Alumni Biographies

Bridge Program alumni, annual research symposium, June 2014. From left to right: Richard Lopez, Ximena Fernández, John Pamplin II, Erick Andrade, and Angelica Patterson.
Cohort 7 (2014-2016)

Amanda Buch (Biomedical Engineeering), Advisor: Elisa Konofagou
Amanda Buch was born and raised on Long Island, New York. She received a B.A. in biophysics from Columbia University in 2014. From 2011 to 2012, Amanda conducted research in Viviane Taber’s laboratory at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center on stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s Disease and a model of pediatric full-brain irradiation in rats, which culminated in the co-authorship of a Nature paper. In the fall of 2012, Amanda joined Elisa Konofagou’s and Vincent Ferrera’s laboratories at Columbia’s Kavli Institute for Brain Science to work on a joint project bridging the fields of ultrasound engineering and cognitive neuroscience. Amanda used focused ultrasound to modulate brain function noninvasively and to open the blood-brain barrier for targeted drug delivery. She received a fellowship from the Focused Ultrasound Foundation in the summer of 2014. In January of 2016, Amanda moved to Daphna Shohamy’s laboratory in the Department of Psychology to investigate the neural correlates of how Parkinson’s patients learn and think differently than healthy individuals. Amanda is also active in the areas of scientific outreach, and one of her talks (and illustrations) was featured by the Dana Foundation in 2015.

*In fall 2016, Amanda will begin a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Weill Cornell Graduate School.

Blanche Fields (Biological Sciences), Advisor: Lars Dietrich
Blanche Fields was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia. In 2013, she earned her B.S. in biology from Norfolk State University (NSU). While at NSU, she was a research assistant in the laboratory of Ganesan Kamatchi. Blanche investigated voltage-gated calcium channels, and in particular how the auxiliary subunits of a channel contribute to its overall physiology. At NSU, Blanche also worked with Ashley Haines to identify virulence factors for the marine bacteria Streptococcus parauberis and Vibrio harveyi. In August 2014, Blanche moved to Columbia and Lars Dietrich’s laboratory, where the focus is on understanding how Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacterium that thrives in the lungs of cystic fibrosis patients, transitions from a single bacterium to a community of bacteria--a biofilm--that provides protection from adverse environmental conditions. Blanche is working to identify genes that control the level of a signaling molecule essential to the biofilm formation. She hopes to understand how these genes are differentially regulated to promote this community building.

*Blanche is staying at Columbia to pursue a Ph.D. in biology.

Carina Fish (Earth and Environmental Sciences), Advisor: Bärbel Honisch
In 2013, Carina Fish received an A.B. from Harvard College, where she was a joint concentrator in Earth and planetary sciences & environmental science and engineering. In the summer of 2010, Carina participated in a Research Experiences for Undergraduates in the Whitesides Research Group in Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology; her contributions to their ongoing soft robotics project earned her two publications and a patent. In the summer of 2012, Carina spent five weeks aboard the R/V Knorr with the Langmuir Group in Harvard’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences researching the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Carina’s senior thesis work with Andrew Knoll in the same department focused on marine carbonate chemistry and led her into the realm of paleo-related research. At Columbia, Carina is a research assistant for Bärbel Hönisch, who specializes in paleoreconstructions of marine carbonate chemistry, and focuses on the boron isotope proxy for past seawater acidity (pH). Carina supplemented previous boron isotope-pH proxy work on sediments of a Caribbean core top by analyzing them for their trace metals and oxygen isotopic composition. Her main project on foraminifera and their algal symbionts’ photosynthesis began in Spring 2015 with a Puerto Rican field season. She found that while there is a connection between the algal photosynthesis and geochemical signal within an individual shell, the connection does not hold when comparing species.

*In Fall 2016 Carina moved to Tessa Hill’s group in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Davis, for her Ph.D.

Deivid Ribeiro (Physics), Advisor: Brian Humensky
Deivid Ribeiro grew up in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and attended the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth before transferring to Brown University to complete a B.S. in physics. His primary research focus as an undergraduate was on using possible dark matter densities within globular clusters to understand and predict dark matter particle properties. Using data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Deivid searched for gamma-ray emission from the globular clusters in the Milky Way. Emission from unknown sources in these globular clusters could be a signal of dark matter particle annihilation. As a research assistant in Brian Humensky’s laboratory in the Department of Physics, Deivid has worked on the optical alignment system of a prototype gamma-ray telescope that is a candidate instrument for the planned Cherenkov Telescope Array. Additionally, he is analyzing gamma-ray observations of the Milky Way center obtained by the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System to reveal more information about dark matter particle properties.

*Deivid is working toward a Ph.D. in physics, with a focus on astrophysics, at Columbia.

Cohort 6 (2013-2015)

Julia Gross (Astronomy), Advisor: Jacqueline van Gorkom
Julia Gross is from South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation and is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. She has a B.S. in electrical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and a M.S. in electrical engineering from the University of South Florida. Before coming to Columbia, Julia was a radio frequency engineer at NASA Johnson Space Center. While at NASA, she worked on the design of the S-band communication system on the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle and the design of an ultra-wideband communication and tracking system developed for use by astronauts and vehicles on the Moon. Currently, Julia is a RA in the Department of Astronomy working with Jacqueline van Gorkom on a far-reaching radio survey of neutral hydrogen gas around galaxies. This survey is being conducted using the Very Large Array radio observatory, located in New Mexico, and will help provide insight into galaxy formation and evolution. Ultimately, Julia hopes to build on her experience working with radio frequency systems and become a radio astronomer studying the large-scale structure of the universe. 

*Julia is now pursuing a Ph.D. in astronomy at Columbia.

David Jaimes (Astronomy), Advisor: Marcel Agüeros
David Jaimes was born and raised in San Diego, California. In 2013, he earned a B.S. in astronomy from San Diego State University, where his research included investigating the age of the old open cluster NGC 6819 using a detached eclipsing binary star system with Eric Sandquist. He also worked for Astronomical Research Cameras, assembling controllers and multiplexors for the Visible Integral-Field Replicable Units Spectrographs used by the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment project at the University of Texas, Austin. Now a research assistant at Columbia, David is working with Marcel Agüeros on the open cluster Alpha Persei (α Per). Using photometric data from the Palomar Transit Factory automated telescope and an updated list of membership probabilities, he is working to measure new rotation periods of high-confidence α Per members. Because stars in α Per are very young, having only just started to fuse hydrogen in their cores, data from this cluster can be used to calibrate and anchor the relationship between stellar age and rotation. 

*David is in the Master of Science program in astronomy at San Diego State University.

Lester Lambert (Biomedical Engineering), Advisor: Lance Kam
Lester Lambert was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He earned a B.S. in the science of natural and environmental systems from Cornell University in 2010. During his time at Cornell, Lester worked in laboratories in the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research and the College of Veterinary Medicine. In 2009, Lester was awarded a grant by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and Conservation International to visit the Albrolhos Marine National Park and start a project to determine whether the parrotfish Sparisoma amplum transferred pathogenic bacteria from sewage-laced algae to the dominant reef-building coral Mussismilia braziliensis, causing White Plague Disease. While studying plant and fish pathology, Lester became increasingly interested in pursuing a career in infectious-disease research. After spending some time as a NIH Post-baccalaureate Research Fellow, Lester joined the Microscale Biocomplexity Laboratory of Lance Kam in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. There, Lester investigates whether the usage of softer substrate materials such as polydimethylsiloxane (as opposed to polystyrene) plastic results in better activation of T cells. 

*Lester is planning to start medical school in the fall of 2017.

Rhondale (Ron) Tso (Physics), Advisor: Janna Levin
Rhondale (Ron) Tso was born and raised in northern Arizona. As an undergraduate at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, his research experiences included studying violations of Lorentz symmetry through what is known as the Standard-Model Extension. This led to two publications, one with Quentin Bailey (Embry-Riddle) and the other with Alan Kostelecky (Indiana). Ron also spent the summer of 2010 as a NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates student at the University of Chicago, studying charged-particle dynamics near the surface of rotating black holes in uniform magnetic fields with Robert Wald. His undergraduate thesis involved the implementation of error-estimation techniques for parameters controlling the observed properties of gravitational waveforms of interest to the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory collaboration. After graduating with a degree in space physics in 2012, Ron worked as a mathematics tutor at Flagstaff High School and as an assistant to the disability resource center of Northern Arizona University. At Columbia, Ron's research with Janna Levin involves studying gravitational waves, the dynamics of eccentric compact binary systems, and the effects of spin-orbit couplings and high eccentricities of such binaries on the waveforms they generate. 

*Ron is now a graduate student in the physics Ph.D. program at Caltech.

Cohort 5 (2012-2014)

Caroline Baptist (Earth and Environmental Sciences), Advisor: Barbel Honisch
Caroline Baptist was born and raised in New Jersey and earned a B.S. in marine science, with a minor in biology, from Rider University in May 2012. As a McNair Scholar at Rider, she studied phytoplankton ecology with Gabriela Smalley. As a research assistant (RA) at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Caroline worked on proxy calibrations for paleoceanographic reconstructions with Pratigya Polissar and Bärbel Hönisch. In the summer of 2013, Caroline worked on the sensitivity of stable carbon and oxygen isotopes to changes in the magnesium to calcium ratio of seawater in planktonic Foraminifera on Catalina Island, California. Understanding this effect can help us to reconstruct past sea surface temperature and understand the carbonate chemistry of the ocean. In turn, this helps to quantify Earth's climate history and thereby improve predictions for future climate change. 

*Caroline is working on a Master of Science degree in marine biology and coastal science at Montclair State University.

Millicent Olawale (Chemistry), Advisor: Virginia Cornish
Millicent Olawale, a native of San Francisco, California, received his B.A. in neuroscience and behavior from Columbia University in May 2011. As an undergraduate, Millicent participated in the Summer Program for Under-Represented Students in Biomedical Research Program, studying the ribosome and its involvement in protein synthesis in Virginia Cornish's laboratory. Millicent was also a two-year starter at quarterback for the Columbia Lions and served as the team's co-captain his senior year. Millicent returned to the Cornish laboratory as a Bridge to the Ph.D. scholar, working in the Directed Evolution group, to optimize a new method for in vivo DNA assembly: Reiterative Recombination. Reiterative Recombination, an efficient and user-friendly tool developed in the Cornish laboratory, enables the assembly of multigene pathways directly into the yeast chromosome, thereby addressing some of the DNA pathway assembly problems that exist in metabolic engineering and directed evolution. Toward the end of his time in the Bridge Program, Millicent began working on a new project to compare the stability of DNA on the chromosome and on the plasmid by measuring the inactivation of a selective marker gene in order to calculate mutation rates. Both of these projects aimed to provide a better understanding of DNA manipulation through quantitative data analysis. 

*Millicent is completing the Master of Science program in biology (medical science) at Mississippi College. He plans to start medical school in the fall of 2016.

Natalee Raymond (Physics, Applied Physics), Advisor: Philip Kim and Lathan Venkataraman
Raised in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, Natalee Raymond moved to the United States in 2008 to pursue a B.A. in chemistry and physics from Macalester College. In the summer of 2009, she studied cerium-oxide-based metal catalysts in ultra-high vacuum and real-world conditions at the University of Wyoming. Natalee went on to do research in high-energy particle physics with the A Toroidal Large Hadron Collider Apparatus Collaboration at Columbia in the summer of 2011. She searched for the down-type fourth generation quarks in the lepton plus jets decay channel. In the spring of 2012, through the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation Program, Natalee joined physicists at the University of Minnesota in a collaboration with the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. She investigated the properties of scintillator materials for detectors at the Compact Muon Solenoid. As a Bridge RA, Natalee worked with Philip Kim and Latha Venkataraman in the Departments of Physics and of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. Natalee's projects included studying electron transport by experimenting with break-junction scanning tunneling microscopy in electrochemical environments and examining the properties of graphite intercalation compounds, which exhibit interesting properties not found in native graphite or in the intercalant chemical species, such as superconductivity. Natalee intends to pursue a Ph.D. in material science.


Cohort 4 (2011-2013) 


Juliana Agudelo (Chemistry)
Juliana, a native of Medellín, Colombia, moved to the United States in 2006. In 2011, she earned a B.S. in biotechnology from Kean University in New Jersey. As a 2009 Ronald E. McNair scholar, Juliana worked with Eric Boehm on sequencing DNA to resolve phylogenic relationships between species in the genus of the mytilinidion fungus. In 2010, she studied the intestinal calcium transport mediated by Vitamin D with Angela Porta. During her time as a RA in the Porta laboratory, she was funded by a National Institute of Health (NIH) Research Supplements for Underrepresented Minorities grant. As a Bridge to the Ph.D. scholar, Juliana worked in Nicholas Turro’s photochemistry laboratory, where she investigated the quenching of fluorescence in fluorophores by using free radicals in different environments. Such fluorophores could be used as biosensors and for imaging.

*In the fall of 2013, Juliana began working on a Ph.D. in chemistry at SUNY Albany.

Erick Andrade (Physics)
Born in El Salvador and raised in Maryland, Erick earned his B.S. in physics in 2005 from the University of Maryland, College Park. His research experiences include work in experimental nuclear physics at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, and in experimental atomic, molecular, and optical physics with Wendell Hill at the University of Maryland. During his time in Maryland, his focus was on how to cancel stray magnetic fields in a magneto-optical trap that cools rubidium atoms to microkelvin temperatures for optical manipulation. While in the Bridge Program, Erick worked with Abhay Pasupathy in his Condensed Matter Physics Group on scanning tunnel microscopy of recently discovered high-temperature, iron-based superconductors. Most recently, he was involved in the construction of an ultra low-loss scanning tunneling microscope and in probing the properties of charged density waves of sulfur doped niobium diselenide around its transition temperature.

* Erick entered the Ph.D. program in physics at Columbia in the fall of 2013.

Carlos Garcia (Biological Sciences)
Born and raised in New Jersey, Carlos attended Kean University, where he obtained a B.S. in biotechnology with a minor in organic chemistry in 2011. While at Kean, he participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) and McNair programs. It was his REU experience in the Walter Chazin laboratory that sparked his interest in biomedicine. At Columbia, Carlos worked in John Hunt’s laboratory studying the structural and thermodynamic mechanisms by which proteins perform mechanical activities on a molecular scale. More specifically, he characterized the protein cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), a mutation of which causes cystic fibrosis. A better understanding of CFTR could ultimately lead to the development of new drugs to treat the disease. Carlos plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biomedicine.

Evan Hamilton (Earth and Environmental Sciences)
Evan was a RA at the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, where he worked with Peter deMenocal to reconstruct a record of the Earth's climate variability. His research involved analyzing deuterium hydrogen isotopes locked away in fossilized leaf wax samples that have been extracted from deep sediment cores taken off the coasts of Africa and Peru. This research tracks large-scale changes in climate over the past 10,000 years to help answer questions about the formation of human civilization and to identify global trends that will affect future societal development. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Evan moved to New York in 2007 to study anthropology and sustainable development at Columbia University. He plans to continue his education in climate change mitigation, focusing on the links between human activity and the environment, by pursuing a Ph.D. in environmental science.

Steven Mohammed (Astronomy)
Originally from New York City, Steven worked with David Schiminovich in the Department of Astronomy to assemble a catalog from various surveys of nearby massive galaxies to examine their gas content and compare them to galaxies in the Galaxy Arecibo Sky Survey (GASS). Specifically, he looked at how neutral hydrogen evolves between young, blue, gas-rich star forming galaxies and old, red, gas-deficient galaxies that have a much lower star-formation rate. While the distribution of neutral hydrogen is known in lower-mass galaxies, Steven hopes to extend that the relationship to more massive galaxies. As an undergraduate at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, Steven worked with Jeff Bary studying angular momentum transport in TW Hya, a T Tauri star, via its accretion and outflow processes. In the summer of 2009, he researched the formation of brown dwarfs using Hubble Space Telescope images with Kim McLeod at Wellesley College, and helped discover a planetesimal orbiting a brown dwarf. Steven earned a B.A. in astronomy-physics in 2011.

*In the fall of 2013, Steven entered the Ph.D. program in astronomy at Columbia University.


Cohort 3 (2010-2012) 


Brian Colar (Psychology)
A native of Chicago, Illinois, Brian worked in the Interracial Diversity laboratory with Valerie Purdie-Vaughns to examine the relationship between race and self-affirmation in the political support of President Barack Obama. In addition, he examined the correlation between race and masculinity and their affiliation to stereotype threat. Brian received his B.A. in psychology from Argosy University in Chicago, Illinois, in the spring of 2010. Before graduating, Brian was a McNair Scholar at Michigan State University. There he investigated the impact of race and rank in sexual harassment in men in the military and the sexual harassment of working women with Isis Settles and NiCole Buchanan. In addition, Brian founded a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk youths and is dedicated to bridging educational gaps and assisting minority males in the transition to adulthood. Brian plans on obtaining his Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

*Brian left the Bridge Program in the summer of 2011. 

Kirsten Frazer (Psychology)
Kirsten is from Pelham, New York, and received her B.A. in psychology from Connecticut College in May 2010. As an undergraduate, she did research under the mentorship of Emery Brown at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she examined the actions of general anesthetic drugs and how they induce loss of consciousness. It was this experience that ignited Kirsten's interest in pharmacology. During her time in the Bridge Program, Kirsten worked with Kevin Ochsner studying the regulation of craving in methamphetamine users and with Carl Hart to investigate how ketamine affects cocaine users. In particular, Kirsten looked at whether ketamine reduces cue reactivity (the intensity of response to drug cues), and whether it enhances motivation to change patterns of drug use. This may help determine whether ketamine can be used in treatments for cocaine dependence.

* Kirsten began a Ph.D. in psychology at Columbia in the fall of 2013.

Raven Harris (Neuroscience)
Raven is from New Castle, Delaware, and graduated from Haverford College, where she earned a B.S. in Biology in 2010. While at Haverford, she received several summer research fellowships from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and completed a senior thesis with Andrea Morris on axon guidance in the developing visual system. In the summer of 2009, as part of Columbia University's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GSAS) Summer Research Program, Raven furthered her interest in axon guidance working with Carol Mason. In 2010, Raven returned to the Mason laboratory as a RA in the Bridge Program. The Mason laboratory investigates molecules important for the formation of neuronal connections in the developing visual system. Raven's project identified genes important for retinal axons to recognize targets in the brain.

* In the summer of 2012, Raven entered the M.D./Ph.D. program at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Claribel Nuñez (Chemistry)
Claribel is a New York native and earned a B.S. in chemistry from Brooklyn College in 2010. There she was a Minority Access to Research and Career (MARC) scholar, and worked with Maria Contel on the synthesis of iminophsophines with gold to improve cancer therapy. In the summer of 2009, Claribel conducted research with Nina Berova at Columbia as part of the GSAS Summer Research Program. She worked on three zinc "tweezers" to determine their usefulness for finding the absolute configuration of chiral molecules, which will help in developing efficient pharmaceuticals. As a Bridge scholar, Claribel worked as a research assistant in Ann McDermott's laboratory, studying the interaction of cytochrome P450, an enzyme that catalyzes the oxidation of organic substances in the body, with N-Palmitoylglycine, a fatty acid.

* In the fall of 2013, Claribel began a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Florida.

John Pamplin II (Psychology)
John was a research assistant in Rae Silver's neuroscience laboratory, where he studied circadian rhythms. His work focused on the role of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in the regulation of sex hormones. Specifically, he was looking for sex differences in the circadian regulation of the endocrine pathway responsible for sex hormone release in hamsters. John is originally from Yellow Springs, Ohio. He attended Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia, where he received his B.S. in biology in 2010. As a member of the John H. Hopps Jr. Research Scholars Program, which is funded by the Department of Defense, John worked with Daniel Hummer at Morehouse, investigating the role of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in light-induced phase shifts in hamsters. Additionally, John spent the summer of 2009 in the laboratory of Ted Garland Jr. at the University of California, Riverside, studying sexual dimorphism in the pelvises of a group of mice selectively bred for voluntary wheel running.

*John is now a Ph.D. student in the Department of Epidemiology of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Corey Perez (Chemistry)
Corey was born and raised in Miami, Florida. After receiving his B.A. in biochemistry from Columbia in May 2010, Corey began working as a joint research assistant in the labs of Virginia Cornish and Ruben Gonzalez, Jr. There he investigated the detailed functioning of the ribosome, the critical piece of cellular machinery responsible for the synthesis of proteins. His research utilized single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) coupled with total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy (TIRFM) to explore the complex dynamics involved in protein formation, particularly those of ribosomal recycling.

* In the fall of 2012, Corey entered the Ph.D. program in chemistry at Yale University. His focus is chemical biology.


Cohort 2 (2009-2011)


Shaness Grenald (Psychology)
Originally from New York, Shaness received her B.A. in psychology from St. John's University in May 2009. A McNair Scholar at St. John's, Shaness conducted research with Alice Powers, examining the behavior of turtles in order to uncover distinct personality traits. Shaness also participated in a summer REU at Northern Arizona University with Melissa Birkett. There she examined cinnamon's ability to attenuate stress in male undergraduates. It was during this experience that Shaness bridged her interest in psychology with her current interest in neuroscience. At Columbia, she worked with Niall Bolger investigating dyadic interactions and models of social support in Hispanic populations with Type II diabetes. Shaness then worked with Frances Champagne researching how early life experiences, in particular maternal care, programs behavioral and neuroendocrine outcomes in rodents. Shaness is interested in studying the biological mechanisms that drive persistent pain conditions.

* Shaness began working on a Ph.D. in medical pharmacology at the University of Arizona in the fall of 2011. 

Nicholas Hunt-Walker (Astronomy)
Nicholas worked with Jules Halpern searching for gamma-ray pulsations from suspected pulsars using data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. His previous research experiences included modeling gamma-ray emission from starburst galaxies with Timothy Paglione of York College, City University of New York (CUNY), and performing X-ray population studies of dwarf spheroidal galaxies in the Local Group, using the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory, with Marina Orio at the University of Wisconsin. A native New Yorker, Nicholas is an alumnus of York College, where he earned his B.S. in physics and mathematics in 2010.

* In the fall of 2010, Nicholas moved to Seattle and entered the Ph.D. program in astronomy at the University of Washington.

Richard Lopez (Psychology)
Richard (Rich) Lopez is originally from Rockaway, New Jersey, and graduated from Princeton University in 2009 with a B.A. in psychology. While at Princeton, he investigated social cognition and face perception with Alexander Todorov. While in the Bridge Program, Rich was a RA in Kevin Ochsner's Social Cognitive Neuroscience laboratory.

* In the fall of 2011, Rich began working toward a Ph.D. in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College. In graduate school, he has been exploring how individual differences in self-control—as indexed by brain and behavioral markers—impact health and well-being.

Egberanmwen (Egbe) Ode (Biology)
A native of Edo, Nigeria, Egbe moved to the United States in 2003. As an undergraduate at Saint John's University, she became a McNair Scholar, and did research under the mentorship of Richard Lockshin. In the Lockshin laboratory, Egbe worked on zebrafish embryos to better understand the implications of caspase-3 in cell death. While in the Bridge Program, she  worked as a RA in Brent Stockwell's laboratory. There, Egbe tried to detect unknown (non-apoptotic) cell deaths via staining and antibody assays in the developmental stages of mice embryos. This may pave way for a better understanding of the behaviors of cancer cells, as distortion of/disruption in cell death pathways have been implicated in cancers and other neuronal diseases. In addition, she worked to develop biomarkers for erastin, a potential anti-cancer drug that was developed in the Stockwell laboratory. Egbe plans to obtain an M.D./Ph.D. with a focus in cancer and pharmacological research.

Angelica Patterson (Biological Sciences)
From 2004 to 2011, Angelica Patterson worked at Barnard College with Hilary Callahan on research pertaining to the plasticity and evolution of plant traits. She began by studying the plant Arabidopsis thaliana and the shift in its flowering time under varying climate regimes. Her research as a Bridge scholar examined the influence of mycorrhizal fungi colonization on root morphological traits. She also participated in a second project, with Kevin Griffin, on the effect forest disturbance has on the activity in Black Birch of the nitrogen reductase enzyme, which reduces soil nitrogen for use in photosynthesis and other processes. Before coming to Columbia, Angelica studied plant-virus interactions with Alison Power at Cornell University, and the ecological and evolutionary relationship of desert cacti and moths with Nathaniel Holland at Rice University. Originally from Pennsylvania, Angelica earned her B.S. in natural resources from Cornell in 2003.

* In the fall of 2011, Angelica entered the Ph.D. program in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia. She is focusing on understanding the physiological response of plants to climate change and its links to plant-community composition and tree-species distribution.

Khatera Rahmani (Biological Sciences)
Khatera Rahmani was a RA in J. Chloë Bulinski's laboratory, where she researched a covalent modification of connexin43 (Cx43), a protein subunit of cellular gap junctions, which allow passage of small molecules between adjacent cells. Gap junctions built from Cx43 are required for development and homeostasis of higher organisms, and mutations in the Cx43 gene are known to cause human disease. Like many cytoplasmic proteins, connexins undergo covalent modification of their coded amino acids following protein synthesis. Khatera studied Cx43 post-translational modifications, which may elucidate further required determinants of gap junction structure and function. Khatera was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, and grew up in Queens, New York. She received her B.S. in biology and B.A. in environmental studies from Brooklyn College (CUNY). As an undergraduate, Khatera worked with Thomas Lewandowski studying the toxicological effects on a cultured cell line of the combined exposure to lead and mercury. 

* In the fall of 2010, Khatera entered the Ph.D. program in toxicology at the University of Rochester.


Cohort 1 (2008-2010)


María (Ximena) Fernández (Astronomy)
Ximena worked with Jacqueline van Gorkom studying the neutral hydrogen distribution of interacting galaxies in different environments. Her first project involved looking at a gas-rich merger remnant and examining the fate of the gas in the presence of an active black hole and a burst of star formation. She then studied the gas dynamics in interacting galaxies in the Virgo Cluster to understand how they are affected by the intracluster medium. Previously, Ximena had investigated galaxy formation and evolution by analyzing galaxy properties in different bands of the electromagnetic spectrum with Debra Elmegreen at Vassar College and Emmanuel Momjian, Chris Salter, and Tapasi Ghosh at the Arecibo Observatory, Puerto Rico. Ximena is originally from Colombia, and earned a B.A. from Vassar College in physics and astronomy in 2007 and a B.Eng. from Dartmouth College in 2008.

* Ximena entered the Ph.D. program in astronomy at Columbia in the fall of 2010.

Tashina Graves (Psychology)
Tashina was a RA in Hakwan Lau's Consciousness and Computation Lab in the Psychology Department. She was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but had lived in New York nearly all her life. Her research interests lie in the area of visual perception, particularly the role of, and interplay between, attention and awareness. At Columbia, she worked on visual attention, confidence ratings, and the integration of perceptual information. She received her B.A. in psychology from Barnard College where she completed her senior project in Lisa Son's laboratory, researching metacognition in children. During her senior year Tashina also worked as a teaching assistant for the Perception and Cognition laboratory courses. 

* In the fall of 2010, Tashina entered the psychology Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University.

Charlotte Logan (Biological Sciences)
Charlotte received her B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma. While at Columbia, she worked in James Manley's laboratory studying how gene expression is controlled on a molecular level by mRNA transcript processing. After investigating the role of alternative splicing of the mRNA transcript in difficult-to-treat asthma, Charlotte then worked on the factors involved in polyadenylation of the mRNA transcript. Specifically, she investigated the recruitment of the PAF complex by transcriptional activator VP16 in transcription-coupled polyadenylation. Charlotte is from the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation, which spans the borders of Quebec, Ontario, and New York State, and is dedicated to alleviating the health disparities between Native and mainstream communities. In the fall of 2010 she began her Ph.D. at Brandeis University, where Charlotte will continue to develop her interests in gene expression systems and the search for a practical application of molecular genetics to the chronic health concerns of Native American communities.

* Charlotte graduated from Brandeis University with a Masters of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2012. She now works as a molecular biologist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island.  

Vanessa Mondol (Chemistry)
A graduate of Stony Brook University, Vanessa was a RA in the laboratory of Virginia Cornish.

* Vanessa entered the Ph.D. program in Biological Sciences at the University of California at San Diego in the fall of 2009.

Chukwudi (Chuk) Onyemekwu (Psychology)
Chuk worked with Kevin Ochsner studying the social cognitive effects of craving. His focus was on researching effective cognitive strategies to regulate cravings in nicotine and methamphetamine-using populations. He also worked on a meta-analysis for cravings linked to various other drugs. Chuk is originally from Nigeria, and graduated from Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in psychology. His previous research experiences included two summers shadowing Philip Stieg, chief neurosurgeon at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and working on a case report on the use of an intra-aortic balloon pump to permit resection of a tumor. Chuk plans to obtain an M.D./Ph.D. studying the biochemical effects of substance dependence and elucidating effective treatment to cope with using behavior.

Elizabeth Rodriguez (Psychology)
Elizabeth conducted research for over two years in Rae Silver's neuro-endocrinology laboratory. One of her projects assessed suprachiasmatic nucleus activation by a light-pulse when mice were aroused during their normal resting time. She also mapped distribution of neuro-immune mast cells during brain development in baseline conditions. Elizabeth graduated from Hunter College (CUNY), with a B.A. in psychology. While at Hunter, she was a Minority Access to Research and Career (MARC) and then a Minority Biomedical Research Support (MBRS) scholar. For three years she worked in Cheryl Harding's neuro-endocrinology laboratory studying song-learning and sexual behaviors in zebra finches. While a MARC/MBRS scholar, Elizabeth also participated twice in the Summer Program for Under-Represented Students at Columbia University. 

* Elizabeth has been at the University of Michigan since the fall of 2010, working on her Ph.D. in neuroscience.

Nitza Santiago (Astronomy)
Nitza earned her B.S. in physics and electronics from the University of Puerto Rico, Humacao (UPRH). Her research interests include radio observations of galaxies, galactic structure, and star formation. At Columbia, she worked with Mary Putman studying the HI gas properties of star formation in isolated HII regions. These regions present the opportunity to study the star formation process in environments that differ from the typical environment in a galaxy disk. Originally from Patillas, Puerto Rico, Nitza conducted research as an undergraduate with Juan Cersosimo studying the galactic warp of the Milky Way. Nitza also worked at the Astronomical Observatory at UPRH creating activities for the general public using optical telescopes. At Yale University during the summer of 2008, she examined stars in the background of a star-forming molecular cloud under the mentorship of Héctor Arce.

* In the fall of 2010, Nitza entered the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-Ph.D. Bridge Program to start her M.S. in physics. She has since moved to the Ph.D. program in Energy & Environmental Systems (with a concentration in Atmospheric Science) at North Carolina A&T State University.

Marlena Watson (Earth and Environmental Sciences)
Marlena graduated with a B.S. in biology from Temple University. At Columbia, she worked under the mentorship of Brian Mailloux on a protocol to determine the radioactive carbon date of microorganisms collected from wells in Bangladesh as part of the Arsenic in Bangladesh project. In her time as a RA, Marlena traveled to Bangladesh to collect samples not only for radioactive carbon dating, but also for determining arsenic concentrations, identifying pathogens present in the groundwater, and measuring overall microbial diversity. In addition to working on radiocarbon dating, she devised a pathogen assay protocol using PCR amplification of environmental samples to determine the presence of pathogenic E.coli in well water. 

* Marlena entered the CUNY Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Ph.D. program in the fall of 2010.


For details on how to apply to the Bridge Program, click here

Questions about the Bridge Program can be emailed to Assistant Directors Dr. Robyn Sanderson (for applicants in the physical sciences) and Dr. Somdeb Mitra (for applicants in the life sciences).


The Bridge Program is supported by the National Science Foundation through grants AST-1255419 and AST/PHY-1539931. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.