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Graduate Students

Photograph of Bridget D. Collins Bridget D. Collins: Since reading the diary of woman who died of tuberculosis in late nineteenth-century Vermont for an undergraduate work study job I have been interested in the intersection of infectious disease and gender in American history. I have continued to explore these issues in my dissertation, which looks at how American mothers prevented and treated infectious diseases in the home in the twentieth century, focusing on scarlet fever, tuberculosis, polio, rheumatic fever, and otitis (ear infections). In it, I investigate the continuation of lay knowledge, public understanding of germ theory, the impact of medical technology on domestic medicine, and challenge the claim that domestic medicine declined in the twentieth century. I am also a graduate student associate with the Center for Culture, History, and Environment ( and the Mentorship Coordinator for the History of Science Society's Graduate and Early Career Caucus ( Currently, I am finishing my dissertation while enjoying a view of the Wasatch Mountain Range in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Photograph of Alexandra L. Fleagle Alexandra L. Fleagle: I study the social history of medicine prior to 1920. More specifically, I am interested in the histories of health and sexuality, the intellectual and social construction of disease categories, and medical infrastructure, especially children’s hospitals and extramural medical schools. Geographically, my work encompasses both United States and British history, and I hope to mature into more sophisticated transnational work throughout my graduate and professional careers. I received my B.A. in History with a minor in Geology from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. My undergraduate senior independent study was published in 2012 in the journal Limina as “Neurasthenia: Science and Society in the American Victorian Era.” I hold an MSc. in Gender History from the University of Edinburgh (UK), where I worked with Drs. Gayle Davis and Louise Jackson on a project on children’s health using the archives of the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow. Prior to enrolling at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I proudly served on the AmeriCorps team at Providence Children’s Museum in Providence, RI, designing and teaching afterschool science enrichment programs at community centers in underserved neighborhoods in Providence and nearby cities.
Photograph of Molly S. Laas Molly S. Laas: History of Nutrition, History of Medicine, History of Biology, and American Cultural History.

My doctoral research has focused on the relationship between science, health, and diet. In my dissertation, I track the intellectual history of nutrition science in the nineteenth century, showing how the American diet became a social question. Like the woman question or the labor question, the “food question” was an attempt to define a problem that its proponents thought was vital to solve in order to ensure the well-being of society as a whole. As the century progressed, chemists, physicians, home economists, and social reformers began to view the dietary habits of Americans as in need of urgent redress to ensure the country's health. Their work begin with the diets of particular groups, such as workers or people in prisons, armies, and asylums, which later extended to the diets of all classes. Nutritional chemistry served as the central intellectual resource for the framing of the food question, as it provided a means for quantifying the nutrients in food and making people’s dietary habits legible to experts. But the food question was not just a scientific one, and so political thought, religious belief, political economy, and nationalism all influenced efforts to determine the best diet for Americans. I draw on previously untapped archival sources and the print culture of nineteenth-century America to narrate the emergence of the food question and show how it laid the groundwork for contemporary debates about dietary advice and medical authority. My work shows how these early efforts to define and solve the food question were at heart attempts to answer a deeper quandary: what constitutes a body well-managed, and a life well-lived? By considering the ways in which my actors attempted to manage the relationship between individual Americans’ health and the health of society, I show how nutrition science provided a vision of a regularized body with standard nutritional needs, gradually supplanting older models of health based on a person’s distinctive lifestyles and bodily makeup.
Photograph of Emer Lucey Emer Lucey: Emer’s research interests are in the history of medicine and public health in twentieth-century America. Specifically, she is interested in medicine in popular culture; the intersections of class, gender, and race in medicine and public health; health activism; and the visual culture of health. Her current work is on the aestheticization of autism. She received her B.A. in Health and Societies with a concentration in Bioethics and a minor in Hispanic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011.
Photograph of Irene Toro Martinez Irene Toro Martinez: Irene studies U.S. prison health in the late 20th century, with a focus on the rise of private prisons and privatized correctional health care. She earned her B.A. in Astrophysics and German at Pomona College.
Photograph of Travis Weisse Travis Weisse: My research focuses on the intersection of diet, health, and society in the mid- to late-twentieth century. I am specifically interested in understanding how dietary and fitness experts in the last half of the 20th century gained popular and scientific credibility. My current work shows how the pursuit of particular fad diets reflects consumer-patient positionality and reveals a diverse range of health philosophies rooted in specific sociocultural contexts. This work is an extension of my MA thesis, which analyzed the local, political, and medical origins of the first cohesive national vegetarian/health food movement for African Americans during the civil rights era.
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