy

Sustainable Urban Environments

Rebecca recently transferred to New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering concentrating her studies on human impacts to the environment and sustainable development for the future. She is from Boston, Massachusetts, and became interested in the project after learning about how sanitation reform in Boston impacts population growth.

Fall 2019, Spring 2020

Sarah Tahir

Interactive Media Arts

Sarah is a passionate programmer, filmmaker and digital artist currently studying Interactive Media Arts at NYU. Her interests range from biotech to film noir. She is driven by innovation, efficiency and how those desires manifest themselves in our world.

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2020

Shambhavi Sengupta

Integrated Digital Media

Shambhavi is an Integrated Digital Media sophomore at the Tandon School of Engineering at NYU. Originally from India, she had started off with chemistry, but had later found a piqued interest in digital media and presentation. Most of her projects have involved coding, graphics, video editing, and recently, machine learning. Her hobbies include listening to music, creative writing and riding bicycles around the city.

Fall 2019

Sophie Zhao

Biomolecular Science Major / Sustainable Urban Environment Minor

Sophie is currently a Sophomore at Tandon School of Engineering. She hopes to study patent or environmental law in the future. Sophie believes that the Humanities Research Lab: Immigrant Cities can practice her reading and analysing skills. Her research has focused on Woodrow Wilson: his identity as a segregationist yet vetoed the Immigration Act of 1917. Furthermore, she snowboards and practices Muay Thai Combat.

Fall 2019

Trevor Fraley

Trevor is an illustrator from New Jersey who has always been fascinated by art and animation. From a young age he found that drawing was something that would have a great presence in his life.

In 2016 he graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a Bachelors in Fine Arts. Since then he has worked on a number of freelance positions such as Character Designer for Silverclutch Games and Coloring Book Illustrator for Infinity Coloring Books.

Spring 2019

Xinyi Wang

Computer Science Major

Xinyi is a Senior student at NYU Shanghai majoring in Data Science and minoring in Business. She is originally from Shanghai and studied in New York for a year during her junior year. Most of her previous work involved data analysis, machine learning, and software engineering. She is interested in combining data science and other subjects in the future. Her hobbies include photography, music, and playing basketball.

Spring 2020

Zehra Abacioglu

Computer Science major

Zehra is a Computer Science major at the Tandon School of Engineering. She is interested in data sensemaking and data visualization. In her spare time she can be found cafe-hopping around the city.

Spring 2019