Current Scholar Biographies

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 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, Cora 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.

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: Bianca Jones Marlin 

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 Bianca Jones Marlin at the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute. Her research focuses on understanding the transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of trauma and neuromodulation. 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.