2018 Recipients

Ohio State is pleased to announce the selection of 11 scholars as the inaugural cohort of President’s Postdoctoral Scholars. The President’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program (PPSP), supported by the Office of the President, was launched in January 2018 to attract and retain highly-qualified early career scholars as postdoctoral trainees. The recipients were selected from a diverse and highly competitive pool of 103 national and international applicants. PPSP awards provide salary support ($50,000 minimum), benefits and $5,000 for research-related and program travel expenses.

Lisa Barrow grew up in a rapidly-developing suburb of south Florida, where her interests in nature, conservation, and science first started. She completed a BS in Zoology with a minor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida in 2009. She was fortunate to stumble into a molecular laboratory at the Florida Museum of Natural History early in her undergraduate career, where she became fascinated with evolutionary biology and the importance of natural history collections for studying biodiversity across space and time.

Lisa earned her PhD in Biological Science (Ecology and Evolution) at Florida State University in 2016, advised by Drs. Emily Lemmon and Scott Steppan. Her dissertation 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.

In 2016, Lisa was awarded an NSF 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. With this position, she expanded her research program to the intriguing system of haemosporidian blood parasites, a globally-distributed and diverse group including avian malaria. At UNM, Lisa has had the great opportunity to lead a diverse team of students on projects studying avian host-parasite community dynamics. In Fall 2018, she is excited to join Dr. Bryan Carstens’ lab in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology, where she will expand her work on amphibian evolution, phylogeography, and conservation.

Randi Bates is a Registered Nurse (RN) and certified Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) and will complete her PhD in Nursing from The Ohio State University in December 2018. Advised by Drs. Pamela Salsberry of the College of Public Health and Jodi Ford of the College of Nursing, Randi is also a Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Fellow of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) and a Nurse Leader Scholar of the Jonas Foundation.

Randi’s prior education was also completed at The Ohio State University. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 2008 and her Masters of Science degree to become a FNP in 2015. Randi is also a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) from the Dominican Republic, where she served as a health advisor from 2008-2010 and as a first responder RN to the Haitian earthquake of 2010.

Randi’s background influences her primary research interest of how early experiences and environments influence later health development. Her dissertation research focuses on understanding environmental influences of early childhood self-regulation, a key component of health development. One product of this dissertation research is understanding if hair cortisol can be used to measure chronic stress in very young children. As such, Randi has pioneered an innovative study measuring cortisol concentration in the hair of toddlers and their mothers and completes this research at the College of Nursing Biomedical Laboratory.

This research has led Randi to partner with the Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, directed by Dr. Laura Justice, a clinically-certified speech-language pathologist. As a Presidential Postdoctoral Scholar, Randi will extend her health development research by continuing her collaboration with Dr. Justice and will research early chronic stress, child development, and language and literacy development through observational and interventional studies.

Enrico Berkes is an urban and innovation macroeconomist. He recently obtained his PhD in Economics at Northwestern University. His work studies how innovative activities interact with the urban structure and its characteristics. One of his papers shows that a more diverse urban environment promotes the production of inventions that are more unconventional in nature. In another paper, he finds that innovative activities have a deep impact on the spatial distribution of income: The increase in the concentration of creative jobs in certain metropolitan areas is responsible for an important part of the increase in income segregation that has been witnessed over the past few decades within U.S. cities. Enrico will join the Economics Department at Ohio State University in August. He will be working together with Prof. Bruce Weinberg on projects that take 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 further understand how knowledge diffuses and which factors affect its dissemination. Of particular interest is to understand 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. He previously worked at the research department of the IMF where he co-authored a paper which studies the relationship between financial development and growth. He holds a Master of Arts in International Economics from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies of Geneva and a Master of Science in Mathematics from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Zurich.

Nick Boyer: I grew up in the woods of Johns Island, SC, before moving to downtown Charleston just before high school. I went to Clemson University for 4 years, initially for biomedical engineering, and ended up graduating with a BS in Biochemistry. After college I moved back to Charleston, where I was a tech in the lab of Dr. Yiannis Koutalos at MUSC for 2 1/2 years studying age-related macular degeneration. I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for my doctoral studies, working under the mentorship of Dr. Stephanie Gupton to study the function of the ubiquitin ligase TRIM67 in brain development and axon guidance.


Veronica Ciocanel: I am excited to join the President’s Postdoctoral Scholar Program at The Ohio State University. Before coming to OSU, I was a Mathematics major at Duke University and received my PhD in Applied Mathematics from Brown University. I am 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. In my thesis, I studied how spatial differentiation is achieved in early developing organisms, for example in the oocytes of the frog. My work proposed novel methods for analyzing microscopy data and suggested biological mechanisms involved in the dynamics of messenger RNAs.

In the past year, I joined the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at OSU as a postdoctoral fellow.

With Dr. Adriana Dawes in Mathematics and Molecular Genetics, I started exploring how motor proteins and filaments are transported and organize into patterns to maintain contractile rings in the worm reproductive system. Our work uses agent-based modeling and tools drawing from topological data analysis to quantify simulation results and experimental data. I have also started a collaboration with Dr. Anthony Brown’s lab in Neuroscience to model axonal transport kinetics that is key in ensuring appropriate neural communication.

I am excited to continue these projects as well as to learn wet lab techniques during my time at OSU. I am working 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 we believe is essential for proper ring channel maintenance in developing oocytes. I am also planning to expand an undergraduate Mathematical Contest for Modeling that I founded at OSU and to train students to use mathematical modeling to address real-world problems.

Katarzyn Danis-Włodarczyk: I earned my Bachelor degree in Biology from the University of Wrocław in Poland and then was awarded an EU-funded Erasmus scholarship. With this scholarship I was able to study for half a year at the Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen in Belgium. In 2010 I came back to the University of Wrocław and was invited to join the Laboratory of Pathogen Biology and Immunology. There I began my work with bacteriophages, earning my Master’s degree in Biology/Microbiology. Also at the University of Wrocław I started studying Biotechnology. This lead to research focusing on the characterization of bacteriophages and their antimicrobial enzymes. After receiving a second Erasmus scholarship, I had an opportunity to join the Laboratory of Gene Technology at KU Leuven, Belgium. In 2015 I visited the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, where I worked with CF lung epithelium cell lines, focusing on phage therapy. In 2016 I separately defended my two PhDs to become Doctor of Bioscience Engineering, KU Leuven, Belgium, and Doctor of Biological Sciences, specialization Microbiology, University of Wrocław, Poland. In the meantime, I was awarded a highly competitive postdoctoral fellowship at KU Leuven and focused on the engineering of phage endolysins, EPS depolymerases, and recombinant fusion proteins with antimicrobial/anti-biofilm/wound healing peptides. I also participated in several international thematic courses and workshops. In 2017 I went for a research visit to the Laboratory of Host Pathogens Interactions, also at KU Leuven, and the Burn Wound Unit in Queen Astrid Military Hospital in Brussels, Belgium, where I tested the efficiency of engineered phage endolysins on cell lines infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa clinical isolates. Currently I am postdoctoral researcher in the Departments of Microbiology and Microbial Infection & Immunity at The Ohio State University, focusing on phage therapy against P. aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.

Taban Salem is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program at Mississippi State University (anticipated graduation August 2018), under the mentorship of E. Samuel Winer. She is currently completing her doctoral internship with Stony Brook University. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

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 & 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 impact 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 (LAMS), 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 long-term career goal is to lead an independent research program testing integrative models of depression in order to better understand relationships among cognitive, behavioral, and physiological phenomena that have separately been linked to depressive symptoms. Through her research, she hopes to develop cross-cutting assessment methods that could identify problematic cognitive and behavioral patterns early on in their trajectory, and which could ultimately give rise to targeted interventions to prevent these factors from triggering and/or perpetuating depressive symptoms and related health consequences.

Sam Sommers is a literary critic specializing in nineteenth-century American and African American literature, book history, print culture studies, and the history of reading. She will receive her Ph.D. in English from UCLA this summer. She received her M.A. in English from UCLA in 2014 and her B.A. with High Honors in English and American Studies from Wesleyan University in 2009.

Her dissertation project, “Reading in Books: Theories of Reading from Nineteenth-Century American Fiction,” under the direction of Christopher Looby, 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.

In her work, Sommers explores the potential for a book history approach to guide interpretation of texts depicted within literature. She began to formulate this method while writing about representations of print in early African American literature. This resulted in her article, “Harriet Jacobs and the Recirculation of Print Culture,” which was published as part of the MELUS Special Issue on African American Cultures of Print in 2015.

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 OSU, she will be mentored by Elizabeth Hewitt and spend her time revising “Reading in Books,” preparing articles for publication, and working with rare books and manuscript material in OSU’s Special Collections.

Terrin N. Tamati received a B.A. in Linguistics and Portuguese from Ohio State University in 2008. At Indiana University, she completed her M.A. in Linguistics in 2011 and Ph.D. in Linguistics in 2014, while working in the Speech Research Laboratory. After completing her Ph.D. studies, Terrin obtained a postdoctoral research position at the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands. A consistent focus of her research, from her early studies to her current postdoctoral research, has been the role of talker variability in speech perception and spoken word recognition. She has worked on several projects examining how listeners perceive and understand speech spoken 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 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 received his Ph.D. in History, with a certificate in Critical Theory, from the University of California, Irvine in 2016. He served as a junior faculty fellow at Ohio State’s Center for Historical Research in 2016-17, and a Visiting Assistant Professor of American Studies and Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University (Ohio) in 2017-18. Prior to coming to the U.S., he received a B.A. (Hons) in International History from the University of Leeds (U.K.) and an M.A. in Modern History from University College London. His research interests include race, gender, slavery, emancipation, childhood, kinship, and memory in the U.S., Caribbean, and Atlantic world.

Thomas 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. Thomas is also writing an article that examines same-sex sexual abuse in the context of slavery in Jamaica.

Thomas’ 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.

Erin Westgate 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. She 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.

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 (MAC) model of boredom – that explains the causes and consequences of this unpleasant state. According to the MAC model, people feel bored when they can’t successfully engage their attention in meaningful activities. Thus, boredom occurs when we are either unable to pay attention or do not find what we are doing meaningful. Much like pain, boredom provides important but unpleasant feedback about our lives; we may not enjoy it, but boredom tells us whether we want to and are able to focus on what we are doing.

At OSU, she will be working with Lisa Libby to collaboratively develop a novel model  of the role that mental imagery plays in emotion, and how adopting a 3rd (versus 1st-person) perspective shapes the specific emotions people feel.

The 2018 PPSP Competition Profile can be found here.