Current Scholar Biographies

Cohort 13 (2020-2022)

Advisor: Lila Davachi

Stephanie Angus graduated from the Macaulay Honors Program at Baruch College in 2020 with a B.A. in cognitive neuroscience. As an undergraduate, she explored a range of disciplines within medicine and psychology through multiple research experiences. At South Nassau Community Hospital, she trained high school volunteers in patient care and assisted medical professionals with addressing patient comfort. As a research assistant in the Psychology Department at Baruch College, she designed social psychology experiments to examine the relationship between clothing color and style and perception of wealth, relationship status, and academic success. At BrainBody, she studied literature related to exercise, cognition, and mood states in order to build the company’s platform, which examines cognitive and mood performance in relation to exercise. In addition to these scientific ventures, Stephanie has continuously engaged in the arts as a cofounder of Macaulay STEAM and as co-president of Macaulay Art Tank, a general arts club. Her range of experiences has inspired her to study the interdisciplinary aspects of psychology and neuroscience. Some of these interests include determining the intersections between biochemical and psychological mechanisms and understanding the perspectives of addiction. As a Bridge Scholar, she is excited to explore more interdisciplinary subcategories within psychology and neuroscience as a member of the Davachi Memory Lab in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on understanding the activation of various parts of the brain in relation to memory and memory-related phenomenon, such as how succeeding events may alter perception of a previous situation. After the Bridge Program, Stephanie aspires to obtain a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with the continuation of her work in the arts.

Advisor: Donald R. Davis

Zohal Barsi was born in Al Ain, the United Arab Emirates to Sudanese parents and immigrated to San Antonio, Texas at the age of four. She graduated from Wellesley College in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and English. As a component of her undergraduate program, she completed a year of study at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Following graduation, she participated in the American Economic Association Summer Training and Scholarship Program at Michigan State. In addition to taking courses in microeconomics, mathematics and econometrics, Zohal researched the impacts that leisure enhancing technologies, such as cellphone applications, have on time allocation by country. From September 2019 to June 2020, Zohal served as a Mariam K. Chamberlain Fellow at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington D.C. There, she worked on employment and earnings projects and researched the rise of entrepreneurship among women of color. As a Bridge Scholar, she is researching topics in urban economics with Donald Davis in the Department of Economics. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Zohal plans to pursue a Ph.D. in economics.

Advisor: Ana Asenjo Garcia

Jireh Garcia was born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After high school, she moved to New York City to pursue her undergraduate studies and enrolled at LaGuardia Community College as a mechanical engineering student. There, Jireh developed a passion for physics after taking an introductory course in the subject. In May 2020, Jireh graduated magna cum laude from the City College of New York with a B.S. in physics. At City College, Jireh conducted research in atmospheric physics as an NOAA-CESSRST scholar, under the mentorship of James Booth. More specifically, she worked on relating the occurrences of Rossby wave breaking, atmospheric blocking, and weather anomalies. Through her coursework, Jireh enjoyed studying topics relating to electrodynamics and quantum mechanics, which prompted her to conduct research in these subdisciplines of physics. During the summer of 2019, she was chosen to be an REU scholar at Columbia University where she investigated topics in condensed matter physics. Under Cory Dean’s mentorship, Jireh studied twisted 2D heterostructures and their applications in electronically correlated phenomena. In addition to her interests in physics, Jireh is passionate about community outreach catered towards underrepresented students in STEM fields and plans to engage in this work as a Bridge Scholar. In the Bridge Program, she is working with Ana Asenjo-Garcia to answer interdisciplinary questions in quantum optics and condensed matter physics. After completing the Bridge Program, Jireh plans to obtain a Ph.D. in physics with a focus on condensed matter physics.

Advisor: Sam Sia

Autumn Greco was born and raised in New York, NY. In June 2020, she graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in bioengineering. During her time at Stanford, Autumn worked in Geoffrey Gurtner’s laboratory where she studied applied regenerative medicine in wound healing. Specifically, Autumn investigated the regenerative properties of cryopreserved human skin allografts as a possible treatment for chronic wounds and burns. Autumn also has research experience in liquid biopsy diagnostics and acute myeloid leukemia therapeutics at Stanford University and Roswell Park Cancer Institute, respectively. Through these research experiences, Autumn has developed an interest in immunology and device prototyping. Autumn is passionate about translational medicine and seeks to design biomedical systems for clinical use. In addition to conducting research, Autumn enjoys mentoring and encouraging younger students to pursue STEM careers. As a Bridge Scholar, Autumn is working in Samuel Sia’s laboratory in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Columbia Engineering where she is investigating cell and tissue-engineered therapies. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Autumn plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering.

Advisor: Kathryn V. Johnston

Alex Johnson is from the greater Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area of Maryland. From a young age, Alex has had a deep passion for mathematics, physics and space, which set him on an early path to science and engineering. Alex obtained his B.S. from the University of Maryland (UMD) where he majored in aerospace engineering with a focus on dynamics, controls, and space robotics. As an undergraduate, Alex worked on a number of projects related to modeling dynamic systems and developing algorithms for autonomous vehicles. A particularly significant research experience at UMD’s Institute for Systems Research involved developing path planning algorithms for unmanned aerial vehicles. After completing his undergraduate studies, Alex worked at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center as an attitude control system engineer for the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) fleet. There, Alex performed analyses to explain failures of the TDRS satellites’ attitude control systems and respond to these failures in real-time. Alex also developed a number of analysis tools that were used to predict the momentum state of these satellites and make modifications to operations. After a year at NASA, Alex pursued his graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University and received a master’s degree in electrical and computer engineering. While at Carnegie Mellon Alex learned a great deal about pattern recognition, artificial intelligence, and computational analysis. Alex’s studies at Carnegie Mellon was a pivotal moment in the determination of his academic trajectory because he realized that he wanted to use these computational methods to a career in physics. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon, Alex set out to switch fields to physics, leading him to the Bridge Program. As a Bridge Scholar, Alex will develop computational tools to analyze structures in the Milky Way Galaxy under the guidance of Kathryn V. Johnston. In particular, he will use Single Spectrum Analysis and other techniques to automate the analysis process in hopes that these automated approaches will reveal new Milky Way structures beyond traditional techniques. After completing the Bridge Program, Alex hopes to obtain a Ph.D. in physics or astrophysics with a focus in computational physics.

Advisor: Carol A. Mason

Alexis Kim was born to two Cambodian refugees and raised in Lowell, Massachusetts. After taking an introductory biology course in high school, she became fascinated with the biological sciences and medicine. This fascination led her to pursue a Bachelor of Science at the University of Massachusetts (UMass), Amherst, where she majored in biochemistry and molecular biology. After taking a neurobiology course at UMass, her curiosity about neuroscience led her to join Karine Fenelon’s laboratory in the summer of 2019 under the William Lee Science Impact Program (Lee SIP). As a Lee SIP scholar, Alexis tested the efficacy of optogenetics using electrophysiological field recordings. From there, Alexis continued to work with Dr. Fenelon in the fall to conduct a year-long research project that investigated the significance of the hippocampus in sensorimotor gating using prepulse inhibition (PPI) in a murine model system. Abnormal or impaired PPI has been linked to patients with schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Huntington’s disease. In conjunction with this project, Alexis also joined the laboratory of Dong Wang, after completing his biochemistry course. In this group, she investigated the mechanism of nitrogen-fixing symbiosis amongst legumes and bacteria, using CRISPR Cas-9 genome engineering systems. Alexis worked in these two laboratories until May of 2020 when she became the first in her family to graduate from university. Currently, Alexis is working under the mentorship of Carol A. Mason at the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. Her research focuses on understanding the mammalian visual system, specifically understanding the mechanism in which the retinal ganglion cells project to the thalamus. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program in STEM, Alexis plans to continue her graduate studies in neuroscience where she is looking to combine the intersectionality of engineering, medicine, and natural science.

Advisor: Kevin Ochsner

Anisha Marion is a proud member of the Ojibway and Abenaki Nations, whose land includes present-day Ontario and Quebec provinces. She received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. Through several undergraduate research experiences, she developed a passion for understanding how historical trauma impacts minority communities, specifically focusing on American Indian communities, both at the individual and community level. By integrating research and clinical practice, she hopes to apply more culturally sensitive therapies to minority communities. Anisha has worked in a residential facility where she taught self-regulation and emotional regulation skills to teenage girls with mental health disorders. The primary focus of her work focused on helping them understand their emotions and how to implement healthy coping strategies. As a Bridge Scholar, Anisha is working with Kevin Ochsner in the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory in the Department of Psychology. Her research focuses on understanding the psychological and neural bases of emotional experiences in regards to perception and emotional regulation. After completing the Bridge to the Ph.D. Program, Anisha plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical health psychology. She is excited about this new opportunity to gain mentors and knowledge that will help shape her professional career.

Advisor: Van-Anh Truong

Born and raised in St. Andrew, Jamaica, Jhevon Smith came to the U.S. in search of opportunity and to attend university. He obtained his bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from the City College of New York (CCNY), and he has over a decade of experience teaching at the collegiate level. During his undergraduate studies, he worked as a tutor in the largest STEM tutoring center at CCNY and eventually became the director of that center. After receiving his bachelor's, he began teaching in the Mathematics Department at CCNY. Also, he has taught at several institutions in the City University of New York system, including John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Baruch College, and LaGuardia Community College. In 2018, he also became a lecturer at the Bronx campus of Fordham University. Through completing moderate research projects, meeting exceptional people in his field, consulting with other education professionals, and motivating his students, Jhevon became inspired himself about the academic and professional possibilities in applied mathematics and engineering. He recently became enamored with the field of operations research and is currently working under Van-Anh Truong of Columbia Engineering’s Department of Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. Truong's work deals with applied optimization in information-rich, dynamic environments. Upon completing the Bridge Program, Jhevon plans on pursuing a Ph.D. in operations research, with a focus on optimization.

Cohort 12 (2019-2021)

Advisors: Douglas Almond and Reka Juhasz

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.

*Olalekan is currently pursuing his graduate studies in economics at the University of Texas, Austin. 

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.

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.

Advisors: Eric Verhoogen and Michael Best

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.