Alen is a scientist empirically examining the characteristics of the human diet during a time when the sciences are being defunded. He is an artist aesthetically examining the sensibilities of the human diet during a time when the arts are being defunded. Alen is a Registered Dietitian, yet bent on humanizing the current approach to nutrition research which remains predominately beneath a biomedical model. He is a public health practitioner that is asking questions about what it means to be “grassroots” in the 21st century. He is studying anthropology, hence is an artist empirically studying the science of life. He is quintessential anthropological “other” who creatively grew to become a citizen scientist of his own. Alen leverages these multiple, fluid, sometimes conflicting identities between public health, anthropology, and the arts to study inquiry into the human condition as a whole, with a lean towards social change. He considers himself a cultural and humanitarian agent, actively participating in the line between art and science that is civics.
He has two major projects in line. Currently he is finishing an autoethnography on Participatory Action Research, a form of public science, or the empirical form of an artist collective. He argues that PAR is both an art and science and what keeps it marginalized in the science community is the neglect of its artistic identity that begs for creativity. Thus, he uses PAR as a phenomenon to understand public health and tensions between the arts and sciences, practice and theory, and applied versus basic research. To prove his hypotheses from his ethnographic research, he later led an artistic performance at a scientific conference in the guise of a science poster. Together, this culminated into science informing art that again informed science. The film to come of this is currently in post-production under the title, “Catching Social Reality in Flight”.
His dissertation will combine database epidemiology, sensory ethnography, and sensory-ethnographic documentary film. He will use health as a cultural phenomenon, food as an object, aesthetics as a theory to empirically examine core questions at the center of health governance and the American experience of eating. Collectively, all of his work is a push towards what he calls cultural nutritional epidemiology.
Alen is a Doctor of Science student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, with a Secondary Field in Critical Media Practice through the Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He is also a New Civics Scholar through the Early Career Scholars Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education with support from the Spencer Foundation. He has served as teaching fellow for courses ranging from nutritional biochemistry, global health , participatory action research, art and aesthetics, and creative design. Prior to Harvard, he received a BS-MS degree in Nutrition and Food Science from CUNY Hunter College and the CUNY School of Public Health, where he also completed his Dietetic Internship. He grew up in Kings Highway, Brooklyn from the age of 4 after arriving to the U.S. in 1992 under refugee status from Baku, Azerbaijan, a former republic of the Soviet Union. He is a Russian speaker.