Current Scholar Biographies

The biographies of the scholars from Cohort 15 will be updated in the near future. 

Cohort 15 (2022-2024)

Advisor: Dima Amso

Advisor: Suresh Naidu

Advisor: Helen Lu

Advisor: Luis Gravano

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.