A picture of Dr. Schaefer, the current fellow, in the lab.

John D. Montgomery Postdoctoral Fellowship

Since 2013 the PBRC has offered an annual John D. Montgomery Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Each year, the PBRC releases a new call for applications based on a theme decided in consultation between the administration, director, and junior scholars. Intended to support young scholars whose research emphasizes humanistic development in and connections among the peoples of the Pacific Basin, the postdoc teaches a 1-1 course load, including a special topics course related to their expertise. The postdoc is expected to take part in PBRC and other campus events, including organizing events and contributing to the PBRC Occasional Papers series. Bringing young scholars and new areas of expertise to campus, the postdoc program is a valuable part of campus life at Soka.

Michael Schaefer

2019-2020 John D. Montgomery Post-Doctoral Fellow

Michael Schaefer received a PhD in Environmental Earth System Science from Stanford University where his research focused on how humans become exposed to environmental contaminants. In Asia, naturally occurring arsenic is so pervasive in groundwater that it has been termed “the largest mass poisoning in human history” and millions of people around the world continue to be exposed to unsafe arsenic concentrations in drinking water. Michael’s dissertation research included field work in Cambodia, China, and Vietnam to understand how drinking water wells become contaminated with naturally-occurring arsenic, focusing on how interactions between surface and groundwater affect when and where arsenic is likely to occur in dangerous concentrations.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the PBRC, Michael will expand on research that investigates how inadvertent arsenic leaching from low-cost ceramic water filters occurs. This type of water filter is inexpensive and can be manufactured almost anywhere using local materials, while providing effective treatment against most pathogens. However, because the filters are manufactured using local clay sources, if even small amounts of arsenic are present in the soil/clay, it can be leached from the finished filters into “clean” drinking water, posing a tradeoff between pathogen removal and arsenic exposure. This project aims to collect samples of clay and finished filters from suppliers in diverse geographic regions and test how widespread arsenic leaching is in ceramic water filters.


A picture of Michael Schaefer in action at a well in Cambodia.

I look forward to involving interested students in ongoing research projects and being available to advise and mentor student-led projects and activities.

Michael Schaefer
PBRC Postdoctoral Fellow 2019-20

Previous Postdoctoral Fellows

  • A picture of Professor Hom.

    Laureen Hom


    Laureen D. Hom received her PhD in Planning, Policy, and Design with an emphasis in Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine. She also received a BA in Anthropology and Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles and an MPH in Sociomedical Sciences, Urbanism and the Built Environment concentration at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Her research interests are in the areas of urban studies, ethnicity and race, neighborhood change, and the political economy of space. Her work also emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary approaches and community engagement to promote social equity and inclusion of historically underrepresented groups in academic and policy conversations.

  • A picture of Jeremy Guida.

    Jeremy Guida


    Jeremy Guida arrived at Soka having recently finished his PhD in religious studies at the University of California, Riverside. His research focuses on how people learn spiritual beliefs and practices outside of religious organizations. As a postdoctoral fellow at PBRC, Jeremy focused on investigating the importance of the Pacific Basin in the religious developments of the 1960s. In addition to carrying out the above projects, Jeremy taught two classes at SUA: World Religions Today and The Religious History of California.

  • A picture of Rumela.

    Rumela Sen


    Rumela Sen earned a PhD in Political Science, specializing in comparative politics, with a regional interest in South Asia. In addition to pursuing her research interests, Rumela taught an interdisciplinary course titled Introduction to Peace Studies. In the spring, she offered another course on the political economy of conflict, with a regional focus on South Asia.

  • A picture of Lauren Baker.

    Lauren Baker


    Lauren Baker earned a PhD in Environmental Studies, specializing in social and political ecology. Her work focuses on indigenous development and social movements, identity politics, environmental justice, environmental governance, and the political ecology and political economy of natural resource extraction as a form of development. In addition to advancing her research, Lauren also taught two courses: Indigenous Development and Social Movements in the fall and Introduction to the Pacific Basin in the spring.

  • A picture of Ilona Moore.

    Ilona Moore


    Ilona Moore earned a PhD in Geography, specializing in economic and political geography. Her work focuses on the geopolitics of food, agriculture, and development. In addition to continuing her research, Ilona also taught two courses during her time at SUA: Introduction to the Pacific Basin in the fall and Entitlements and Exclusions: Approaching Human Development in South Asia in the spring.

  • A picture of Erica Vogel.

    Erica Vogel


    Dr. Erica Vogel is a cultural anthropologist who works on issues of globalization, migration, and religious conversion between Asia and Latin America. As a postdoctoral fellow at the PBRC, Erica taught two courses: Intro to the Pacific Basin in the fall and a course about Asia and Latin America in the spring. Dr. Vogel is currently the Anthropology Instructor in the Department of Social Sciences at Saddleback College.