Cohort 12 (2019-2021)
Olalekan Bello was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. He completed his undergraduate education in the United States and graduated summa cum laude from Howard University with a B.A. in economics and a minor in mathematics. Olalekan’s research interests lie in the areas of growth and development from both a macro and microeconomic perspective. He has previously conducted research on examining the spatial mismatch hypothesis and how minority communities suffer from the lack of employment opportunities because of commuting distances. As a Bridge scholar, he is working with Douglas Almond and Reka Juhasz in the Department of Economics where he is researching topics in health economics and international trade. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Olalekan plans to pursue his graduate studies in economics.
Advisor: Pierre Gentine
Jashvina Devados received her B.S. in conservation and resource studies from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018. She uses remote sensing methods to investigate ecosystem response to disturbances. Her past projects include investigating snow, soil moisture, and vegetation dynamics in the Rocky Mountains with high-resolution satellite imagery and machine learning methods at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA. She has worked with community partners to provide decision support for land management decision-making. Projects with community partners include performing a remote sensing analysis to inform regional planning for biodiversity conservation and fire risk in the San Francisco Bay Area with the Bay Area Open Space Council and leading a team at NASA Ames Research Center to analyze satellite imagery and surface water current models to inform management of a nuisance algae in Lake Michigan. Jashvina is currently studying the effects of wind extremes on carbon cycling in wet forests as part of the Gentine Lab in the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering. Upon completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in environmental science.
*Jashvina is currently pursuing her graduate studies in conservation at the University of California, Berkeley.
Advisor: Nim Tottenham
Syntia Hadis was born and raised in Palm Beach, Florida. In December 2017, Syntia graduated from Florida Atlantic University (FAU). During her time at FAU, Syntia collaborated with Lucina Uddin at the University of Miami where she became interested in brain connectivity and dynamic network interactions that underlie cognitive flexibility. Alongside her research interests, Syntia actively has worked on expanding research opportunities to undergraduates and facilitating STEM-related workshops, such as teaching coding classes to high school students. Upon graduation, Syntia joined the Fundamentals of the Adolescent Brain Lab with BJ Casey where she worked on the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study, which provided a unique opportunity to oversee and coordinate one of the largest longitudinal studies on the developing brain. As a Bridge scholar, Syntia works with Nim Tottenham in the Developmental Affective Neuroscience Lab (Department of Psychology) where her research focuses on the impact of early life experiences on brain development. After the completion of the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Syntia aspires to continue her studies at Columbia University and receive a Ph.D. in psychology.
Dafne Murillo López was born and raised in Lima, Perú, with Quechua roots in the Amazon region and the Andes. In 2019, Dafne graduated from Columbia University with a double major in economics and Latin American studies. As an undergraduate, Dafne worked as a research assistant for the Central Reserve Bank of Perú, where she investigated the role of state presence in reducing the size of the Peruvian informal sector. Under the advisement of Suresh Naidu, Dafne researched the effect of labor law on immigrant domestic workers’ wages for her senior honors thesis. As a Bridge scholar, Dafne is working on several projects under the mentorship of Eric Verhoogen and Michael Best in the Department of Economics. These projects include evaluating decision-making processes behind the allocation of seed-grants for microenterprises in Mexico, investigating the effect of minimum wage on industrial upgrading in Brazil, and assessing a pilot program for citizen-ran inspections of low-budget state development projects in Perú. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Dafne plans to pursue a Ph.D. in economics with a focus on the intersection of Latin America and development economics.
*Dafne is currently pursuing her graduate studies in economics at Columbia University.
Advisor: Elizabeth M.C. Hillman
Chinwendu Nwokeabia graduated from Notre Dame of Maryland University with a B.A. in mathematics and minors in physics, psychology, and philosophy. As an undergraduate, they had a passion for combining their interests in various areas in STEM disciplines and exploring the interdisciplinary nature of these disciplines. They participated in the Sister Alma McNicholas Women Scientists Program, a research partnership with Notre Dame and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. There, they worked at the Zanvyl-Kreiger Mind-Brain Institute under the mentorship of Ernst Niebur on simulating and modeling previous hypotheses on proto-object visual saliency. In the Hillman Lab at the Zuckerman Institute of Columbia University, Chinwendu is investigating the neural connections between various areas of the brain in a resting state. Chinwendu plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering with a focus on biomechanics.
*CJ is currently pursuing their graduate studies in engineering at the University of Michigan.
Advisor: Charles Hailey
Maggie Reed was born in Tallahassee, Florida and raised in Grand Island, Nebraska. She received a B.S. in physics with a minor in mathematics from the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) in 2019. As an undergraduate, she conducted high-altitude balloon research to investigate jet stream conditions with Project HALON (High Altitude Learning Over Nebraska). She also established a satellite to ground radio communication station for future high-altitude ballooning projects. In addition to conducting research, she taught high school students coding, designing high-altitude research projects, building sensors, and analyzing data. In 2017, Maggie became a teaching assistant in the Department of Physics, where she taught several undergraduate physics laboratory courses. In the fall of 2018, Maggie began materials science research with Chris Moore in the Department of Physics at UNO. Under his mentorship, she established a materials science laboratory and studied the effects of silver-doped zinc oxide (Ag-doped ZnO) thin films on photocatalytic activity and band gap measurements. ZnO thin films have several research applications in improving solar cell production, microbe inhibition, ecological restoration, and energy production. At Columbia University, she is working with Chuck Hailey, in a collaboration between the Department of Physics, the General Antiparticle Spectrometer (GAPS) group, and Nevis Laboratories. Her research will focus on the search and detection of low energy cosmic-ray antinuclei, which could provide insights into the nature of dark matter. After completing the Bridge Program, Maggie plans to receive a Ph.D. in physics with a concentration on astrophysics.
*Maggie is currently pursuing her graduate studies in physics at the University of California, Berkeley.
Advisor: Laura Kaufman
Talha Rehman was born in Karachi, Pakistan and graduated from Berea College. At Berea College, Talha was actively involved in his academic community as a Bonner Scholar and University Innovation Fellow. In 2019, he graduated with a B.A. in physics and minors in chemistry and mathematics. His past research experiences include summer internships at MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, Carl E. Ravin Advanced Imaging Laboratories at Duke University, and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, VA. These opportunities allowed him to explore different topics and interests in STEM. Following his junior year, he found himself in awe after learning about self-assembly and depletion force in the laboratory of Vinothan Manoharan at Harvard University. As an REU scholar at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Talha studied self-assembly mechanisms of spheres on a cone surface, which can further characterize self-assembly in many biological systems. After developing an interest in soft matter because of this project, he completed another research project in Jan Vermant's Laboratory of Soft Materials at ETH Zürich. There, he studied thin-film dynamics of mineral oils, which helped him develop useful technical skills related to rheology and fluid dynamics. As a Bridge scholar, Talha is working with Laura Kaufman in the Department of Chemistry. His project, which is based in applied physics, characterizes the properties of single-molecule dynamics associated with polymers. Following the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Talha plans to pursue graduate studies in soft matter and chemical physics.
*Talha is currently pursuing his graduate studies in engineering at Harvard School Of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Advisor: James Hone
Justin Samples was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. In May 2019, he graduated magna cum laude from Morehouse College with a B.S. in physics and a minor in mathematics. At Morehouse, Justin competed on the tennis team for all four years, earned multiple All-Conference awards in both singles and doubles, and captained the team during his final two years. During the summers of 2017 and 2018, Justin worked as an intern in the Systems Integration & Test Office at the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, CA under the guidance of Julia White and John McVey. In the fall of 2018, Justin moved to Madrid, Spain to study engineering at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid for a semester. While studying in Madrid, he found a love for materials science and conducted research on the energy considerations for individual particles in granular materials. As a Bridge scholar, Justin is working with James Hone at Columbia University’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC). Justin’s research will focus on the synthesis and characterization of layered transition metal dichalcogenides (e.g. molybdenum diselenide, MoSe2 and tungsten diselenide, WSe2) with the goal of developing robust techniques for generating crystals. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Justin plans to pursue a Ph.D. in engineering with a concentration in materials science.
Cohort 11 (2018-2020)
Advisor: Cory Dean
Derick González-Acevedo was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He obtained a B.S. in physics with a minor in mathematics from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez in June 2018. After taking Introductory Quantum Mechanics, he quickly developed a passion for physics. This course furthered his interests in the fields of atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics and condensed matter physics. During the summer of 2016, Derick participated in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of South Florida (USF) under the mentorship of Sarath Witanachchi. His project focused on using Glancing Angle Pulse Laser Deposition to grow Lead Zirconium Titanium Oxide (PZT) nanocolumns on Lanthanum Strontium Manganite Oxide (LSMO) islands and to study their morphological and structural properties. These nanocolumns offer a multitude of applications in electronics such as improving the efficiency of capacitors and sensors. In the summer of 2017, he participated in the REU program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) under the supervision of Gregory MacDougall. At UIUC, he characterized large, single crystals of lanthanum-based cuprates superconductors, which have the potential to improve how energy is produced and transmitted. Currently, he is working in Cory Dean’s laboratory in the Department of Physics where he is investigating the role of angular orientation and relative lattice constant on the friction of the interface between complimentary 2D materials. Findings from this research would contribute to a better understanding of friction at the atomic scale, which can lead to the fabrication of novel devices. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Derick plans to pursue a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics.
*Derick is pursuing his graduate studies in physics at Harvard University.
Jay Holder is a native New Yorker who was born and raised in the Harlem community. His unwavering interest in people, groups, and institutions impelled him to complete a B.S. in behavioral science at Mercy College. Jay’s main academic pursuits are to investigate, inform, and influence the culture and structure of cities through sound research. Currently, Jay is a program developer and research assistant for Columbia University’s Center for Justice, where he works with Community Based Organizations (CBOs) to create healthy environments for communal stakeholders across a spectrum that includes families, educational and recreational institutions, and incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals. With Geraldine Downey in the Department of Psychology, Jay’s research focuses on healthy human development. Also, Jay is working under the mentorship of Carl Hart in the Department of Psychology, where his work investigates how psychoactive substances affect human behavior. Based on these interests, Jay plans to pursue a Ph.D. in social psychology with a long-term goal of participating in making social policies based on updated data.
*Jay is pursuing his graduate studies in negotiation and conflict resolution at Columbia University School of Professional Studies.
Advisor: Lars Dietrich
Julie Kiss was born and raised in New York City. She attended the Swedish Institute of Health Sciences where she received an A.S. in occupational therapy and became a licensed massage therapist. She simultaneously attended John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York (CUNY), graduating with a B.S. in cellular and molecular biology and a minor in health sciences. As an undergraduate, she participated in the Program for Research Initiatives in Science and Mathematics (PRISM) where she worked in Angelique Corthal’s laboratory on two individual projects. The first involved mapping the evolutionary divergence of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), which are potential targets for drug therapy in patients with multiple sclerosis. The second tested the ability of diatoms (a group of micro-algae) to enter the pores of long bones and permeate the bone marrow of the wild boar (Sus scrofa). The results of this study have broad implications for the interpretation of the diatom test, which is used by forensic scientists to characterize cases of drowning. Currently, Julie is working in Lars Dietrich’s laboratory in the Department of Biological Sciences, where she studies the effect of oxygen availability on cellular arrangement in bacterial communities called biofilms. Specifically, she is elucidating the role of the sensor/regulator protein DipA in determining the formation of vertical, clonal lineages in biofilms of the pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Julie is developing a protocol for the application of scanning electron microscopy to biofilms and will apply this method in her characterization of mutants representing selected DipA residues and domains. A detailed understanding of the pathways that control biofilm organization could inform approaches to treating bacterial infections. Julie aspires to receive a Ph.D. in microbiology and to conduct research investigating the human microbiota’s role in the onset, progression, or remission of autoimmune diseases and central nervous system disorders.
Advisor: Kathryn Johnston
Shifra Mandel grew up in Monroe, New York. After obtaining a GED, she enrolled at Kingsborough Community College of the City University of New York (CUNY), intending to major in mechanical engineering. After taking an introductory physics course, she was inspired to study physics and transferred to Columbia University. As an undergraduate, she conducted research with Columbia University’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) group, under the leadership of Chuck Hailey and Kaya Mori. With the NuSTAR group, her research focused on the analysis of observational data from a number of exotic X-ray sources, including rare black holes in the Galactic Center. In the summer of 2018, Shifra received a B.A. in physics from Columbia University. Currently, she is working with Kathryn Johnston in the Department of Astronomy to determine the formation of tidal debris that occurs when satellite dwarf galaxies merge with their much larger host galaxies. Upon completing the Bridge Program, Shifra aspires to receive a Ph.D. in astronomy from Columbia University.
*Shifra is pursuing her graduate studies in astronomy at Columbia University.
Advisor: Sidney Hemming
Originally from Binga, Zimbabwe, Chiza Mwinde moved to the United States to attend Smith College where she graduated with a B.A. in geosciences in 2018. At Smith College, her curiosity about earth history led her to join Sara Pruss’ laboratory. There, she conducted a year-long research project that investigated the depositional conditions of the Rainstorm Member of the Johnnie Formation in Death Valley (Eastern California). During the summer of her junior year, she participated in the Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering (SURGE) Program at Stanford University, where she worked in Erik Sperling’s historical geobiology laboratory. In the SURGE Program, she studied siltstones from the Lower Triassic Montney Formation (Western Canada), which were deposited following the Permian mass extinction that occurred about 250 million years ago. She also investigated marine anoxia in the 5-10 million years following this mass extinction. Geochemical data from the Montney Formation demonstrated that anoxic marine conditions following the Permian mass extinction may have contributed to delays in biotic recovery. Fully understanding the causes of this delayed biotic recovery is critical for determining the extent to which persistent adverse conditions can affect life on earth. Currently, Chiza is working under the mentorship of Sidney Hemming at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Her research focuses on understanding past climate changes by using various geochemical analyses of ocean and river sediments from southern Africa. Chiza plans to pursue a Ph.D. in sedimentary geochemistry with a focus on paleoclimatology.
*Chiza is pursuing her graduate studies in the geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago.
Iris Ponce was born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. In 2018, Iris graduated from Oglethorpe University with a B.S. in computational physics. At Oglethorpe University, Iris was an active participant in several outreach activities and served as the president of the Society of Physics Students and of Alpha Phi Omega, a national service fraternity. With Mariel Meier, Iris’ undergraduate research focused on understanding the interactions between solar wind and Jupiter’s magnetosphere. Currently, Iris is working with The Columbia Neutrino Group at Nevis Laboratories and in the Department of Physics under the mentorship of Georgia Karagiorgi and Michael Shaevitz. Her research focuses on validating supernova data collection triggering for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE). After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Iris plans to continue her graduate studies in particle physics.
*Iris is pursuing her graduate studies in physics at Yale University.
Advisor: Marcel Agüeros
Rayna Rampalli was born and raised in Sacramento, California. Inspired by astronomy research that she conducted in high school, Rayna chose to attend Wellesley College, home to a long line of women astrophysicists. At Wellesley, she conducted research in the Departments of Astronomy and Physics. At the Wellesley College Observatory, she observed Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) exoplanets transits and Koronis asteroids. She helped build a muon detector, which collected and recorded the number of muon particles as a means of determining the particles’ lifetimes. Also, Rayna has participated in a number of astronomy research projects including detecting and tabulating extragalactic point sources of H alpha and calculating occurrence rates of the hot Jupiter class of exoplanets. For her senior thesis, she worked with Dave Lathan and Andrew Vanderburg at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. To address the planet signal determination issues from NASA’s recently launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission’s camera, she investigated methods of exoplanet candidate validation in star-crowded fields of NASA’s K2 mission as a useful proxy. Currently, Rayna works with Marcel Agüeros in the Department of Astronomy to determine rotation periods of stellar members of the Beehive cluster using K2 data. These rotation rates will be combined with pre-existing ground-based data on these cluster members as a means of tracing and characterizing stellar spot and magnetic evolution. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Rayna plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astronomy.
*Rayna is pursuing her graduate studies in astronomy at Dartmouth College.
Cohort 10 (2017-2019)
Advisor: Lorenzo Sironi
Rafael Colón was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and raised in the West Village, New York City. Rafael attended Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY), where he obtained a B.S. in physics. As an undergraduate, Rafael participated in AstrocomNYC, a partnership between CUNY, American Museum of Natural History and Columbia University supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). There, his research with Luis Anchordoquí investigated the origin of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. In collaboration with the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina, Rafael and his research team proposed a model whereby dormant quasars could propagate cosmic-ray nuclei up to ultra-high energies. Rafael co-authored the resulting paper, published in the Journal of High Energy Astrophysics. This experience sparked Rafael's interest in high-energy astrophysics. At Columbia University, Rafael worked with Lorenzo Sironi, using particle-in-cell simulations to study the effects of magnetic reconnection in the gamma-ray flares originating from the Crab Nebula. Rafael plans to continue exploring the high energy universe and pursue a Ph.D. in astrophysics.
*Rafael is pursuing his Ph.D. studies in physiology and biophysics at Weill Cornell Medicine Graduate School of Medical Sciences.
Advisor: Carol Mason
Sania Khalid was born in Pakistan and raised in Westchester, New York. She graduated from Barnard College with a B.S. in psychology. While at Barnard, Sania began working in Carol Mason’s laboratory studying neurogenesis in the retina. Her primary research focus was the contributions of Cyclin D2, a cell-cycle regulator, to the specification of retinal ganglion cell subtypes, a critical mechanism underlying binocular vision. As a Bridge scholar, Sania used an albino mouse model to further study the role of Cyclin D2 in the production of retinal ganglion cells. More specifically, she sought to identify specific transcription factors involved in the development of this visual pathway of the brain. Sania plans to apply to programs in neuroscience and vision science in order to continue working on the visual system in graduate school.
*Sania is enrolled in a doctor of optometry (O.D.) program at the School of Optometry at Inter American University of Puerto Rico.
Advisor: Greg Bryan
Iris Lan is from the Hakka areas of Guangdong Province, China. She attended Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, Guangdong, and majored in electrical engineering before transferring to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and graduating with a B.S. in astronomy in December 2015. At UIUC, Iris conducted research with Tony Wong on the interstellar medium and star formation. After graduation, she worked on follow-up observations of nearby galaxies in the EDGE-CALIFA survey, helping to reduce the neutral hydrogen (HI) gas data from Green Bank Telescope for these galaxies, developing a method for collecting signals from noisy HI and carbon monoxide spectra, and analyzing the molecular gas fractions across the survey. In 2017, she began working with Greg Bryan in the Department of Astronomy on the cooling of gas in the circumgalactic medium and its relationship with star formation.
*Iris is pursuing her graduate studies in electrical and electronic engineering at Nanyang Technological University.
Advisor: James Leighton
Mario Rivera was born in El Salvador and moved to Queens, New York, at the age of nine. He served in the Army Reserves for 12 years and completed three deployments overseas. In 2017, he graduated from St. John’s University with a combined B.S./M.S. degree in chemistry. While at St. John’s, he worked in Victor Cesare’s laboratory, where he synthesized α-chloro-N-tritylamides and converted them to novel three-member aziridinones (α-lactams) to function as reaction intermediates. In October 2017, following his passion for organic synthesis, Mario joined James Leighton’s laboratory in the Department of Chemistry. As a Bridge scholar, Mario investigated new methods of synthesizing homo-propargylic alcohols, which are used as precursors for the synthesis of natural products. Also, he worked on developing more reactive analogs of strained Lewis acids to use in crotylation reactions with aldehydes that could lead to higher stereoselective products.
*Mario is pursuing his Ph.D. in chemistry at Purdue University.
Advisor: Abhay Pasupathy
John Shin was born in Anaheim, California. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.S. in physics and a minor in mathematics from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). John developed an interest in condensed matter physics through his relationship with Zack Schlesinger, who taught him solid state physics in a unique Socratic style. At UCSC, he worked with Zack Schlesinger and Sriram Shastry on understanding thulium tetraboride, a material with exotic magnetic properties. In the summer of 2015, John participated in an REU at the University of Washington, where he worked on niobium nitride superconducting single-photon detectors for diamond nanophotonics in the laboratory of Kai-Mei Fu. As a Bridge scholar, John worked in the laboratory of Abhay Pasupathy in the Department of Physics, where he investigated the use of non-convex optimization techniques in scientific imaging. Leveraging these techniques, John researched unconventional superconductors for improving operating temperatures and identifying possible applications to quantum computers.
*John is pursuing his Masters degree at New York University Tandon School of Engineering.
Cohort 9 (2016-2018)
Advisor: Kevin Ochsner
Shane Colombo is from Riverside, California, and received a B.A. in psychology from San Francisco State University in May 2016. As an undergraduate, Shane was awarded the National Institutes of Health Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity fellowship, which aims to enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce. This allowed him to conduct research with Joshua Woolley in the Department of Psychiatry of the University of California, San Francisco. Shane investigated the influence of the neuropeptide oxytocin on the inhibition of imitative behavior in patients with schizophrenia, and developed a deep interest in the social-cognitive deficits specifically observed in this patient population. In July 2016, he joined Kevin Ochsner's laboratory in the Department of Psychology, where he has continued to develop these interests through the lens of social-cognitive neuroscience and psychosocial factors. Shane’s research examines the relationship between internalized stigma, verbal memory, and emotion-recognition in patients at clinical-high risk for psychosis. He utilizes functional brain imaging data as a means of understanding the neural correlates implicated in this relationship.
*In 2018, Shane began a doctoral studies in clinical psychology at Northwestern University.
Advisor: David Kipping
Jorge Cortés is from California’s Bay Area: he was born in San Francisco and raised in San Pablo and Richmond. He earned a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012, and an M.S. in aerospace engineering from San José State University (SJSU) in 2015. While pursuing his M.S., Jorge began working at Terra Bella, a producer of high-resolution Earth images and geospatial data. At Terra Bella, Jorge monitored and commanded satellites to ensure their health and safety, updated test scripts for satellite commands, and maintained operational information for satellite components. Throughout this journey, Jorge became increasingly interested in astrophysics, especially after taking courses at SJSU and writing a Python script to model the interiors of newly formed stars. Determined to explore his interests, Jorge joined David Kipping’s Cool Worlds Lab in the Department of Astronomy, where he studies the detectability of exoplanets with the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Specifically, he has conducted simulations to compute the likelihood of finding planets around white dwarf stars.
*Jorge is pursuing his Ph.D. in astronomy at Columbia University.
Advisor: Cory Dean
Kursti DeLello is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She graduated from the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a B.S. in physics in 2016. In the summer of 2014 Kursti participated in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at Florida State University (FSU). While at FSU, Kursti worked in Luis Balicas’s laboratory investigating the electrical properties of stacked two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD) heterostructures. Kursti spent the following summer at the Pennsylvania State University in another REU, working with Joshua Robinson on the impact of the insulating-to-metallic phase transition of vanadium dioxide on the optical properties of TMDs. This led to an invited paper in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. After returning to UCF, she began work with Eduardo Mucciolo on her honors thesis. Kursti developed an accurate electronic band model of 2D black phosphorous, which led to a publication in Physical Review B. As a Bridge scholar, Kursti explored the effects of lattice mismatch on the mechanical interactions in 2D systems.
*In 2018, Kursti began pursuing her Ph.D. as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow in applied physics at Cornell University, where she plans to continue exploring fundamental interactions between 2D materials.
Advisor: Sonya Dyhrman
María Hernández-Limón was born in Mexico and moved to Illinois when she was 10 years old. Maria became the first person in her family to graduate from college when she earned a B.S. in geology-biology in 2014 from Brown University. During the summer of her junior year, María helped to collect and analyze water-quality data to assess hypoxia in Narragansett Bay, which led to her interest in aquatic ecosystems. After graduating, María worked in Chicago with the Schuler Scholar Program, which prepares underserved students from low-income communities to excel in college. Before coming to Columbia, María was a Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research Summer Fellow at the University of Michigan. There, she synthesized data from the five organizations that oversee Lake Erie’s fisheries and produced an estimate of the total fish harvest from 1999-2013 that will be used in the Lake Erie Atlantis Ecosystem Model. In August 2016, María joined Sonya Dyhrman’s laboratory at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which focuses on understanding the interaction between phytoplankton and their geochemical environment. In 2017, María’s research focused on comparing gene expression data from phytoplankton grown at ambient and increased carbon dioxide conditions in order to elucidate how increases in carbon dioxide influence phytoplankton physiology. Results from this research were published in Frontiers in Microbiology.
*María is pursuing her Ph.D. in geophysical science at the University of Chicago, where she hopes to continue exploring the connections between organisms and their environment while promoting STEM outreach.
Advisor: Ozgur Sahin
Kassidy Lundy was born in Queens Village, New York City, and graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in biophysics in 2016. While at Syracuse, Kassidy completed an REU and an independent research project with Lisa Manning in the Department of Physics. Kassidy’s research focused on simulating the trajectory of Kupffer’s vesicle, an organ necessary for proper development in Zebrafish embryos, using the principles of the self-propelled particle model. As a Bridge scholar, Kassidy characterized enzyme kinetics through imaging nucleic acids and proteins using atomic force microscopy. She aimed to capture the dynamics of enzyme-DNA interactions on nanoscales, by imaging enzyme operations in real time.
*In 2018, Kassidy began her Ph.D. studies in the biomedical sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Advisor: Kyle Mandli
Huda Qureshi immigrated from Pakistan to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1995. She graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2014 with a B.S. in mathematics and physics. In the summer of 2012, Huda worked with Mark Rupright at Birmingham-Southern on a research project testing stability, evolution, and convergence in a comparison of several numerical methods. In the summer of 2013, as part of a joint REU between Birmingham-Southern and Rhodes College, she worked with Anne Yust to build an agent-based disease model for a threatened species of foxes native to the Southern California Channel Islands. In 2014, Huda accepted a Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Under the mentorship of Kesheng Wu, Huda researched heuristic methods for graph minor-embedding in an effort to build an improved compiler for the D-Wave machine, a quantum bit computer. Huda also spent six months as a curriculum developer with Girls Who Code before coming to Columbia. Currently, Huda worked with Kyle Mandli in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, where she is conducted a sensitivity analysis of hurricane parametric wind models within the GeoClaw software.
*In 2018, Huda began her Ph.D. studies in applied mathematics at Columbia University.
Cohort 8 (2015-2017)
Advisor: Simon Billinge
Neno Fuller graduated from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY) in 2015 with a B.S. in physics and a minor in mathematics. In 2013, Neno worked with Nancy Griffeth, comparing different computational models of the Ras-protein mediated cell-signaling pathway to develop therapies targeting mutations that affect this pathway. Starting in 2014, he was a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation scholar in the laboratory of Mim Nakarmi, where he grew thin-film hexagonal boron nitride by means of chemical vapor depositions and atomic-force microscopy for photonic applications. Also in 2014, Neno was a REU student in Andrew Houck’s group in Princeton University’s Department of Electrical Engineering. He used a high-frequency structure simulator to model a filter device for use in quantum computing. Back at Brooklyn College, Neno’s senior thesis with Karl Sandeman focused on the magnetocaloric effect, a phenomenon whereby a material in a magnetic field experiences a change of temperature when the field is changed. Magnetic refrigeration employs this effect to generate a cycle akin to the gas-based cooling of traditional refrigeration, which relies on hydro-fluorocarbons that have 2000 times the global warming potential of CO2. In Simon Billinge’s group, Neno investigated the magnetocaloric properties of Manganese-Iron-Silicon, which is particularly promising because of its cheap and non-toxic components. By comparing the structural features of three samples over two thermal cycles, Neno aimed to clarify the link between structure and the thermal-history dependence of this material’s magnetic properties.
*Neno plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics in the near future.
Advisor: Carol Prives
Jazmine-Saskya Joseph-Chowdhury was born and raised in Queens, New York. She attended the Polytechnic Institute of New York University before transferring to Hunter College (CUNY), where she earned a B.A. in biological sciences in 2015. While at Hunter, Jazmine was a member of Olorunseun Ogunwobi laboratory. She participated in a project to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of metastasis in liver, prostate, and colon cancer, with a focus on circulating tumor cells. In September 2015, Jazmine moved to Columbia University and joined the Prives laboratory, whose focus is the protein p53. p53 is a tumor-suppressor at the center of many regulatory pathways responsible for maintaining balance in the cell, and is frequently mutated in human cancers. Jazmine investigated the role of a point mutation (A347D) that causes p53 to shift from its active (tetrameric) form to its inactive (dimeric) form. She sought to elucidate the possible different roles of dimeric p53 in the cell by overexpressing the dimer mutant (A347D) in cancer cells and by observing the effects of the naturally-occurring mutation in patient cells.
*Jazmine is pursing her Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Advisors: Geraldine Downey and Carl Hart
Christopher Medina-Kirchner, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2014 with a B.A. in psychology. As an undergraduate, he was a McNair scholar and conducted research in Krista Lisdahl’s Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology (BraIN) Laboratory, as well as with the Milwaukee County Drug Treatment Court evaluation team. Through this work, Christopher began to notice how misinformation about the neuropsychopharmacological effects of drugs has contributed to high incarceration rates. This inspired him to gain a more thorough understanding of the neurobiological and environmental factors that determine responses to drug effects. At Columbia, Christopher worked with Carl Hart to understand factors that mediate drug self-administration behavior and with Geraldine Downey to develop a rejection-sensitivity model of coping with the stigma of a criminal record. He received a “Beyond the Bars” fellowship, which affords him an opportunity to participate in research projects aimed at increasing our understanding of mass incarceration and factors that will reverse this situation. Christopher aspires to become a neuropsychopharmacologist who investigates the effects of psychoactive substances in human research patients while taking into consideration environmental and social factors.
*Christopher is pursuing his Ph.D. in psychology at Columbia University.
Cohort 7 (2014-2016)
Advisor: Elisa Konofagou
Amanda Buch was born and raised on Long Island, New York. She received a B.A. in biophysics from Columbia University in 2014. From 2011 to 2012, Amanda conducted research in Viviane Taber’s laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s Disease and a model of pediatric full-brain irradiation in rats, which culminated in the co-authorship of a Nature paper. In the fall of 2012, Amanda joined Elisa Konofagou’s and Vincent Ferrera’s laboratories at Columbia’s Kavli Institute for Brain Science to work on a joint project bridging the fields of ultrasound engineering and cognitive neuroscience. Amanda used focused ultrasound to modulate brain function noninvasively and to open the blood-brain barrier for targeted drug delivery. She received a fellowship from the Focused Ultrasound Foundation in the summer of 2014. In January of 2016, Amanda moved to Daphna Shohamy’s laboratory in the Department of Psychology to investigate the neural correlates of how Parkinson’s patients learn and think differently than healthy individuals. Amanda is also active in the areas of scientific outreach, and one of her talks (and illustrations) was featured by the Dana Foundation in 2015.
*Amanda is pursuing her Ph.D. in neuroscience at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences.
Advisor: Lars Dietrich
Blanche Fields was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. In 2013, she earned her B.S. in biology from Norfolk State University (NSU). While at NSU, she was a research assistant in the laboratory of Ganesan Kamatchi. Blanche investigated voltage-gated calcium channels, and in particular how the auxiliary subunits of a channel contribute to its overall physiology. At NSU, Blanche also worked with Ashley Haines to identify virulence factors for the marine bacteria Streptococcus parauberis and Vibrio harveyi. In August 2014, Blanche moved to Columbia and Lars Dietrich’s laboratory, where she focused on understanding how Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that thrives in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, transitions from a single bacterium to a community of bacteria--a biofilm--that provides protection from adverse environmental conditions. Blanche sought to identify genes that control the level of a signaling molecule essential to the biofilm formation.
*Blanche is pursuing her Ph.D. in biological science at Columbia University.
Advisor: Bärbel Honisch
In 2013, Carina Fish received an A.B. from Harvard College, where she was a joint concentrator in Earth and planetary sciences & environmental science and engineering. In the summer of 2010, Carina participated in a Research Experiences for Undergraduates in the Whitesides Research Group in Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; her contributions to their ongoing soft robotics project earned her two publications and a patent. In the summer of 2012, Carina spent five weeks aboard the R/V Knorr with the Langmuir Group in Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences researching the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Carina’s senior thesis work with Andrew Knoll in the same department focused on marine carbonate chemistry and led her into the realm of paleo-related research. At Columbia, Carina was a research assistant for Bärbel Hönisch, who specializes in paleoreconstructions of marine carbonate chemistry, and focuses on the boron isotope proxy for past seawater acidity (pH). Carina supplemented previous boron isotope-pH proxy work on sediments of a Caribbean core top by analyzing them for their trace metals and oxygen isotopic composition. Her main project on foraminifera and their algal symbionts’ photosynthesis began in Spring 2015 with a Puerto Rican field season. She found that while there is a connection between the algal photosynthesis and geochemical signal within an individual shell, the connection does not hold when comparing species.
*In 2016, Carina began her doctorate studies in Tessa Hill’s group in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of California, Davis.
Advisor: Brian Humensky
Deivid Ribeiro grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth before transferring to Brown University to complete a B.S. in physics. His primary research focus as an undergraduate was on using possible dark matter densities within globular clusters to understand and predict dark matter particle properties. Using data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Deivid searched for gamma-ray emission from the globular clusters in the Milky Way. Emission from unknown sources in these globular clusters could be a signal of dark matter particle annihilation. As a research assistant in Brian Humensky’s laboratory in the Department of Physics, Deivid has worked on the optical alignment system of a prototype gamma-ray telescope that is a candidate instrument for the planned Cherenkov Telescope Array. Additionally, he analyzed gamma-ray observations of the Milky Way center obtained by the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System to reveal more information about dark matter particle properties.
*Deivid is working toward a Ph.D. in physics, with a focus on astrophysics, at Columbia University.
Cohort 6 (2013-2015)
Advisor: Jacqueline van Gorkom
Julia Gross is from South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She has a B.S. in electrical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and a M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of South Florida. Before coming to Columbia, Julia was a radio frequency engineer at NASA Johnson Space Center. While at NASA, she worked on the design of the S-band communication system on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and the design of an ultra-wideband communication and tracking system developed for use by astronauts and vehicles on the Moon. Currently, Julia is a RA in the Department of Astronomy working with Jacqueline van Gorkom on a far-reaching radio survey of neutral hydrogen gas around galaxies. This survey is being conducted using the Very Large Array radio observatory, located in New Mexico, and will help provide insight into galaxy formation and evolution. Ultimately, Julia hopes to build on her experience working with radio frequency systems and become a radio astronomer studying the large-scale structure of the universe.
*Julia is now pursuing a Ph.D. in astronomy at Columbia.
Advisor: Marcel Agüeros
David Jaimes, a native San Diegan from California, received a B.S. in astronomy from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2013. At SDSU, his research with Eric Sandquist focused on investigating the age of the old open cluster, NGC 6819. He also worked for Astronomical Research Cameras, assembling controllers and multiplexors for the Visible Integral Field Replicable Unit Spectrographs (VIRUS) used by the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment at the University of Texas, Austin. As a Bridge to the Ph.D. Program scholar, David worked with Marcel Agüeros in the Department of Astronomy and studied the young open cluster, Alpha Persei. The new rotation periods that he measured for stars in this cluster are used to calibrate and anchor the relationship between stellar age and rotation. David is now pursuing an M.S. in astronomy at SDSU. Currently, he is working with Robert Quimby, the Director of with the Mount Laguna Observatory, on classifying spectra —usually supernovae—taken with the 60-inch telescope at the Palomar Observatory. David plans to finish his graduate studies work at SDSU and pursue a career in data science.
Advisor: Lance Kam
Lester Lambert was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a B.S. in the science of natural and environmental systems from Cornell University in 2010. During his time at Cornell, Lester worked in laboratories in the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and the College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2009, Lester was awarded a grant by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Conservation International to visit the Albrolhos Marine National Park and start a project to determine whether the parrotfish Sparisoma amplum transferred pathogenic bacteria from sewage-laced algae to the dominant reef-building coral Mussismilia braziliensis, causing White Plague Disease. While studying plant and fish pathology, Lester became increasingly interested in pursuing a career in infectious-disease research. After spending some time as a NIH Post-baccalaureate Research Fellow, Lester joined the Microscale Biocomplexity Laboratory of Lance Kam in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. There, Lester investigates whether the usage of softer substrate materials such as polydimethylsiloxane (as opposed to polystyrene) plastic results in better activation of T cells.
*Lester is planning to start medical school in the fall of 2017.
Advisor: Janna Levin
Rhondale (Ron) Tso was born and raised in northern Arizona. As an undergraduate at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, his research experiences included studying violations of Lorentz symmetry through what is known as the Standard-Model Extension. This led to two publications, one with Quentin Bailey (Embry-Riddle) and the other with Alan Kostelecky (Indiana). Ron also spent the summer of 2010 as a NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates student at the University of Chicago, studying charged-particle dynamics near the surface of rotating black holes in uniform magnetic fields with Robert Wald. His undergraduate thesis involved the implementation of error-estimation techniques for parameters controlling the observed properties of gravitational waveforms of interest to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory collaboration. After graduating with a degree in space physics in 2012, Ron worked as a mathematics tutor at Flagstaff High School and as an assistant to the disability resource center of Northern Arizona University. At Columbia, Ron's research with Janna Levin involves studying gravitational waves, the dynamics of eccentric compact binary systems, and the effects of spin-orbit couplings and high eccentricities of such binaries on the waveforms they generate.
*Ron is now a graduate student in the physics Ph.D. program at Caltech.
Cohort 5 (2012-2014)
Advisor: Barbel Honisch
Caroline Baptist was born and raised in New Jersey and earned a B.S. in marine science, with a minor in biology, from Rider University in May 2012. As a McNair Scholar at Rider, she studied phytoplankton ecology with Gabriela Smalley. As a research assistant (RA) at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Caroline worked on proxy calibrations for paleoceanographic reconstructions with Pratigya Polissarand Bärbel Hönisch. In the summer of 2013, Caroline worked on the sensitivity of stable carbon and oxygen isotopes to changes in the magnesium to calcium ratio of seawater in planktonic Foraminifera on Catalina Island, California. Understanding this effect can help us to reconstruct past sea surface temperature and understand the carbonate chemistry of the ocean. In turn, this helps to quantify Earth's climate history and thereby improve predictions for future climate change.
*Caroline is working on a Master of Science degree in marine biology and coastal science at Montclair State University.
Advisor: Virginia Cornish
Millicent Olawale, a native of San Francisco, California, received his B.A. in neuroscience and behavior from Columbia University in May 2011. As an undergraduate, Millicent participated in the Summer Program for Under-Represented Students in Biomedical Research Program, studying the ribosome and its involvement in protein synthesis in Virginia Cornish's laboratory. Millicent was also a two-year starter at quarterback for the Columbia Lions and served as the team's co-captain his senior year. Millicent returned to the Cornish laboratory as a Bridge to the Ph.D. scholar, working in the Directed Evolution group, to optimize a new method for in vivo DNA assembly: Reiterative Recombination. Reiterative Recombination, an efficient and user-friendly tool developed in the Cornish laboratory, enables the assembly of multigene pathways directly into the yeast chromosome, thereby addressing some of the DNA pathway assembly problems that exist in metabolic engineering and directed evolution. Toward the end of his time in the Bridge Program, Millicent began working on a new project to compare the stability of DNA on the chromosome and on the plasmid by measuring the inactivation of a selective marker gene in order to calculate mutation rates. Both of these projects aimed to provide a better understanding of DNA manipulation through quantitative data analysis.
*Millicent is completing the Master of Science program in biology (medical science) at Mississippi College. He plans to start medical school in the fall of 2016.
Raised in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, Natalee Raymond moved to the United States in 2008 to pursue a B.A. in chemistry and physics from Macalester College. In the summer of 2009, she studied cerium-oxide-based metal catalysts in ultra-high vacuum and real-world conditions at the University of Wyoming. Natalee went on to do research in high-energy particle physics with the A Toroidal Large Hadron Collider Apparatus Collaboration at Columbia in the summer of 2011. She searched for the down-type fourth generation quarks in the lepton plus jets decay channel. In the spring of 2012, through the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program, Natalee joined physicists at the University of Minnesota in a collaboration with the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. She investigated the properties of scintillator materials for detectors at the Compact Muon Solenoid. As a Bridge RA, Natalee worked with Philip Kim and Latha Venkataraman in the Departments of Physics and of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. Natalee's projects included studying electron transport by experimenting with break-junction scanning tunneling microscopy in electrochemical environments and examining the properties of graphite intercalation compounds, which exhibit interesting properties not found in native graphite or in the intercalant chemical species, such as superconductivity. Natalee intends to pursue a Ph.D. in material science.
Cohort 4 (2011-2013)
Advisor: Nicholas Turro
Juliana, a native of Medellín, Colombia, moved to the United States in 2006. In 2011, she earned a B.S. in biotechnology from Kean University in New Jersey. As a 2009 Ronald E. McNair scholar, Juliana worked with Eric Boehm on sequencing DNA to resolve phylogenic relationships between species in the genus of the mytilinidion fungus. In 2010, she studied the intestinal calcium transport mediated by Vitamin D with Angela Porta. During her time as a RA in the Porta laboratory, she was funded by a National Institute of Health (NIH) Research Supplements for Underrepresented Minorities grant. As a Bridge to the Ph.D. scholar, Juliana worked in Nicholas Turro’s photochemistry laboratory, where she investigated the quenching of fluorescence in fluorophores by using free radicals in different environments. Such fluorophores could be used as biosensors and for imaging.
*In 2017, Juliana received a Ph.D. in chemistry from SUNY Albany and now is a quality control chemist at SOFIE.
Advisor: Abhay Pasupathy
Born in El Salvador and raised in Maryland, Erick earned his B.S. in physics in 2005 from the University of Maryland, College Park. His research experiences include work in experimental nuclear physics at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, and in experimental atomic, molecular, and optical physics with Wendell Hill at the University of Maryland. During his time in Maryland, his focus was on how to cancel stray magnetic fields in a magneto-optical trap that cools rubidium atoms to microkelvin temperatures for optical manipulation. While in the Bridge Program, Erick worked with Abhay Pasupathy in his Condensed Matter Physics Group on scanning tunnel microscopy of recently discovered high-temperature, iron-based superconductors. Most recently, he was involved in the construction of an ultra low-loss scanning tunneling microscope and in probing the properties of charged density waves of sulfur doped niobium diselenide around its transition temperature.
* Erick received his Ph.D. in physics from Columbia University in 2018 and is a data scientist at Crime Lab and Education Lab New York (CLNY).
Advisor: John Hunt
Born and raised in New Jersey, Carlos attended Kean University, where he obtained a B.S. in biotechnology with a minor in organic chemistry in 2011. While at Kean, he participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and McNair programs. It was his REU experience in the Walter Chazin laboratory that sparked his interest in biomedicine. At Columbia, Carlos worked in John Hunt’s laboratory studying the structural and thermodynamic mechanisms by which proteins perform mechanical activities on a molecular scale. More specifically, he characterized the protein cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), a mutation of which causes cystic fibrosis. A better understanding of CFTR could ultimately lead to the development of new drugs to treat the disease.
* Carlos received a Ph.D. in medical microbiology and bacteriology from Rutgers University in 2019 and is currently an associate medical director at GSW Advertising.
Advisor: Peter deMenocal
Originally from Los Angeles, California, Evan moved to New York in 2007 to study anthropology and sustainable development at Columbia University. As a Bridge scholar, Evan worked with deMenocal's group to reconstruct a record of the Earth's climate variability. His research involved analyzing deuterium hydrogen isotopes locked away in fossilized leaf wax samples that have been extracted from deep sediment cores taken off the coasts of Africa and Peru. This research tracked large-scale changes in climate over the past 10,000 years to help answer questions about the formation of human civilization and to identify global trends that will affect future societal development.
*Evan is currently persuing his MBA a the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Advisor: David Schiminovich
As an undergraduate at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, Steven worked with Jeff Bary studying angular momentum transport in TW Hya, a T Tauri star, via its accretion and outflow processes. In the summer of 2009, he researched the formation of brown dwarfs using Hubble Space Telescope images with Kim McLeod at Wellesley College, and helped discover a planetesimal orbiting a brown dwarf. Steven earned a B.A. in astronomy-physics in 2011. As a Bridge scholar, Steven worked in the Department of Astronomy to assemble a catalog from various surveys of nearby massive galaxies to examine their gas content and compare them to galaxies in the Galaxy Arecibo Sky Survey (GASS). Specifically, he looked at how neutral hydrogen evolves between young, blue, gas-rich star forming galaxies and old, red, gas-deficient galaxies that have a much lower star-formation rate. While the distribution of neutral hydrogen is known in lower-mass galaxies, Steven hopes to extend that the relationship to more massive galaxies.
*In the fall of 2013, Steven entered the Ph.D. program in astronomy at Columbia University.
Cohort 3 (2010-2012)
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Brian worked in the Interracial Diversity laboratory with Valerie Purdie-Greenaway to examine the relationship between race and self-affirmation in the political support of President Barack Obama. In addition, he examined the correlation between race and masculinity and their affiliation to stereotype threat. Brian received his B.A. in psychology from Argosy University in Chicago, Illinois, in the spring of 2010. Before graduating, Brian was a McNair Scholar at Michigan State University. There he investigated the impact of race and rank in sexual harassment in men in the military and the sexual harassment of working women with Isis Settles and NiCole Buchanan. In addition, Brian founded a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk youths and is dedicated to bridging educational gaps and assisting minority males in the transition to adulthood. Brian plans on obtaining his Ph.D. in clinical psychology.
Kirsten is from Pelham, New York, and received her B.A. in psychology from Connecticut College in May 2010. As an undergraduate, she did research under the mentorship of Emery Brown at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she examined the actions of general anesthetic drugs and how they induce loss of consciousness. It was this experience that ignited Kirsten's interest in pharmacology. During her time in the Bridge Program, Kirsten worked with Kevin Ochsner studying the regulation of craving in methamphetamine users and with Carl Hart to investigate how ketamine affects cocaine users. In particular, Kirsten looked at whether ketamine reduces cue reactivity (the intensity of response to drug cues), and whether it enhances motivation to change patterns of drug use. This may help determine whether ketamine can be used in treatments for cocaine dependence.
* In 2018, Kirsten received a Ph.D. in psychology from Columbia University and is now working as a medical writer at LifeSci Communications.
Advisor: Carol Mason
Raven is from New Castle, Delaware, and graduated from Haverford College, where she earned a B.S. in Biology in 2010. While at Haverford, she received several summer research fellowships from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and completed a senior thesis with Andrea Morris on axon guidance in the developing visual system. In the summer of 2009, as part of Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GSAS) Summer Research Program, Raven furthered her interest in axon guidance as a working with Carol Mason. In 2010, Raven returned to the Mason laboratory as a RA in the Bridge Program. The Mason laboratory investigates molecules important for the formation of neuronal connections in the developing visual system. Raven's project identified genes important for retinal axons to recognize targets in the brain.
* In the summer of 2012, Raven entered the M.D./Ph.D. program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Advisor: Ann McDermott
Claribel is a New York native and earned a B.S. in chemistry from Brooklyn College in 2010. There she was a Minority Access to Research and Career (MARC) scholar, and worked with Maria Contel on the synthesis of iminophsophines with gold to improve cancer therapy. In the summer of 2009, Claribel conducted research with Nina Berova at Columbia as part of the GSAS Summer Research Program. She worked on three zinc "tweezers" to determine their usefulness for finding the absolute configuration of chiral molecules, which will help in developing efficient pharmaceuticals. As a Bridge scholar, Claribel studied the interaction of cytochrome P450, an enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of organic substances in the body, with N-Palmitoylglycine, a fatty acid.
* After receiving her Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Florida. in 2018, Claribel now works as cell processing associate at SanBio
Advisor: Rae Silver
John is originally from Yellow Springs, Ohio. He attended Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia, where he received his B.S. in biology in 2010. As a member of the John H. Hopps Jr. Research Scholars Program, which is funded by the Department of Defense, John worked with Daniel Hummer at Morehouse, investigating the role of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in light-induced phase shifts in hamsters. Additionally, John spent the summer of 2009 in the laboratory of Ted Garland Jr. at the University of California, Riverside, studying sexual dimorphism in the pelvises of a group of mice selectively bred for voluntary wheel running. As a Bridge scholar, John studied circadian rhythms. His work focused on the role of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the regulation of sex hormones. Specifically, he was looking for sex differences in the circadian regulation of the endocrine pathway responsible for sex hormone release in hamsters.
*John is now a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Epidemiology of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.
Corey was born and raised in Miami, Florida. After receiving his B.A. in biochemistry from Columbia University in May 2010, Corey began working as a joint research assistant in the labs of Virginia Cornish and Ruben Gonzalez, Jr. There he investigated the detailed functioning of the ribosome, the critical piece of cellular machinery responsible for the synthesis of proteins. His research utilized single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) coupled with total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM) to explore the complex dynamics involved in protein formation, particularly those of ribosomal recycling.
* In 2018, Corey received his Ph.D. in chemical biology from Yale University.
Cohort 2 (2009-2011)
Originally from New York, Shaness received her B.A. in psychology from St. John's University in May 2009. A McNair Scholar at St. John's, Shaness conducted research with Alice Powers, examining the behavior of turtles in order to uncover distinct personality traits. Shaness also participated in a summer REU at Northern Arizona University with Melissa Birkett. There she examined cinnamon's ability to attenuate stress in male undergraduates. It was during this experience that Shaness bridged her interest in psychology with her current interest in neuroscience. At Columbia, she worked with Prof. Niall Bolger investigating dyadic interactions and models of social support in Hispanic populations with Type II diabetes. Shaness then worked with Prof. Frances Champagne researching how early life experiences, in particular maternal care, programs behavioral and neuroendocrine outcomes in rodents. Shaness is interested in studying the biological mechanisms that drive persistent pain conditions.
* In 2016, Shaness received a Ph.D. in medical pharmacology from the University of Arizona. Now, Shaness is a senior scientist at Johnson & Johnson.
Advisor: Jules Halpern
A native New Yorker, Nicholas is an alumnus of York College, where he earned his B.S. in physics and mathematics in 2010. His previous research experiences included modeling gamma-ray emission from starburst galaxies with Timothy Paglione of York College, City University of New York (CUNY), and performing X-ray population studies of dwarf spheroidal galaxies in the Local Group, using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory, with Marina Orio at the University of Wisconsin. At Columbia, Nicholas searched for gamma-ray pulsations from suspected pulsars using data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
* After receiving his M.S. in astronomy from the University of Washington, Nicholas is now a senior software engineer at Verica.
Advisor: Kevin Ochsner
Richard (Rich) Lopez is originally from Rockaway, New Jersey, and graduated from Princeton University in 2009 with a B.A. in psychology. While at Princeton, he investigated social cognition and face perception with Alexander Todorov. While in the Bridge Program, Rich conducted research at Columbia University's Social Cognitive Neuroscience laboratory.
* In 2017, Rich received a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College. Rich is now an assistant professor of psychology at Bard College.
Advisor: Brent Stockwell
A native of Edo, Nigeria, Egbe moved to the United States in 2003. As an undergraduate at Saint John's University, she became a McNair Scholar, and did research under the mentorship of Richard Lockshin. In the Lockshin laboratory, Egbe worked on zebrafish embryos to better understand the implications of caspase-3 in cell death. As a Bridge scholar, Egbe detected unknown (non-apoptotic) cell deaths via staining and antibody assays in the developmental stages of mice embryos. This work may pave way for a better understanding of the behavior of cancer cells, as distortion of/disruption in cell death pathways have been implicated in cancers and other neuronal diseases. In addition, she worked to develop biomarkers for erastin, a potential anti-cancer drug that was developed in the Stockwell laboratory. Egbe plans to obtain an M.D./Ph.D. with a focus in cancer and pharmacological research.
Advisor: Kevin Griffin
Originally from Pennsylvania, Angelica earned her B.S. in natural resources from Cornell University in 2003. Before coming to Columbia, Angelica studied plant-virus interactions with Alison Power at Cornell University, and the ecological and evolutionary relationship of desert cacti and moths with Nathaniel Holland at Rice University. Her research as a Bridge scholar examined the influence of mycorrhizal fungi colonization on root morphological traits. Also, she studied the effects of forest disturbance on the activity of nitrogen reductase enzyme, which educes soil nitrogen for use in photosynthesis and other processes, in black birch leaves.
* In the fall of 2011, Angelica entered the Ph.D. program in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia. She is focusing on understanding the physiological response of plants to climate change and its links to plant-community composition and tree-species distribution.
Advisor: J. Chloë Bulinski
Khatera was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and grew up in Queens, New York. She received her B.S. in biology and B.A. in environmental studies from Brooklyn College (CUNY). As an undergraduate, Khatera worked with Thomas Lewandowski studying the toxicological effects on a cultured cell line of the combined exposure to lead and mercury. As a Bridge scholar, Khatera researched a covalent modification of connexin43 (Cx43), a protein subunit of cellular gap junctions, which allow passage of small molecules between adjacent cells. Gap junctions built from Cx43 are required for development and homeostasis of higher organisms, and mutations in the Cx43 gene are known to cause human disease. Like many cytoplasmic proteins, connexins undergo covalent modification of their coded amino acids following protein synthesis. Khatera studied Cx43 post-translational modifications, which may elucidate further required determinants of gap junction structure and function.
* In 2017, Khatera received a Ph.D. in toxicology from the University of Rochester and is now a senior toxicologist at Conagra Brands.
Cohort 1 (2008-2010)
Advisor: Jacqueline van Gorkom
Ximena is originally from Colombia, and earned a B.A. from Vassar College in physics and astronomy in 2007 and a B.Eng. from Dartmouth College in 2008. Before entering the Bridge Program, Ximena had investigated galaxy formation and evolution by analyzing galaxy properties in different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum with Debra Elmegreen at Vassar College and Emmanuel Momjian, Chris Salter, and Tapasi Ghosh at the Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico. As a Bridge scholar, Ximena studied the neutral hydrogen distribution of interacting galaxies in different environments. Her first project involved looking at a gas-rich merger remnant and examining the fate of the gas in the presence of an active black hole and a burst of star formation. She then studied the gas dynamics in interacting galaxies in the Virgo Cluster to understand how they are affected by the intracluster medium.
*Ximena received her Ph.D. in astronomy from Columbia University in 2015. She currently is a data scientist with the New York City Council.
Advisor: Hakwan Lau
Tashina Graves was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but had lived in New York nearly all her life. She received her B.A. in psychology from Barnard College where she completed her senior project in Lisa Son's laboratory, researching metacognition in children. During her senior year Tashina also worked as a teaching assistant for the Perception and Cognition laboratory courses. Her research interests lie in the area of visual perception, particularly the role of, and interplay between, attention and awareness. As a Bridge scholar in the Consciousness and Computation Lab in the Psychology Department, she worked on visual attention, confidence ratings, and the integration of perceptual information.
* Tashina received her Ph.D. in psychology from Johns Hopkins University in 2015.
Advisor: James Manley
Charlotte is from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, which spans the borders of Quebec, Ontario, and New York State, and is dedicated to alleviating the health disparities between Native and mainstream communities. Charlotte received her B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma. At Columbia, she studied how gene expression is controlled on a molecular level by mRNA transcript processing. After investigating the role of alternative splicing of the mRNA transcript in difficult-to-treat asthma, Charlotte then worked on the factors involved in polyadenylation of the mRNA transcript. Specifically, she investigated the recruitment of the PAF complex by transcriptional activator VP16 in transcription-coupled polyadenylation.
* Charlotte graduated from Brandeis University with a Masters of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2012. After working as a molecular biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, she has decided to pursue graduate study in linguistics at Cornell University.
Advisor: Virginia Cornish
Vanessa completed her undergraduate studies in biology with a concentration in developmental genetics at Stony Brook University. In Prof. Cornish's lab, she participated in development of a heritable mutagenesis system in S. cerevisiae.
* Vanessa received her the Ph.D. program in biological science from the University of California at San. Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow at Yale Unversity School of Medicine.
Advisor: Kevin Ochsner
Chuk is originally from Nigeria, and graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in psychology. His previous research experiences included two summers shadowing Philip Stieg, chief neurosurgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and working on a case report on the use of an intra-aortic balloon pump to permit resection of a tumor. As a Bridge scholar, Chuk investigated the social cognitive effects of craving. His research focused on elucidating effective cognitive strategies to regulate cravings in nicotine and methamphetamine-using populations.
* In 2017, Chuk received his D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) from Touro College. Currently, he is a resident physician at Montefiore Medical Center.
Advisor: Rae Silver
Elizabeth graduated from Hunter College (CUNY), with a B.A. in psychology. While at Hunter, she was a Minority Access to Research and Career (MARC) and then a Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) scholar. For three years she worked in Cheryl Harding's neuro-endocrinology laboratory studying song-learning and sexual behaviors in zebra finches. While a MARC/MBRS scholar, Elizabeth also participated twice in the Summer Program for Under-Represented Students at Columbia University. In Prof. Silver's laboratory, Elizabeth assessed suprachiasmatic nucleus activation by a light-pulse when mice were aroused during their normal resting time. She also mapped the distribution of neuro-immune mast cells during brain development in baseline conditions.
* In 2017, Elizabeth received a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Michigan. She manages the ASCEND (A Student-Centered, Entrepreneurship Development) Program at Morgan State University.
Advisor: Mary Putman
Nitza earned her B.S. in physics and electronics from the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao (UPRH). At Columbia, she studied the HI gas properties of star formation in isolated HII regions. These regions present the opportunity to study the star formation process in environments that differ from the typical environment in a galaxy disk. Originally from Patillas, Puerto Rico, Nitza conducted research as an undergraduate with Juan Cersosimo studying the galactic warp of the Milky Way. Nitza also worked at the Astronomical Observatory at UPRH creating activities for the general public using optical telescopes. At Yale University during the summer of 2008, she examined stars in the background of a star-forming molecular cloud under the mentorship of Héctor Arce.
* In the fall of 2010, Nitza entered the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program to start her M.S. in physics. She has since received her Ph.D. in energy & environmental systems (with a concentration in atmospheric science) at North Carolina A&T State University. Now, she works as a finance staff member at Creative Snacks, LLC.
Advisor: Brian Mailloux
Marlena graduated with a B.S. in biology from Temple University. At Columbia, she worked on development a protocol to determine the radioactive carbon date of microorganisms collected from wells in Bangladesh as part of the Arsenic in Bangladesh project. In her time as a Bridge scholar, Marlena traveled to Bangladesh to collect samples not only for radioactive carbon dating, but also for determining arsenic concentrations, identifying pathogens present in the groundwater, and measuring overall microbial diversity. In addition to working on radiocarbon dating, she devised a pathogen assay protocol using PCR amplification of environmental samples to determine the presence of pathogenic E.coli in well water.
* In 2014, Marlena received her M.A. in biology from entered the Lehman College.