Natasha Mao’s study focuses on Italian Renaissance art. Prior to Rice University. She earned her Bachelor's degree in art history from Northwestern University. Her dissertation, titled "Revealing and Concealing: Interactive Objects in Italian Renaissance Art, 1400-1600" explores the user's physical interactions with objects and sensory experience in early modern Italy. Other topics of interest include Renaissance multiculturalism and issues of gender and sexuality.
In 2016, Mao returned from researching abroad in the UK and Italy, sponsored by the Wagoner’s Foreign Study Scholarship and Brown Foundation Dissertation Research Award. Further support from the Walter Read Hovey Scholarship of the Pittsburgh Foundation and a grant from the Humanities Research Center at Rice University allowed for her recent attendance of an archival research course at the Medici Archive Project in Florence, Italy, in the summer of 2017.
In 2017, Mao published an article on Renaissance puzzle cup, that is, prank drinking cups with hidden conduits. The article can be found in Natasha Mao, “‘Bevi Se Puoi:’ An Italian Renaissance Tantalus Cup in the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza.” (Faenza, Bollettino del Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche Cll, no. 2 (2016): 37-53)). She has also recently co-authored with Dr. Diane Wolfthal, “Newly Discovered Penitent Magdalen by Giampietrino.” (Source: Notes in the History of Art 35, no.4 (Summer 2016): 311-21).