Current Participant Biographies

Bridge Program participants, alumni, and staff, orientation lunch, August 2013. Front row: Angelica Patterson, David Jaimes, Steven Mohammed, Rhondale Tso, Kirsten Frazer, Juliana Agudelo. Back row: Millicent Olawale, Erick Andrade, Evan Hamilton, Lester Lambert, Julia Gross, Assistant Director Summer Ash.

Cohort 9 (2016-2018)

Shane Colombo (Psychology) Advisor: Kevin Ochsner
Shane Colombo is from Riverside, California, and received his B.A. in psychology from San Francisco State University in May 2016. As an undergraduate, Shane was awarded the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) fellowship, which aims to enhance the diversity of the biomedical research workforce. This allowed him to conduct research under the mentorship of Josh Woolley at the University of California, San Francisco. Shane investigated the influence of the neuropeptide oxytocin on visual representation and on the inhibition of imitative behavior in the schizophrenic patient population, and developed a deep interest in social-cognitive deficits specifically observed in schizophrenics. In July 2016, Shane joined Kevin Ochsner's laboratory at Columbia University, where he has continued to develop these interests through the lens of social-cognitive and affective neuroscience. Shane's research examines the relationship between internalized stigma and social-cognitive deficits for individuals at clinically high risk for developing schizophrenia. His research utilizes functional brain imaging data as a means of understanding the neural correlates implicated in this relationship. Shane plans to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical neuroscience.

Jorge Cortés (Astronomy) Advisor: David Kipping
Jorge Cortés is from California’s Bay Area: he was born in San Francisco and raised in San Pablo/Richmond. Jorge attended Contra Costa College in San Pablo before earning a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, in December 2012. As an undergraduate, Jorge interned at the Space Sciences Laboratory, where he cleaned flight hardware in a class 100 cleanroom, created technical drawings for the Gamma Ray Imager/Polarimeter for Solar Flares (GRIPS) mission, and fed his interest in space exploration. Jorge continued his studies at San José State University, graduating in 2015 with a M.S. in aerospace engineering. He then began working as a satellite controller for Terra Bella, a Google subsidiary that focuses on Earth-observation satellite imagery. Determined to follow his passion for space, Jorge now studies the detectability of exoplanets with the upcoming Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) as a member of David Kipping’s Cool Worlds Laboratory in the Department of Astronomy. He is developing a Python script that incorporates LSST simulations to predict the likelihood of finding habitable planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Jorge plans to pursue a Ph.D. in astronomy while working to increase diversity in the sciences.

Kursti DeLello (Physics) Advisor: Cory Dean
Kursti DeLello is originally from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She graduated from the University of Central Florida (UCF) with a B.S. in physics in 2016. In the summer of 2014 Kursti traveled to Florida State University for a NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Luis Balicas' laboratory, and investigated the electrical properties of stacked two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalcogenide (TMD) heterostructures. Kursti spent the following summer at the Pennsylvania State University in another REU, working with Joshua Robinson on the impact of the insulating-to-metallic phase transition of VO2 on the optical properties of TMDs. This led to an invited paper in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter. After returning to UCF, she began work with Eduardo Mucciolo on her honor's thesis: developing an accurate electronic band model of 2D black phosphorous, which led to a publication in Physical Review B. Kursti currently works with Cory Dean in the Department of Physics, exploring the effects of lattice mismatch on the mechanical interactions in 2D systems. Kursti plans to pursue a Ph.D. in physics.

Maria Hernández-Limón (Earth and Environmental Sciences) Advisor: Sonya Dyhrman
María Hernández-Limón was born in Mexico and moved to Illinois when she was 10 years old. Maria became the first person in her family to graduate from college when she earned a B.S. in geology-biology in 2014 from Brown University. During the summer of her junior year, María helped to collect and analyze water quality data to assess hypoxia in Narragansett Bay, which led to her interest in aquatic ecosystems. After graduating, María worked in Chicago with the Schuler Scholar Program, which prepares underserved students from low-income communities to excel in college. Before coming to Columbia, María was a Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research Summer Fellow at the University of Michigan. There she synthesized data from the five organizations that oversee Lake Erie’s fisheries, producing an estimate of the total fish harvest from 1999-2013 that will be used in the Lake Erie Atlantis Ecosystem Model. In August 2016, María moved to the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and joined the Dyhrman laboratory, which focuses on understanding the interaction between phytoplankton and their geochemical environment. María is comparing gene expression data from phytoplankton grown at ambient and increased CO2 in order to elucidate how increases in CO2 influence phytoplankton physiology. This will help predict the fate of phytoplankton communities in future oceans. In graduate school, María wants to continue exploring the connections between organisms and their environment while promoting STEM outreach.

Kassidy Lundy (Biological Sciences) Advisor: Ozgur Sahin
Kassidy Lundy was born in Queens Village, New York, and graduated from Syracuse University with a B.A. in biophysics in 2016. While at Syracuse, Kassidy completed a summer REU and an independent research project with Lisa Manning in the Department of Physics. The focus of Kassidy’s work was to simulate the trajectory of Kupffer’s Vesicle, an organ necessary for healthy development in Zebrafish embryos, using the principles of the Self-Propelled Particle model. Now, in Ozgur Sahin’s laboratory, Kassidy has made a switch to experimental biophysics, and is characterizing enzyme kinetics mainly through imaging nucleic acids and proteins using atomic force microscopy. Her goal is to capture the dynamics of enzyme-DNA interactions on nanoscales, thereby imaging enzyme operations as they occur, replacing decades of theory about enzymatic activity with physical evidence. After these experiences in computational and experimental biophysics, Kassidy plans to apply to graduate biophysics programs.

Huda Qureshi (Applied Physics) Advisor: Kyle Mandli
Huda Qureshi immigrated from Pakistan to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1995. She graduated from Birmingham-Southern College in 2014 with a B.S. in mathematics and physics. In the summer of 2012, Huda worked with Mark Rupright at Birmingham-Southern on a research project testing  stability, evolution, and convergence in a comparison of several numerical methods. In the summer of 2013, as part of a joint REU between Birmingham-Southern and Rhodes College, she worked with Anne Yust to build an agent-based disease model for a threatened species of foxes native to the Southern California Channel Islands. In 2014, Huda accepted a Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Under the mentorship of Kesheng Wu, Huda researched heuristic methods for graph minor-embedding in an effort to build an improved compiler for the D-Wave machine, a quantum bit computer. Huda also spent six months as a Curriculum Developer with Girls Who Code before coming to Columbia. Currently, Huda works with Kyle Mandli in the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics researching different implementations of hurricane wind models in the storm surge software Geoclaw. Huda plans to study applied mathematics in graduate school.

Cohort 8 (2015-2017) 

Neno Fuller (Applied Physics) Advisor: Simon Billinge
Neno Fuller graduated from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY) in 2015 with a B.S. in physics and a minor in mathematics. In 2013, Neno worked with Nancy Griffeth, comparing different computational models of the Ras-protein mediated cell-signaling pathway to develop therapies targeting mutations that affect this pathway. Starting in 2014, he was a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation scholar in the laboratory of Mim Nakarmi, where he grew thin-film hexagonal boron nitride by means of chemical vapor depositions and atomic-force microscopy for photonic applications. Also in 2014, Neno was a REU student in Andrew Houck’s group in Princeton University’s Department of Electrical Engineering. He used a high-frequency structure simulator to model a filter device for use in quantum computing. Back at Brooklyn College, Neno’s senior thesis with Karl Sandeman focused on the magnetocaloric effect, a phenomenon whereby a material in a magnetic field experiences a change of temperature when the field is changed. Magnetic refrigeration employs this effect to generate a cycle akin to the gas-based cooling of traditional refrigeration, which relies on hydro-fluorocarbons that have 2000 times the global warming potential of CO2 . In Simon Billinge’s group, Neno is now investigating the magnetocaloric properties of Manganese-Iron-Silicon, which is particularly promising because of its cheap and non-toxic components. By comparing the structural features of three samples over two thermal cycles, Neno aims to clarify the link between structure and the thermal-history dependence of this material’s magnetic properties. This fall, Neno will begin a Ph.D. in physics at CUNY.

Jazmine-Saskya Joseph-Chowdhury  (Biological Sciences) Advisor: Carol Prives
Jazmine-Saskya Joseph-Chowdhury was born and raised in Queens, New York. She attended the Polytechnic Institute of New York University before transferring to Hunter College (CUNY), where she earned a B.A. in biological sciences in 2015. While at Hunter, Jazmine was a member of Olorunseun Ogunwobi痴 laboratory. She participated in a project to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of metastasis in liver, prostate, and colon cancer, with a focus on circulating tumor cells. In September 2015, Jazmine moved to Columbia University and joined the Prives laboratory, whose focus is the protein p53. p53 is a tumor-suppressor at the center of many regulatory pathways responsible for maintaining balance in the cell, and is frequently mutated in human cancers. Jazmine works on a point mutation (A347D) that causes p53 to shift from its active (tetrameric) form to its inactive (dimeric) form. She aims to elucidate the possible different roles of dimeric p53 in the cell by overexpressing the dimer mutant (A347D) in cancer cells in addition to observing the effects of the naturally-occurring mutation in patient cells. In Fall 2017, Jazmine will begin the Ph.D. program in biomedical sciences at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Christopher Medina-Kirchner (Psychology) Advisor: Geraldine Downey
Christopher Medina-Kirchner, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2014 with a B.A. in psychology. As an undergraduate, he was a McNair scholar and conducted research in Krista Lisdahl’s Brain Imaging and Neuropsychology (BraIN) Laboratory, as well as with the Milwaukee County Drug Treatment Court evaluation team. Through this work, Christopher began to notice how misinformation about the neuropsychopharmacological effects of drugs has contributed to high incarceration rates. This inspired him to gain a more thorough understanding of the neurobiological and environmental factors that determine responses to drug effects. At Columbia, Christopher is working with Carl Hart to understand factors that mediate drug self-administration behavior and with Geraldine Downey to develop a rejection-sensitivity model of coping with the stigma of a criminal record. He received a “Beyond the Bars” fellowship, which affords him an opportunity to participate in research projects aimed at increasing our understanding of mass incarceration and factors that will reverse this situation. Christopher aspires to become a neuropsychopharmacologist who investigates the effects of psychoactive substances in human research patients while taking into consideration environmental and social factors. He will start in the Ph.D. program in psychology at Columbia University in the fall of 2017.

For details on how to apply, 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.