Current Scholar Biographies
Cohort 15 (2022-2024)
Advisor: Brendan O’Flaherty
Chiara Chanoi is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), where she majored in economics, with minors in mathematics and international business. As an undergraduate, she worked as a research assistant in the Department of Marketing and Management at UTEP, and participated in the department’s research coalition with Zayed University in Dubai. Her work at both universities centered around promoting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, with a concentration on gender equality. Her contribution to meta-analytic studies led to her co-authorship of “Gender Equality in International Business Education” in the Journal of Management Education. As a Bill Archer Fellow, Chiara lived and attended classes in Washington, D.C., where she interned for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). At the CFPB, she combined data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to analyze mortgage appraisal biases. Chiara also attended the Data and Policy Summer Scholar Program at The University of Chicago, where she inspected changes in the spending patterns of consumers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Outside of her academic interests, Chiara has taught tap dance for ten years and has previously worked as a choreographer for UTEP and local businesses in El Paso. As a Bridge Scholar in the Department of Economics, Chiara is working with Brendan O’Flaherty to investigate links between police use of lethal force and racial disparities. She intends to obtain her Ph.D. in economics following her participation in the Bridge Program.
Advisor: Suresh Naidu
Alexander Forlenza was born and raised in Maywood, New Jersey, and graduated with honors from Johns Hopkins University in Spring 2022 with a B.A. in economics, political science, and applied mathematics & statistics. As part of his undergraduate research, he worked for the Iraq Data Analysis project under the advisement of Andrea Jackson and Giovanna Dore. His research focused on determining the level of control different groups, such as Shia militias and governments, had on various communities in the Diyala regions. Recently, his research interests in economics have shifted to focus on microeconomics, labor economics, and political economy. As a Bridge Scholar, he is researching topics on wealth with Suresh Naidu in the Department of Economics. After completing the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in STEM, Alexander intends to pursue a Ph.D. in economics with a focus in labor unions.
Advisor: Helen Lu
Margarito Hernandez Fuentes was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Since his sophomore year in high school, he has had an interest in helping underserved and low-resourced communities. Through research, he believes that he can bring new hope to healthcare through tissue engineering and regenerative medicine approaches to treat diseases. In May 2022, he graduated from Arizona State University with a B.S. in biomedical engineering. Margarito conducted undergraduate research related to cancer biology in Christopher Plaisier’s laboratory. From this experience, he gained basic lab skills associated with the biomedical sciences and expanded this knowledge in biomedical engineering. His undergraduate research project focused on of identifying ubiquitin-specific proteases responsible for cell proliferation in malignant pleural mesothelioma. Also, Margarito’s work examined cell proliferation and cell apoptosis by ablating the expression of ubiquitin-specific proteases. From this work, future goals include developing alternative treatment options for malignant pleural mesothelioma. As a Bridge Scholar, Margarito is working in Helen Lu’s research group and conducting research on biomaterials and the interface of tissue engineering. Upon completion of the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in STEM, Margarito will pursue his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering while engaging in his passion for serving his community through education and outreach.
Advisor: Michael Harris
Carlos Santiago Calderón was born in San Juan and raised in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. In 2022, he received his B.S. in mathematics (magna cum laude) from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. Carlos’ interest in mathematics began in high school after his high school teacher recommended various books relating to the lives of mathematicians and various topics in mathematics. As an undergraduate, he participated in the Scholars in Residence Program, a year-long program dedicated to undergraduate multidisciplinary research, where he conducted research under the mentorship of Luis Medina. In this program, he studied the balancedness of special Boolean functions, which evolved into calculating the minimal polynomial of sums of primitive roots. As a Bridge Scholar, he works with Michael Harris in the Department of Mathematics, and his research will focus on topics in algebraic geometry. After completing the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in STEM, Carlos plans to pursue his graduate studies in mathematics specializing in algebra.
Advisor: Luis Gravano
Eden Shaveet was born in Petah Tikva, Israel and raised in Central Massachusetts. She holds an M.S. in health informatics and analytics from Tufts University School of Medicine, a B.A. in psychology from Elms College, and an A.A. in liberal arts and sciences from Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC). Eden’s master’s capstone work, precepted by colleagues at Google Cloud, centered around machine learning model transparency in healthcare and public health contexts, culminating in the development of an open-access curriculum available online. While at Tufts, Eden was active in several research groups, including the Leveraging Environmental Epidemiology For Equity (LEEFE) Lab and Digital Health Research Group where she co-authored several manuscripts and conference proposals. Also at Tufts, Eden led a small study using nationally representative survey data from the Tufts Equity in America research project to investigate the relationship between online health information-seeking methods and time since healthcare provider engagement.
As an undergraduate, Eden interned at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School where she supported research into community-based mental health treatment interventions for young adults. She simultaneously served as a peer mentor for the federally funded Massachusetts Young Adult Access Centers and was subsequently recruited by this group’s evaluation team to coordinate evaluation efforts, manage databases, and analyze operational data to support the centers’ sustainability.
As a Bridge Scholar, Eden works on the Adaptive Information Extraction from Social Media for Actionable Inferences in Public Health project in the Department of Computer Science. After completing the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in STEM, Eden plans to pursue a Ph.D. in information sciences, focusing specifically on reliable information retrieval during public health emergencies.
Prior to participating in the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program in STEM, Keiji G. Hammond was a geologist at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) with prior experience in museum collections at Harvard University and mantle research at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. At AMNH, he managed its rock and ore collections and specialized in high-pressure experimentation simulating volcanoes and the study of magma chemistry. His fieldwork has ranged from urban centers including New York City to remote destinations including Greenland. Keiji earned his B.S. in environmental science and geology from Northeastern University. There he had his first opportunity to engage in outdoor recreation activities and became passionate about instructing other underrepresented students in STEM about the fundamentals of field research. As a Bridge Scholar, Keiji is working with Yves Moussallam in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and Denton Ebel in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at AMNH. This collaborative effort aims to model the rate of magma ascent by constraining the diffusion rates of volatile species dissolved in the volcanic host melt via decompression experiments. After completing the Bridge Program, Keiji intends to pursue his Ph.D. in geochemistry with a focus on volcanology. He likes to spend his free time with his partner caving, rock and ice climbing, and visiting his family in Okinawa, Japan.
Cohort 14 (2021-2023)
Advisor: Suzana J. De Camargo
Christina Francis, a born and raised New Yorker, graduated with honors from Johns Hopkins University in Spring 2021 with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Throughout her undergraduate career, she spent every semester and summer gaining research experience in various fields of study that fall under the umbrella of environmental science to expose herself to an array of subdisciplines. Some of those research experiences include a hydrology project estimating volume changes of a stormwater retention basin at Unity College in Maine; an ecology project determining the non-consumptive effects of predator presence on the eastern oyster in New York City waters; a microbiology project examining correlations between soil nematode reproductive organ structure and population dynamics; and another ecology project improving long term ecological forecasts. While participating in Stanford’s Summer Undergraduate Research in Geoscience and Engineering (SURGE) Program, she conducted a study that analyzed the effects of oil and gas well site activity on air pollutant concentrations in California. She adapted this project into a senior thesis, which investigated the contribution of a local incinerator to downwind concentrations of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter in Baltimore City, Maryland. Through these latter research experiences, she began to develop an affinity for atmospheric sciences and is excited to continue exploring this subject further via the modeling of tropical cyclones. As a Bridge Scholar, Christina is working under the guidance of Prof. Suzana J. De Camargo in the Division of Ocean and Climate Physics (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory). After completing the Bridge Program, Christina intends to pursue her graduate studies in the environmental sciences with a focus on atmospheric sciences.
Advisor: Tian Zheng
Diahmin Hawkins was born in Birmingham, Alabama and graduated magna cum laude from Tennessee State University with a B.S. in mathematical sciences. She developed a strong passion for mathematics while participating in math competitions and derbies where she was often ranked first in the region and district. Diahmin began her STEM research journey as a Student Opportunity for Advancement in Research Skills participant at Tennessee State University, which funds undergraduate research for underrepresented populations in STEM. She is looking to pursue a career in mathematics in order to produce research and new developments on robotic systems that will transition technology to a higher and efficient distinction. Under the guidance of Prof. Tamara Rodgers at Tennessee State University, Diahmin conducted research in robotic navigation and mapping to detect climate change. Additionally, she was a Leadership Scholar for the Department of Homeland of Security where she conducted research on the topic of graph theory in relation to domestic and foreign affairs. Through her research with the Department of Homeland Security, she used graph theory to construct the connectedness between subjects, draw conclusions, demonstrate the relationship, and communicate the ideology through a graph or image to explain the relationship. In addition to these two research experiences, she interned for Congressman Jim Cooper, Representative Pat Marsh, and Representative John Ray Clemmons at the Tennessee State Capitol, Air Force Research Laboratory, and Brookhaven National Laboratory, respectively. As a Bridge Scholar, Diahmin is working under the mentorship of Prof. Tian Zheng in the Department of Statistics. After completing the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in STEM, Diahmin plans to further her education career path by studying statistics. She plans to give back to her community and create opportunities for low-income, minority students pursuing undergraduate or graduate studies in mathematics.
Advisor: Daniel Esposito
Nicole Llewellyn was born in China but raised in Rochester, New York. At an early age, Nicole always had an interest in math and chemistry, which was influenced by several inspirational teachers in high school. Combining these passions, Nicole completed her undergraduate studies in chemical engineering and neuroscience at Syracuse University. During Nicole’s undergraduate years, she worked on several research projects. Nicole's background in neuroscience led her to gain research experience in Prof. Zhen Ma's research group at Syracuse University, where she modeled cardiac cells to better predict cardiac defects during pregnancy. However, her work in Prof. Jesse Bond's research group at Syracuse University shaped her desire to pursue clean energy research. There, she investigated carbon monoxide (CO) methanation reaction rates by synthesizing and characterizing various bimetallic catalysts to provide evidence of methane as a greener fuel alternative. Ultimately, Nicole seeks to conduct research in the field of sustainable energy and catalysis. Outside of research, she enjoys teaching and promoting engineering interests in younger students through STEM outreach. As a Bridge Scholar, she will investigate different electrocatalysts for the electroorganic synthesis of ethylene under the guidance of Prof. Daniel Esposito in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Following the completion of the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program in STEM, Nicole will pursue a doctorate in chemical engineering.
Advisor: Qi Wang
Amara Nakamura was born and raised in Orange County, CA. She paves her way in STEM as a Chinese-Japanese American woman, empowered by the resilience and hard work of her immigrant family and so many like hers who continue to give back to this world with an underlying belief that we are all one. In May 2021, she graduated from California State University of Long Beach (CSULB) with a B.S. in biomedical engineering and a minor in computer science. As an undergraduate at CSULB, Amara pursued research spaces across biomedical engineering and kinesiology because of her desire to optimize health and medical capabilities. Amara dedicated most of her formative years in research working in Prof. Ga-Young Suh's laboratory where she focused on cerebral perfusion analysis using computational fluid dynamics and modeling of the brain and its arteries. Amara worked alongside her team to create a 3D-based methodology that used eight open-sourced patient cases to create extensive cerebral artery models co-registered to their respective brain tissue models for blood flow simulation quantification. This research's aim was to discover cerebral blood flow correlations to brain perfusion and to understand causes for complex cerebral diseases better for clinical treatment. Through these research experiences, Amara developed an affinity for neurovascular relationships and brain biomechanics. As a Bridge Scholar, Amara is working in Prof. Qi Wang's research group in the Department of Biomedical Engineering where she is studying neural coding of perception and cognition. After completing the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in STEM, Amara will pursue her Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and explore her passion for teaching and working with students, as she strives towards her overarching goal to help better all lives within our global community
Advisor: Brent Stockwell
Nailah Smith, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. From an early age, she realized that she had a knack for math and sciences and was lucky enough to have teachers and mentors who supported her scientific endeavors. As a high school student, she interned at what is now the New York University (NYU) Tandon School of Engineering under the supervision of Prof. Jin Montclare. At NYU, she discovered her love of biochemical research. After a nearly 10-year break in her education, she enrolled at Columbia University where she earned a BA in chemistry. As an undergraduate at Columbia University, Nailah worked in Prof. Brent Stockwell’s research group in the Department of Biological Sciences and will continue to as a Bridge Scholar. In the Stockwell group, Nailah will continue to research the use of small molecules to probe cell death and disease. After completing the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in STEM, Nailah plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry with a focus on researching potential drug therapies for diseases.
Advisor: David Kipping
Diana Solano-Oropeza grew up along the 7 Train Line in Queens, New York. They discovered their passion for astrophysics during high school while participating in a research internship program at the American Museum of Natural History. They went on to pursue a bachelor’s degree in physics with a concentration in astrophysics at Drexel University. While there, they worked with Profs. Stephen McMillan and Joshua Wall on producing simulations of stellar formation that intended to resemble real-life observational images of stars. Diana also minored in sociology and frequently advocated for social justice during their time at Drexel University. For their senior thesis, they took a brief stint away from astrophysics to work on an interesting statistical physics project that intersected with linguistics and data science. Working with Prof. Jake Ryland Williams at Drexel’s College of Computing and Informatics, Diana investigated the reasons behind why Zipf’s law (which provides a mathematical relationship between words and how many times they appear in a document) failed to explain certain aspects of written-language data. Now, as a Bridge Scholar, they work with Prof. David Kipping in the Cool Worlds Lab to improve how Earth-like planets outside our solar system are detected through transits. Diana plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astronomy after completion of the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program in STEM.
Advisor: Mariam Aly
Aria Tsegai-Moore was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. From an early age, she always held an interest in the mind and why people behaved and acted in specific ways. Years later, with the help and guidance of her professor from an introductory psychology course, she realized that she wanted to pursue a career in the field of psychology. From that point, she followed her passion for psychology and graduated from Stony Brook University in 2021, where she double majored in psychology and sociology. As an undergraduate at Stony Brook, she worked as a research assistant in Prof. Hoi-Chung Leung’s Cognitive Neuroscience Lab. There, she worked on projects that focused on visuo-spatial working memory using eye-tracking techniques. She expanded this research for her honors thesis by investigating the effects of Parkinson’s Disease and dopaminergic medication on pupillometry during working memory tasks. In addition to this research experience, Aria also participated in summer research programs at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Delaware. All of the knowledge and skills that she gained from her academic and professional pursuits inspired her interest in working with aging populations. Specifically, she is interested in studying cognitive decline in these populations by using various approaches and techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and eye-tracking. Currently, Aria is working in Prof. Mariam Aly’s research group in the Department of Psychology to strengthen her knowledge on areas impacted by cognitive decline such as memory and attention. Upon her successful completion of the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program in STEM, she will pursue a Ph.D. in psychology with a focus on cognitive decline in the aging population.
Advisor: Sandra Black
Cora Touchstone was born and raised in Marietta, Georgia. She completed her undergraduate education at Grinnell College in 2019, majoring in mathematics and economics. As part of her undergraduate research, she participated in MIT’s Summer Research Program assisting Prof. Jonathan Gruber in collecting data on grant funding and tax credits given to Canadian corporations for R&D expenditures and identified when tax credits lose their ability to provide an incentive for R&D expenditure. There, she also developed code in Stata to estimate overall and marginal Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credits for Canadian corporations. In addition to this research experience, she worked as a research assistant, tutor, and student organization president for Black Students in STEM at Grinnell College. After graduation, she began working as a research associate for the National Economic Research Associates in its securities and finance practice. Currently, her research interests rest at the intersection of applied microeconomics, political economics, and network theory. As a Bridge Scholar, she is researching topics on wealth with Sandra Black in the Department of Economics. After completing the Bridge to Ph.D. Program in STEM, Cora intends to pursue a Ph.D. in economics.