Meet the Scholars

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The Ohio State University is pleased to announce the selection of 10 scholars as the 2021 cohort of President’s Postdoctoral Scholars. The recipients were selected from a diverse and highly competitive pool of national and international applicants. The cohort’s research ranges from dynamics of electrons and photons in quantum condensed matter physics to sociocultural anthropology.

2021 Scholars:

Zachariah Addison

Zachariah Addison
Faculty Mentor: Nandini Trivedi, Department of Physics

Zachariah Addison is a new postdoc in the Department of Physics working in the condensed matter theory groups of Nandini Trevedi and Mohit Randeria. Dr. Addison received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics and a Bachelor of Science degree in Music from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before receiving his doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania this past summer. His research interests focus on the understanding of the dynamics of electrons in materials and how they lead to interesting electrodynamic phenomena encoded in a material’s optical properties. He has focused on the topic of dispersive currents that give rise to interesting optical properties: circular dichroism and spatially dispersive photo-galvanic effects which are measurable with new experimental techniques that can map out the local fluctuations in the conductivity of a system. These optical phenomena can probe the inherent topological properties of the electronic dynamics in a material whether by imaging states protected by topological invariants or by measuring topological related k-space functionals like the Berry curvature. The optical properties themselves are governed by Maxwell’s equations, a set of wave equations that can have its own topological properties. Topological photonic crystals manifest topologically protected states with interesting properties: the chiral modes in a photonic Chern Insulator or the corner states in a two-dimensional photonic higher order topological insulator. He seeks to find new topological phenomena associated with a higher order multipole expansion of the charge and current densities. In linear response these terms can give rise to new interesting and/or topological phenomena in the photonic modes of the crystal itself. By studying these new and interesting electrodynamic phenomena, his research ensures a better understanding and control over the dynamics of electrons and photons in quantum condensed matter physics.

Samantha Benincasa
Faculty Mentor(s): Laura Lopez and Adam Leroy, Department of Astronomy and the Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics

Samantha Benincasa received her Masters and PhD in Physics from McMaster University where she specialized in the use of computer simulations to study galaxy evolution. She is currently a CCAPP and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) fellow at Ohio State’s Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics. She is a theoretical astrophysicist whose work focuses on how stars form and galaxies assemble. At Ohio State she will work to interpret cutting-edge telescope observations through the lens of her state-of-the-art galaxy simulations. Her research interests focus around the relationship between stars and cold, dense gas in galaxies, as well as synthetic observations of galaxy simulations.

Marta Bornstein
Faculty Mentor(s): Alison Norris and William Miller, Division of Epidemiology, College of Public Health

Marta Bornstein is a PhD candidate in Community Health Sciences at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health. Within public health, Bornstein is committed to scholarship that embodies the true vision of reproductive rights: helping people achieve their reproductive goals, whether that is preventing or achieving pregnancy. Bornstein’s research focuses on identifying the factors that shape how individuals assess their risk for certain health outcomes (e.g., unintended pregnancy) and how, and to what extent, that risk motivates them to implement preventive behaviors (e.g., contraceptive use) under different circumstances. Bornstein has specifically focused her research on under-served populations in the U.S., such as women in methadone treatment, and internationally (primarily in sub-Saharan Africa) in settings where women often face barriers to exercising reproductive agency. Bornstein is currently working on the UTHA study in Malawi, where she uses quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the interrelatedness and health impacts of a spectrum of reproductive experiences, including both unintended pregnancy and infertility. Her work as been published in academic journals, including Social Science and Medicine, Women’s Health Issues, and Contraception. Prior to her doctorate, Bornstein worked in public health on issues ranging from HIV/STD prevention to maternal health infrastructure. She earned her MPH from Tulane University and BA from Beloit College.

Andrea Fetters
Faculty Mentor(s): Karen Goodell and Elizabeth Marschall, Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology

Andrea earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Saint Mary’s College and her PhD with a Teaching Minor in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Pittsburgh. She is broadly interested in plant-microbe insect interactions. Her dissertation research focused on pollen-associated viruses and how certain plant traits and mating system, community-level interactions and landscape attributes contribute to the size of the pollen virome. In graduate school, Andrea was supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Predoctoral Fellowship and was involved in outreach programs in the Pittsburgh Public School district and diversity initiatives. At The Ohio State University, she will investigate mutualistic plant-arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi-pollinator interactions in a reclaimed surface mine habitat under the guidance of Drs. Karen Goodell, Alison Bennett and Frances Sivakoff in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology.  Andrea’s overall goal is to understand whether the plant-fungal mutualism influences the plant pollinator one via the promotion of attractive floral traits and whether it can also mitigate the effect of heavy metal soil pollution on the plant-pollinator mutualism, via the promotion of the same attractive floral traits. Understanding how species interactions are connected is currently essential, given the burgeoning rate at which humans alter the environment and perhaps forever change species’ ecological and evolutionary trajectories.

Jacob Hopkins
Faculty Mentor(s): Alison Bennett and Bryan Carstens, Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology

Jacob Hopkins is a postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Alison Bennett’s laboratory.  Jacob earned his Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Indiana University, where he worked as an undergraduate lab technician for Dr. James D. Bever.  Following the completion of his undergraduate studies, he completed a PhD degree in the lab of Dr. Benjamin Sikes at the University of Kansas.  His work has resulted in publications in the Journal of Scientific Data (2016), Oecologia (2020) and FEMS Microbiology Ecology (2020).  Currently, Jacob studies the effects of prescribed fires and other land management techniques on soil fungal communities and their function in ecosystems.  This work uses fire recurrent, or pyrophilic ecosystems, as models to predict the effects of fire and climate change in less fire tolerant systems.  His work with Dr. Bennett will continue this research by studying how interactions between climate and fire influence fungal community structure through selection for specific traits.  Jacob also has a passion for teaching, outreach and scientific mentorship.  During his time in Dr. Bennett’s laboratory, he will improve his abilities in these areas by co-teaching statistical seminars with Dr. Bennett, developing scientific outreach modules and mentoring students from the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) and The Metro Early College School.

Augusta Irele
Faculty Mentor(s): Simone Drake, Department of English, Department of African American and African Studies

Augusta Atinuke Irele is a scholar of postcolonialism, transnationalism and diaspora. Her research focuses on articulations of global Black belonging and unbelonging in contemporary African migrant narratives. Her dissertation project, “Narratives of the New Diaspora: Migration and Transnationalism in Contemporary African Literature” was driven by the question of how Afro-descendant diasporic and continental African authors use their work to engage in transnational conversations about multivalent modes of collective belonging. Her interdisciplinary approach pulled from postcolonial studies, trauma theory and diaspora studies to theorize about migrant racialization in new diaspora experiences. Augusta’s research has been sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and the Fulbright-Hays program. Her work has been published in the Journal of the African Literature Association and in Displaced: Literature of Indigeneity, Migration, and Trauma, published by Routledge. She has also presented her work at several conferences, including the American Comparative Literature Association, the Northeast Modern Language Association, the Modern Language Association and the African Studies Association. In addition to her academic writing, Augusta has published articles for the Blackademia and SisterPhD blogs. She is also one of the coordinators for Blackademia’s quarterly book chats. She received her BA from Bryn Mawr College and a joint PhD in Africana Studies and Comparative Literature & Literary Theory from the University of Pennsylvania.

Abhishek Mishra
Faculty Mentor(s): Matthew Anderson and Matthew Sullivan, Department of Microbiology, Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity

Abhishek earned his Integrated BS and MS degree, followed by his PhD, at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Pune, India. He explored the ecological and evolutionary aspects of biological dispersal during his graduate work. At The Ohio State University, his primary project aims to investigate the genetics and evolution of the common human fungal pathobiont, Candida albicans, under the mentorship of Dr. Matthew Anderson and Dr. Matthew Sullivan. His focus is on the causes and phenotypic correlates of pathogenesis in this microbe, which is both a common component of the human microbiome and a major cause for nosocomial infections worldwide. For his work, Abhishek plans to utilize a diverse combination of experimental and computational tools, including quantitative genetics, transcriptional networking and experimental evolution.

Daniel Nicholson
Faculty Mentor(s): Vincent Roscigno, Department of Sociology

D. Adam Nicholson earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Kansas with a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies and has gone on to complete his PhD in Sociology at Indiana University- Bloomington. The overall goal of his work is to identify the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in the United States. More specifically, he seeks to understand the political and economic factors that drive both poverty and ethno-racial differences in poverty and the factors in play that either perpetuate or attenuate inequality in various forms. While previous work has sought to explain poverty through individual-level behaviors, his work focuses largely on structural explanations. Cross-national work demonstrates that social policy plays a key role in shaping poverty outcomes. Adam applies insights from this line of work to examine poverty at both the national and state levels, finding large variations in how individuals are “penalized” for risk characteristics, such as low education, single motherhood, or unemployment. Applying this approach to the examination of ethno-racial inequalities, Adam finds that neither reducing nor completely eliminating the prevalence of these risks in Black and Latino households would reduce Black and Latino poverty below that of white households. This points to the importance of work that focuses on the structural causes of poverty and inequality. In related work, Adam has examined electoral politics, political polarization and racial inequalities in support for social movements. While he primarily leverages quantitative research methods, he also has extensive experience with experimental surveys. At The Ohio State University with his mentor Dr. Vincent Roscigno, he plans on extending his work on poverty to more specific foci surrounding racial exclusion, systemic institutional disadvantage and discrimination in particular.

Alexander Stephan
Faculty Mentor(s): Bernard Gaudi and Christopher Kochanek, Department of Astronomy

Alexander P. Stephan earned his BA in Physics at the University of Chicago in 2014 and received his PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics by the University of California, Los Angeles in the summer of 2020. In 2018, Dr. Stephan received the Michael A. Jura Memorial Graduate Award, given in memory of late UCLA professor Mike Jura, a founder of the field of modern white dwarf pollution research. In 2020, Dr. Stephan received the Rodger Doxsey Travel Prize to present his dissertation at the 235th AAS Meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. Dr. Stephan is interested in a wide range of astrophysical problems in connection with the long-term evolution of stars and planets undergoing complex gravitational interactions, while considering the changes stars undergo as they age. His research predicted, for example, the presence of a population of binary stellar merger products in the Galactic Center, the existence of “Temporary Hot Jupiters”, or the pollution of white dwarf stars by gas giant planets, all of which have been confirmed by observations over recent years. Apart from scientific research, Dr. Stephan is also deeply involved in science outreach and student mentoring. In particular, for several years he led and co-organized graduate student outreach groups and events at UCLA that aim to improve the science education at schools with children from weaker socio-economic backgrounds, such as the graduate student outreach group “Astronomy Live!” and the yearly on-campus science fair “Exploring Your Universe”. Dr. Stephan has also aided in mentoring several students who worked with Professor Smadar Naoz on a variety of projects, from a wide variety of background. With these outreach and mentoring activities Dr. Stephan aims to promote a greater inclusion of under-represented minorities and women in the natural sciences and academia in general.

Grace Zhou
Faculty Mentor(s): Morgan Liu, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

Grace H. Zhou is a sociocultural anthropologist whose research brings detailed ethnographic engagement to questions of labor, care and transnational exchange across Asia, particularly where China’s Belt and Road Initiative finds traction in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Her research has been awarded fellowships from the National Science Foundation, Social Science Research Council, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and Stanford Humanities Center among others. She received her BA and MA from Columbia University, and her PhD from Stanford University. In addition to her academic scholarship, she is also a poet and writes about settler colonialism, diasporic experience and ethnographic encounters across genres.


2021 Applicant Pool

2021 Selected Scholars

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2020 Scholars:

René Arvola
Faculty Mentor(s): Guramrit Singh and Sharon Amacher, Department of Molecular Genetics
René earned her BS in Biochemistry from Purdue University and her PhD in Biological Chemistry from the University of Michigan. As a graduate student, her research focused on dissecting the molecular mechanisms of Pumilio, a developmentally critical regulator of messenger RNAs (mRNAs). In graduate school, René was supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and held multiple roles in science outreach organizations that promote diversity in STEM. She is currently a co-mentored postdoctoral researcher in the labs of Dr. Guramrit Singh and Dr. Sharon Amacher in the Department of Molecular Genetics. Her research focus is studying how mRNA quality control is regulated in vivo during development, using zebrafish as a model system. Her goal is to better understand the context specific nature of mRNA regulatory processes and how these can impact development and potentiate disease.

Shanna Hamilton
Faculty Mentor: Dmitry Terentyev, Department of Physiology and Cell Biology
Shanna received her BSc in Biochemistry from Swansea University, UK, and her PhD in Medicine and Biophysics from Cardiff University, UK, where she investigated mutations in the ryanodine receptor associated with cardiac disease and ventricular arrhythmias. Under the mentorship of Dr. Dmitry Terentyev in the Department of Physiology and Cell Biology, she now studies the regulation of calcium dynamics and mechanisms of arrhythmia in multiple cardiac disease models. Shanna has developed novel molecular tools to measure calcium, reactive oxygen species and potassium within different compartments of the cardiac myocyte. Her overall goal is to fill significant gaps in our understanding of how calcium signaling and oxidative stress control cardiovascular physiology, in order to design better therapeutic strategies for patients.

Kathryn Kroeper
Faculty Mentor: Steven Spencer, Social Psychology
Kathryn Kroeper earned her BA from Rutgers University with an exceptional record and has gone on to complete her PhD in social psychology at Indiana University. The central goal of her research is to identify and mitigate unfair inequities between members of traditionally advantaged and disadvantaged social groups. More specifically, she seeks to understand how people and organizations can structure social environments to provide everyone with the equal opportunity to flourish. Her research is grounded in social identity threat theory. According to the theory, people belonging to socially stigmatized groups reasonably worry that—because of their social identity (e.g., their race, gender, class, or age)—they will be devalued or dismissed in particular settings. Over time, identity-related worries stoke anxiety, sap motivation and undermine performance, which perpetuate opportunity gaps in academic and workplace settings. In some of Kathryn’s research, she identifies situational cues—like norms, values, beliefs, policies and practices—that give rise to social identity-related worries. In her other research, Kathryn leverages these insights to design, implement and evaluate interventions aimed at changing identity-threatening environments into identity-safe settings where people of all backgrounds can thrive. Kathryn’s research examines these social issues from a variety of perspectives (targets, perceivers and organizations), using multiple methods (experiments, surveys, interviews and audit studies). Her work is interdisciplinary, appearing in peer-reviewed psychological, educational and legal outlets. At Ohio State, she plans to extend this line of work with Steven Spencer, one of the original theorists behind social identity threat theory.

Allen Mallory
Faculty Mentor(s): Natasha Slesnick and Claire Kamp Dush, Human Development and Family Science
Allen received his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Case Western Reserve University, his master’s degree in Couple and Family Therapy from Kansas State University, and he will complete his PhD in Human Development and Family Science in August 2020 at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on risk and protective factors for the health and well-being of sexual and gender minority people. His dissertation research examines how intersections of race, sexual orientation and gender discrimination relate to the long-term mental health of sexual minority youth and adults. This research is in part funded by Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award Individual Predoctoral Fellowship through the National Institute of Mental Health. He has co-authored twelve publications in and one book chapter, four of which he is first author. At The Ohio State University, he will build upon his dissertation research to examine how couples’ dynamics can help to mitigate the negative association between stigma and health among racially, ethnically and gender diverse same-sex couples. Ultimately, Allen’s goal is to produce high quality and rigorous research that can be translated to inform policy, improve the well-being of sexual and gender minority people and be useful for a lay audience.

Katie McGrath
Faculty Mentor(s): Debra Guatelli-Steinberg, Anthropology and John D. Bartlett, Biosciences
Kate McGrath is a biological anthropologist interested in how early life stress affects growth and development. She received her BS in Anthropology from the College of Charleston in 2010. From 2011-2012, she was an imaging contractor at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. She received her PhD in Human Paleobiology from The George Washington University in 2018 where she studied stress-related dental defects in great apes, focusing on wild mountain gorillas with associated life history information. Upon finishing her PhD, she moved to France as an EU-funded Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Fellow at Université de Bordeaux, where she continued her analyses of skeletal stress markers in great apes.

Kate is currently using the method she developed in her PhD to quantify dental stress markers in contemporary and fossil human teeth. This is important because the visual depth of defects is often used as a proxy for stress severity experienced during early life. However, her 2019 study shows that the majority of variation in defect depth among great apes actually relates to variation in enamel growth rates, with faster-growing canines having shallower defects at the population level. This builds on her 2018 paper demonstrating clear species differences in defect depth among great apes, with the faster-developing mountain gorillas having shallower defects than other species. Recent results further support this relationship – Neanderthals have been shown to have faster growth rates in their anterior teeth, and they also have shallower defects compared to three different H. sapiens samples.

At Ohio State, she worked with Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg and John Bartlett, directly testing the hypotheses that arose from her earlier work, like whether defect depth correlates with enamel and somatic growth rates at the population level. She studied dental defects and asymmetry in a diverse sample, including contemporary humans, human ancestors and nonhuman primates.

UPDATE: Dr. McGrath is soon to be an Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology at the State University of New York College at Oneonta in the Anthropology department.

Joe Sharick
Faculty Mentor(s): Jennifer Leight, Biomaterials and Larry Kirschner, Endocrinology
Joe received his BSE in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University and his MS and PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. His research interests are centered around engineering new in vitro and in vivo models of cancer to accelerate the development of new cancer treatments and tailor treatment plans for individual patients. His PhD thesis work focused on the development of optical metabolic imaging, a novel method for detecting lethal drug-resistant subpopulations of cells hidden within a patient’s tumor. By collaborating across disciplines with surgeons, oncologists and pathologists, he demonstrated that this technique could predict how individual pancreatic cancer patients would respond to treatment after surgery. Joe’s research was supported by a Graduate Research Fellowship from the NSF.

Joe is currently a postdoctoral researcher at The Ohio State University, co-mentored by Dr. Jennifer Leight in the Biomedical Engineering Department and Dr. Larry Kirschner, a member of the Molecular Biology and Cancer Genetics Program at the Ohio State Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is developing new biomaterials functionalized with fluorescent biosensors and using them to study how thyroid cancer cells become metastatic. Joe plans to then translate this biomaterial as a predictive technology in the clinic to determine the metastatic potential of individual patient tumors.

Rosie Shrout
Faculty Mentor: Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research
Rosie Shrout earned her PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019. Prior to her doctoral training, Rosie worked as a Health Policy Analyst at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield where wrote empirically-based reports on the public health impact of chronic illness, as well as a Research Program Assistant at Johns Hopkins University where she studied the toll chronic illness took on patients and their families. This work experience informed Rosie’s graduate research on how stress experienced by couples with chronic illness wears on their relationships and can impact both partners’ health, which earned her a competitive dissertation fellowship and the award for the most Outstanding Graduate Student Researcher at UNR in 2019. As a postdoctoral scholar, Rosie will draw on biological and psychological research to address how stress and chronic illness influence the autonomic nervous system, the endocrine system and the immune system in patients and their partners. Stress in couples’ relationships heightens their risk for early mortality and morbidity, including inflammation-related disorders such as cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Her work will address how the consequences of stress are intensified among couples with chronic illness, providing insight into their long-term health, with the goal of informing future interventions for those most at risk. Rosie’s program of research will have broad transdisciplinary impact on how chronic stress and illness impact health, facilitating a more comprehensive understanding into the biobehavioral pathways that enhance or harm patients’ and their partners’ longevity and quality of life.

UPDATE: Dr. Shrout is soon to be Assistant Professor at Purdue University in the Human Development and Family Studies department.

Deondre Smiles
Faculty Mentor: Margaret Newell, Early American/Native American/Economic History
Deondre Smiles is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography and is a citizen of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. His research interests include Indigenous geographies, science and technology studies and tribal cultural resource protection/preservation. His current dissertation research focuses on historical and contemporary disrespect and disturbances of deceased Indigenous bodies and Indigenous burial grounds in his home state of Minnesota. Deondre is involved in various Indigenous-related organizations and initiatives in academia; he has served in multiple leadership positions with the Indigenous Peoples Specialty Group of the American Association of Geographers, including an upcoming term (2020-2021) as the Specialty Group’s chair, as well as serving as the President of Ohio State’s Indigenous Community of Graduate and Professional students for three years (2017-2020). Deondre has published in leading journals such as Geoforum and the International Journal of Listening and also has served as a book reviewer for publications such as American Indian Quarterly, the American Indian Culture and Research Journal and Great Plains Quarterly. Besides his forthcoming PhD in Geography from The Ohio State University, Deondre holds a bachelor’s degree in Geography from Saint Cloud State University, and a master’s degree in Liberal Studies/Global Indigenous Studies from the University of Minnesota, Duluth.

UPDATE: Dr. Smiles is moving to an Assistant Professor position at University of Victoria, Department of Geography.

Tianlin Wang
Faculty Mentor: Joel Johnson, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Tianlin Wang received his PhD in Electrical Engineering in 2020 from the University of Michigan. His research contributes directly to the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System NASA (CYGNSS) Earth Venture mission, a constellation of eight satellites in Earth orbit used for sensing wind speeds over the ocean. His research interests include applied electromagnetics, microwave remote sensing and radio frequency (RF) circuits. Dr. Wang’s project will focus on extending CYGNSS measurements into the measurement of soil moisture and inundation over land surfaces.

Kristina Wicke
Faculty Mentor: Laura Kubatko, Mathematical Biology
Kristina obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biomathematics from the University of Greifswald in Germany. She is currently a PhD candidate in Biomathematics at the University of Greifswald and will graduate in early summer 2020. Her research focus lies in mathematical phylogenetics, i.e. the mathematical study (and theory) of the evolutionary history and relationships among groups of species. At Ohio State, she will analyze the effect of discordance between species and gene histories on phylogenetic diversity indices and its impact on biodiversity conservation.


2019 Scholars:

Jenny Barker
Faculty Mentor: Christopher Breuer, Pediatric Surgery
Jenny earned her BS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and her MD and PhD from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. She is a resident in the Integrated Plastic Surgery Residency Program at Ohio State. Jenny is currently in the midst of a three-year research sabbatical being performed at the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She would like to focus on applying tissue engineering methodology to improve the outcomes of plastic surgery patients. Her long-term career objective is to be a surgeon-scientist focused on translational research in the field of wound healing.

Andreas Fiedler
Faculty Mentor: Siddharth Rajan, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Andreas received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the Humboldt-University of Berlin. In March 2015 he started working on his doctorate at the Leibniz-Institut für Kristallzüchtung (Leibniz Institute for Crystal Growth). His research focuses on the characterization of the formation and the influence of defects on the properties of ß-Ga2O3 – a promising material for power electronics. While working on his PhD, he contributed to nine articles, gave eight contributed talks and two poster presentations at international conferences. Andreas was elected as the representative for severely disabled persons to help them represent and defend their rights.

Jeremy Henderson
Faculty Mentor: Juan Alfonzo, Microbiology
Jeremy received his BS in Biochemistry from Ohio State University and his PhD in Microbiology from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently a postdoctoral research scientist under the mentorship of Dr. Juan D Alfonzo in the Department of Microbiology and the Center for RNA Biology at Ohio State. His research focuses on the mechanisms of RNA modification and editing within the human parasite Trypanosoma brucei. He is also studying a pair of enzymes that appear to co-activate one another – a first of its kind discovery that has equally broad impact on our understanding of molecular mechanisms within general biology.


Kelly Karch
Faculty Mentor: Vicki Wysocki, Chemistry and Biochemistry
Kelly earned a BA in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Franklin and Marshall College and a PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research uses novel mass spectrometry (MS)-based approaches to study histone proteins, which are crucial for regulation of many nuclear processes including transcription, DNA damage repair and maintenance of chromatin structure. She has developed MS methodology to detect and quantify ADP-ribosylation, a post-translational modification involved in DNA damage detection and repair as well as hydrogen deuterium exchange (HDX) methodology coupled to top-down and middle-down MS to monitor histone protein dynamics in solution.

Wasiur R. Khuda Bukhsh
Faculty Mentor: Eben Kenah, Biostatistics
Wasiur holds a bachelor’s degree in statistics from the University of Calcutta, a master’s degree in statistics from the Indian Statistical Institute and a PhD from the Technische Universitat Darmstadt. His thesis work focused on developing model reduction techniques for agent-based and queuing systems with applications in communication networks. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State. He is interested in applications of probability theory, statistical inference and survival analysis to problems in epidemiology, biology and other branches of science. His goal is to design better public health interventions.

UPDATE: Dr. Khuda Bukhsh is soon to be an Assistant Professor with the School of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Nottingham.

Katherine Mifflin
Faculty Mentor: Phillip Popovich, Neuroscience
Katherine completed her BSc Hons in Neuroscience at Dalhousie University, during which time she studied chronic pain in a pediatric population. She earned her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Alberta, where she studied the sex differences, exercise interventions and chronic pain in a murine model of multiple sclerosis. She is currently a postdoctoral scholar working with Dr. Phillip Popovich at Ohio State. Her research focuses on exploring the potential relationship between gut dysbiosis and the development of infection after high level spinal cord injuries.

Marliese Nist 

Faculty Mentor: Tondi Harrison, Nursing
Marliese earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of  Virginia and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Ohio State. She will complete her PhD program in Ohio State’s College of Nursing in August 2019. Marliese is passionate about caring for preterm infants and their families. Her research aims to optimize preterm infant neurodevelopment. For her dissertation, she is using a non-experimental, longitudinal approach to examine inflammatory mediators of stress exposure and neurodevelopment in preterm infants. As a postdoctoral scholar, Marliese will continue to develop her program of research through training in intervention research.

UPDATE: Dr. Nist is going to be Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University.

Nicole Pfiester
Faculty Mentor: Sanjay Krishna, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Nicole received her BS in Physics from Purdue University, where she was first introduced to semiconductors through research on generative adversarial network (GaN) nanowire growth via molecular beam epitaxy. She received an MS in Electrical Engineering and the first Joint-PhD in Electrical Engineering and Materials Science Engineering from Tufts University. While working on her PhD, Nicole was a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and Future Leader of Engineering Fellow. Her research interests include photonic and optoelectronic devices, with an emphasis on leveraging materials engineering and nanostructures to improve their performance. She won several funding competitions and an award for her contributions to undergraduate education.

UPDATE: Dr. Pfiester is soon to be Assistant Professor at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the Physics and Optical Engineering Department.

Steven Prohira
Faculty Mentor: John Beacom, Physics
Steven received his Masters and PhD in Physics from the University of Kansas. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in at Ohio State’s Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. His research has primarily focused on radio-based detection techniques for high-energy particles, such as cosmic rays and neutrinos. He helped to develop a firmware trigger for the Telescope Array Radar (TARA) experiment in central Utah, which sought to detect cosmic-ray air showers using a radar technique. In 2018, Steven led the most ambitious experiment to date to test the feasibility of radar detection of high energy particle cascades in dense material (analysis is ongoing).

Andrea Rissing
Faculty Mentor: Douglas Jackson-Smith, Environment and Natural Resources
Andrea received her BA in Anthropology from Grinnell College and her PhD in Anthropology from Emory University. She is a cultural and economic anthropologist whose research interests focus on critical agrarian studies, sustainable food systems, alternative economies and political economies of industrial agriculture in the United States. She uses social science theories and methods to analyze farmers’ livelihood strategies and the innovations that can arise when multiple approaches to growing food encounter each other. At Ohio State, she will explore the socio-economic factors that lead some beginning farmers to leave agriculture while other new farmers, running apparently similar operations, continue to farm.

2018 Scholars:

Lisa Barrow
Faculty Mentor: Bryan Carsten, Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology
Lisa Barrow earned a BS in Zoology with a minor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida in 2009, and her PhD in Biological Science (Ecology and Evolution) at Florida State University in 2016. Early in her undergraduate career, while at the Florida Museum of Natural History, she developed an interest in evolutionary biology and the importance of natural history collections for studying biodiversity across space and time. Her dissertation research focused on spatial genetic structure in North American amphibians across different scales, from species tree estimation of a genus of frogs, to phylogeography and population genetics of a disjunct species complex, to a targeted comparison of four frog species across the Southeastern U.S. coastal plain. This work combined fieldwork with emerging genomic technologies and paleoclimate niche modeling to investigate the influence of historical processes and contemporary landscape on population divergence. Lisa was awarded a 2016 National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (Research Using Biological Collections) under the direction of Dr. Chris Witt at the Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico (UNM), and Dr. Staffan Bensch at Lund University, Sweden. She expanded her research program to haemosporidian blood parasites, a globally distributed and diverse group including avian malaria. At UNM, Lisa led a diverse team of students studying avian host-parasite community dynamics. Lisa will join Dr. Bryan Carstens’ lab in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology at The Ohio State University in fall 2018, where she will expand her work on amphibian evolution, phylogeography and conservation.

UPDATE: Dr. Barrow is soon to be Assistant Professor and Curator of Herpetology at the Museum of Southwestern Biology and Department of Biology, University of New Mexico.

Randi Bates
Faculty Mentor: Laura Justice, Educational Studies
Randi Bates is a Registered Nurse (RN) and certified Family Nurse Practitioner. She earned her BS in Nursing in 2008 and MS in Nursing in 2015, both from The Ohio State University. She will complete her PhD in Nursing at Ohio State in December 2018. She is a Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Fellow of the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Nursing Research and a Nurse Leader Scholar of the Jonas Foundation. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from the Dominican Republic, she served as health advisor (2008-2010) and as a first responder RN after the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Randi’s dissertation research, which is being conducted at the College of Nursing Biomedical Laboratory, focuses on understanding environmental influences of early childhood self-regulation, a key component of health development. One aspect of her research is to determine if hair cortisol can be used to measure chronic stress in very young children. She has pioneered an innovative study measuring cortisol concentration in the hair of toddlers and their mothers. Randi’s research has led her to the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, where she is collaborating with Dr. Laura Justice, a clinically certified speech-language pathologist. As a Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar, she will continue her work with Dr. Justice, researching early chronic stress, child development and language and literacy development through observational and interventional studies.

UPDATE: Dr. Bates is soon to be Assistant Professor of Nursing at the University of Cincinnati.

Enrico Berkes
Faculty Mentor: Bruce Weinberg, Economics
Enrico Berkes holds an MA in International Economics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva and an MS in Mathematics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Zurich. He earned his PhD in Economics from Northwestern University. He is an urban and innovation macroeconomist studying how innovative activities interact with urban structure and its characteristics. His research has focused on how a more diverse urban environment promotes the production of inventions that are more unconventional in nature and how innovative activities affect the spatial distribution of income. Enrico will join the Department of Economics at The Ohio State University where he will work with Dr. Bruce Weinberg on projects taking advantage of a novel data set of detailed micro data about the beneficiaries of grants in a sample of U.S. universities. The data offer a unique opportunity to understand how knowledge diffuses and which factors affect its dissemination. Of particular interest are understanding how the presence or absence of underrepresented ethnic and racial groups affect the type of research performed in academic institutions and which mechanisms might hinder their professional development and affect their placement in the labor market. The UMETRICS data project offers a unique opportunity to answer these questions with a new level of accuracy. Enrico previously worked in the research department of the International Monetary Fund. While there, he co-authored a paper that studies the relationship between financial development and growth.

Nicholas Boyer
Faculty Mentor: Anthony Brown, Neuroscience
Nicholas Boyer attended Clemson University for four years, initially majoring in biomedical engineering. He graduated with a BS in Biochemistry. After graduation, he studied age-related macular degeneration as a tech in the lab of Dr. Yiannis Koutalos at Medical University of South Carolina for two and one-half years. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for his doctoral studies. Working under the mentorship of Dr. Stephanie Gupton, he studied the function of the ubiquitin ligase TRIM67 in brain development and axon guidance.

Maria-Veronica Ciocanel

Faculty Mentor, Adriana Dawes, Mathematics and Molecular Genetics

Maria-Veronica Ciocanel received her PhD in Applied Mathematics from Brown University. She is interested in using mathematical techniques such as dynamical systems, stochastic processes and numerical simulation to understand how proteins move and organize to ensure proper cell function. Her thesis work focused on how spatial differentiation is achieved in early developing organisms, for example, in the oocytes of the frog. Her work proposed novel methods for analyzing microscopy data and suggested biological mechanisms involved in the dynamics of messenger RNAs. Maria-Veronica joined the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State as a postdoctoral fellow in 2017, working with Dr. Adriana Dawes, Departments of Mathematics and Molecular Genetics. She is exploring how motor proteins and filaments are transported and organized into patterns to maintain contractile rings in the worm reproductive system. The research uses agent-based modeling and tools that draw from topological data analysis to quantify simulation results and experimental data. She is also collaborating with Dr. Anthony Brown’s lab, Department of Neuroscience, to model axonal transport kinetics that are key in ensuring appropriate neural communication. She will be working at Ohio State with Dr. Dawes to construct a new mutant strain of the worm C. elegans using CRISPR/Cas9. This strain will express an unconventional motor protein that they believe is essential for proper ring channel maintenance in developing oocytes. She is also planning to expand an undergraduate mathematical contest for modeling that she founded at Ohio State and will train students to use mathematical modeling to address real-world problems.

UPDATE: Dr. Ciocanel is soon to be Assistant Professor in the Mathematics and Biology departments at Duke University.

Katarzyna Danis-Wlodarczyk
Faculty Mentor: Daniel Wozniak, Microbial Infection and Immunity
Katarzyna Danis-Wlodarczyk earned her bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Wroclaw in Poland. In 2010, she joined the Laboratory of Pathogen Biology and Immunology at the University of Wroclaw where she began working with bacteriophages, earning a master’s degree in Biology/Microbiology. Her study of biotechnology led to research focused on the characterization of bacteriophages and their antimicrobial enzymes. She was awarded an EU-funded Erasmus scholarship for a six-month study at the Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen in Belgium. After receiving a second Erasmus scholarship, she joined the Laboratory of Gene Technology at KU Leuven, Belgium. In 2015, she visited the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, where she worked with CF lung epithelium cell lines, focusing on phage therapy. In 2016, she defended two separate PhDs to become Doctor of Bioscience Engineering, KU Leuven, Belgium, and Doctor of Biological Sciences, specialization Microbiology, University of Wroclaw, Poland. Katarzyna was also awarded a highly competitive postdoctoral fellowship at KU Leuven, focusing on the engineering of phage endolysins, EPS depolymerases and recombinant fusion proteins with antimicrobial/anti-biofilm/wound healing peptides. She also participated in several international thematic courses and workshops. In 2017, she visited the Laboratory of Host Pathogens Interactions, also at KU Leuven, and the Burn Wound Unit in Queen Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, where she tested the efficiency of engineered phage endolysins on cell lines infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates. Currently, she is a postdoctoral researcher in the Departments of Microbiology and Microbial Infection and Immunity at The Ohio State University, focusing on phage therapy against P. aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.

Taban Salem
Faculty Mentor: Mary Fristad, Psychiatry and Psychology
Taban Salem graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Currently she is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology PhD program at Mississippi State University, completing her doctoral internship with Stony Brook University. Taban’s research interests include investigating unique ways in which depressed and anxious individuals process emotional information and examining how this knowledge can be translated to make clinical treatments more accessible and effective. Much of her research to date has focused on reward devaluation theory (Winer and Salem, 2016), which posits that some depressed individuals actively avoid prospective rewards—rather than simply failing to approach them—potentially because reward cues have repeatedly been paired with negative emotions such as disappointment or rejection. For her dissertation, Taban experimentally examined if changes in beliefs about the causes of depression influence beliefs about psychotherapy or acceptance of a psychotherapy referral. As a postdoctoral fellow in the Childhood Mood Disorders Lab under the mentorship of Mary Fristad, Taban will work with data from the Longitudinal Assessment of Manic Symptoms, a multi-site study examining longitudinal relationships among the course of symptoms, outcomes and neural mechanisms associated with different clinical trajectories in youth with symptoms characterized by behavioral and emotional dysregulation. Taban’s career goal is to lead an independent research program testing integrative models of depression to better understand relationships among cognitive, behavioral and physiological phenomena that have separately been linked to depressive symptoms. She hopes to develop cross-cutting assessment methods that could identify problematic cognitive and behavioral patterns early on in their trajectory, which could ultimately give rise to targeted interventions to prevent these factors from triggering and/or perpetuating depressive symptoms and related health consequences.

UPDATE: Dr. Salem is soon to be Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Millsaps College.

Samantha Sommers
Faculty Mentor: Elizabeth Hewitt, English
Samantha Sommers received her BA with High Honors in English and American Studies from Wesleyan University in 2009 and her MA in English from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 2014. She will receive her PhD in English from UCLA in summer 2018. Samantha is a literary critic specializing in nineteenth-century American and African American literature, book history, print culture studies and the history of reading. Her dissertation project, “Reading in Books: Theories of Reading from Nineteenth-Century American Fiction,” turns to depictions of reading in The Sketch-Book (1820), Wieland (1798), Hope Leslie (1827), Clotel (1853) and Moby-Dick (1851) to challenge contemporary theories that over-determine the relationship between reading and the formation of the liberal subject. Seeking an alternative to this model, “Reading in Books” utilizes the collected intertexts, citations and procedures for reading on display in these novels as a set of raw materials for deriving multiple and competing theories of reading as an activity that facilitates social, rather than self, formation. She has received fellowship support from The McNeil Center for Early American Studies, American Antiquarian Society, The Library Company of Philadelphia, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, UCLA Graduate Division, Department of English at UCLA and Wesleyan University. At The Ohio State University, under the mentorship of Elizabeth Hewitt, Department of English, she will focus on revising “Reading in Books,” preparing articles for publication and working with rare books and manuscript material in Ohio State’s Special Collections.

UPDATE: Dr. Sommers is now a Lecturer in the Department of African American, American Literature, and Composition at Auburn University.

Terrin Tamati
Faculty Mentor: Derek Houston, Otolaryngology
Terrin Tamati received a BA in Linguistics and Portuguese from The Ohio State University in 2008. She completed her MA in Linguistics in 2011 and PhD in Linguistics in 2014, both from Indiana University, while working in the Speech Research Laboratory. Terrin obtained a postdoctoral research position at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands. A consistent focus of her research has been the role of talker variability in speech perception and spoken word recognition. She has worked on projects examining how listeners perceive and understand speech by multiple talkers with different voices and accents. She is particularly interested in the perceptual, linguistic and cognitive mechanisms used in speech perception in these highly variable, adverse conditions and what skills may underlie individual differences in speech perception, for example in second language learners or hearing-impaired populations. Currently, Terrin is applying her research interests to cochlear implant users, who must rely on a signal that is heavily reduced in acoustic-phonetic detail, resulting in a particular difficulty understanding speech in real-world, adverse conditions, including conditions with high talker variability and a great deal of individual differences in speech perception skills. As part of her research, Terrin is also interested in developing new, more realistic test materials for assessing real-world speech perception skills of cochlear implant users in the research lab or clinic.

Adam Thomas
Faculty Mentor: John Brooke, History
Adam Thomas received a BA (Hons) in International History from the University of Leeds (U.K.) and an MA in Modern History from University College London. He earned a PhD in History, with a certificate in Critical Theory, from the University of California, Irvine, in 2016. He served as a junior faculty fellow at The Ohio State University Center for Historical Research and as a visiting assistant professor of American Studies and Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University. His research interests include race, gender, slavery, emancipation, childhood, kinship and memory in the U.S., Caribbean and Atlantic world. Adam is currently working on his first monograph, a comparative-transnational study of two 1831 slave rebellions: the Southampton County uprising in Virginia and the “Baptist War” in Jamaica. This project, tentatively titled “An Unparalleled Time: Rebellion, Emancipation, and Memory in the Atlantic World,” reveals significant connections and similarities between the events, questioning the different place each holds in popular memory. Disparities in how the rebellions are understood today reveal much about contemporary unwillingness to recognize the efficacy of Black revolutionary politics. Adam is also writing an article that examines same-sex sexual abuse in the context of slavery in Jamaica. Adam’s research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Social Science Research Council, Council on Library and Information Resources, American Antiquarian Society, American Philosophical Society, Virginia Historical Society, University of California and the University of Texas. His work has appeared in Women’s Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Caribbean History, Black Perspectives and edited collections.

UPDATE: Currently, Dr. Thomas is Assistant Professor in the History department at Western Carolina University.

Erin Westgate
Faculty Mentor: Lisa Libby, Psychology
Erin Westgate received her PhD in social psychology from the University of Virginia in 2018, where she worked with her advisor, Timothy D. Wilson, on the challenges and benefits of enjoying your own thoughts. Prior to graduate school, she spent two years at the University of Washington researching implicit cognition and alcohol use after receiving her undergraduate degree from Reed College. Erin is a social psychologist interested in social cognition and emotion. She has published in the areas of thinking, emotion, implicit attitudes, sexual prejudice, procrastination, social media and alcohol use. While much of her early research focused on the conditions under which people enjoy (or do not enjoy) their own thoughts, she has since extended that work to the larger question of why people become bored, in general. What is boredom, why we do we experience it, and what happens when we do? There has been a great deal of interest in this topic in recent years, but no overarching theoretical perspective fully captured this phenomenon. She has developed such a model–the Meaning and Attentional Components model of boredom–that explains the causes and consequences of this unpleasant state. At Ohio State, she will be working with Lisa Libby, Department of Psychology, to develop a novel model of the role that mental imagery plays in emotion and how adopting a third (versus first-person) perspective shapes the specific emotions people feel.

UPDATE: Dr. Westgate is currently Assistant Professor in the Psychology department at University of Florida. Learn more about Dr. Westgate.

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Form of Intent: November 4, 2022

Nominations: December 2, 2022