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Faculty, Grad Students & Postdocs


Aakanksha Gundu


Major:
Biology, Neuroscience
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
histone post-translational modifications, yeast, biology, epigenetic
Research Overview:
I work in the Strahl Lab in the School of Medicine studying how histone post-translational modifications contribute to gene transcription and how histone acetylation and crotonylation varies during the yeast metabolic cycle.
Happy to talk about:
Finding research opportunities, First-generation students, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest, Transfer students

How/Why Research? Coming into Carolina, I knew I wanted to be involved in laboratory research regarding DNA and contribute to something I am passionate about. I attended several research seminars and took IDST 184, both of which introduced me to research on UNC’s campus. I got involved in research my first-year by reaching out to a peer that currently works in the lab. After discussing about the lab with her, I knew this was a topic I would enjoy working on and an opportunity that would allow me to develop meaningful relationships with my mentors. I reached out to the lab manager and expressed my interests and qualifications in an interview. I was thrilled to get the position and working in the lab has been one of my most fulfilling experiences at UNC.

Research Experience: I work in Dr. Strahl’s Lab in the UNC School of Medicine. The lab focuses on histone post-translational modifications, which regulate the structure and function of chromatin and influence gene transcription. Specifically, I study the yeast metabolic cycle of S. cerevisiae, how histone crotonylation and acetylation are influenced in different conditions, and the role of YEATS domain. I have had the opportunity to perform new laboratory techniques, such as Western Blotting, SDS-PAGE gels, and TCA extraction. Throughout my time as a research assistant, I have been able to interact with wonderful mentors at the lab, find a research topic that I am passionate about, and contribute to the scientific community. Surrounded by UNC’s research-intensive environment, I have often witnessed students feel overwhelmed about how to get involved with research. My advice for students would be to approach finding a research position with an open-mind and be willing to get involved in new topics as you never know what doors it may open. I am happy to answer any questions you may have so please feel free to reach out to me!

Student Organizations/Clubs: Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), Carolina Cancer Association, Pre-Health Students and Career Prep.

Random Fun Fact: I have lived in Scranton, PA, for 13 years but still have not watched an episode of The Office.




Alex Reulbach


Major:
Biology
Minor:
Chemistry & Marine Sciences
Research Interests:
Conservation, Marine Conservation, Biology, Marine Biology, Ecology, Marine Ecology, Climate, Climate Change, Restoration
Research Overview:
I work in the Bruno Lab of Marine Ecology and Conservation studying Acropora coral restoration in the Caribbean and the effect of temperature on the metabolism of marine organisms in the Galápagos Islands.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? As an avid scuba diver and wildlife enthusiast from a young age, marine research has always been something I was interested in. Marine research became a passion of mine during high school after I conducted marine research on invasive lionfish in the Caribbean. When I arrived at UNC, I was determined to join a marine lab that would allow me to conduct marine research in the field. Through IDST-194, a class that introduces students to how research on campus is conducted, I was able to find and join the Bruno Lab of Marine Ecology and Conservation during my fall semester of freshman year.

Research Experience: I currently work in the Bruno Lab of Marine Ecology and Conservation where I have studied algae predation in the Galápagos and am currently performing a meta-analysis on Acropora coral restoration in the Caribbean. My goal for this research project is to develop an Acropora coral restoration database that will promote more effective coral restoration. This summer I will be traveling to the Galápagos to study the effects of temperature on the metabolism of various marine organisms. This research will illuminate the effects of rising temperatures due to climate change on marine organisms. As a NOAA Hollings Scholar, I will also be conducting marine research as an intern in a NOAA lab in the summer of 2022.

Student Organizations/Clubs: UNC JOURney, Carolina Scientific, UNC-CH Scuba Club.

Random Fun Fact: I worked as a dive guide in Cozumel, Mexico and went diving with whale sharks the summer before my freshman year at UNC.




Allie Boyer


Major:
Biomedical Engineering
Minor:
Art History
Research Interests:
Biosensors, Genetic Engineering, Protein, Biomedical Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Electrode Sensor, Microdevices, Quantitative Research, Electrochemistry
Research Overview:
I work in the Sode Lab on the development of a D-serine biosensor.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? Research has made my experiences learning in class more valuable and relevant. I have had the opportunity to become involved in the applications of material and explore where my interests are. I was first involved in research with AP Research class in high school, where I learned about the wide scope of research areas and the research development process. Then, I continued to network with professors and teachers before applying to the Abram’s Scholarship program with the BME department.

Research Experience: I am studying D-serine by working to develop a biosensor for the amino acid in the brain based on enzyme engineering with an open circuit potential. Measuring D-serine is useful to predicting the onset of various cognitive disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression, along with the treatment and dosage of medicine to treat these cognitive disorders. I have previous additional research experience on the effectiveness of promoters in E. coli.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Swim Club, Dive In, Community Government, Biomedical Engineering Society, Society of Women Engineers.

Random Fun Fact: My favorite ice cream is Ben and Jerry’s Milk and Cookies.




Anahita Gupta


Major:
Health Policy and Management
Minor:
Chemistry; Medicine, Literature, and Culture
Research Interests:
Global health policy, World Health Organization, Human rights, Immunology, COVID-19
Research Overview:
I work with Dr. Benjamin Meier in the Department of Public Policy studying global health policy and human rights. I also work with Dr. Jenny Ting in the Lineberger Cancer Center studying immunology and COVID-19.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, First-generation students, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I was introduced to research in high school, and I immediately loved the idea of being able to study a specific topic in more detail and discover new information to add to the existing knowledge of that topic. For each of my research positions over the past several years, I have gotten involved by emailing professors whose research seemed interesting and asking if I could get involved.

Research Experience: I conduct research in global health policy and human rights. Over the past year, much of this research has focused on the COVID-19 response, studying how international organizations like WHO have responded to the pandemic. This research allows us to understand how certain policies may or may not be successful, which helps us to offer recommendations on the types of policies that countries and organizations should pursue in the future.

Student Organizations/Clubs:AMWHO; NCPIRG Students

Random Fun Fact: I’ve kayaked on rivers with alligators.




Student Ambassador Autumn Tucker

Autumn Tucker


Major:
Neuroscience
Minor:
French & Computer Science
Research Interests:
neuroscience, medicine, immunology, pharmacology, neuroimmunology, neuropharmacology, alcoholism, binge drinking, Alzheimer's disease
Research Overview:
I work in the Crews Lab in the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies studying the effects of alcoholism on Alzheimer's disease neuropathology and treatment.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I came into college knowing that I was interested in neuropharmacology and medicine, especially within mental health and disorders. I was encouraged to get involved in research at UNC to explore this path further and get some hands-on experience. I didn’t know much about the process coming in but I started by searching neuropharmacology at UNC and looking through the faculty pages that came up to learn more about their specific projects. I reached out to those that fit my interests to ask about available positions and briefly outline my interests and qualifications. After a few interviews, I chose a lab studying neuroimmunology in alcohol use disorders. This lab experience has been invaluable in helping me develop both important lab skills

Research Experiences: I work in the Crews Lab in the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, where I have primarily been working on a project studying the effects of alcohol abuse on Alzheimer’s pathology. We primarily use mice models to observe the relationships between the two disorders, in terms of neuroimmunology and neuropharmacology. I’ve been able to get some experience with almost every aspect of the process to develop basic and diverse skills and slowly start moving to more advanced skills. I’ve also learned a lot from working with grad students and faculty in the lab who have given me advice about my goals and provided incredibly useful mentorship. My roles shift throughout different stages of the project but I have spent the majority of my time treating the mice, preparing brain tissue for observation, and analyzing protein and mRNA samples.

Student Organizations/Clubs: GlobeMed, Web Dev Carolina.

Random Fun Fact: I cross-stitch and do embroidery!




Student Ambassador Avery Wall

Avery Wall


Major:
Psychology
Minor:
Cognitive Science, Neuroscience
Research Interests:
Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Attention, Memory, Psycholinguistics, Neuroimaging, Neuroscience
Research Overview:
I do research in several domains of cognitive psychology and neuroscience, including attention and memory, psycholinguistics, and neuroimaging.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Workstudy

How/Why Research? I discovered my passion for both cognitive psychology and research in high school when I took an independent research class and studied the Google Effect – the phenomenon where you are more likely to forget information you know you can look up. This experience propelled me to seek out more research opportunities in cognitive psychology once arriving at Carolina, and, after sending out my fair share of rejected applications, I joined an attention and memory lab that spring. I have gotten my research positions through cold emailing, traditional job applications (including the work-study application), the Gil Internship, and non-UNC summer research programs, so I am happy to talk to students interested in applying to any of these!

Research Experiences: I currently work in the Mulligan Lab studying attention and memory phenomena such as the Testing Effect, as well as the Arnold Lab, where I study factors that influence pronoun comprehension. I am also working on a project examining patterns of brain volume loss in Alzheimer’s patients at NIRAL, and I spent a year in the Weisshaar Lab looking at gender and racial discrimination in hiring. I hope to continue doing research in the future, specifically focusing on learning and memory research that has educational applications.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Helping Give Away Psychological Science, Psi Chi, Phi Beta Kappa.

Random Fun Fact: When I’m not researching the brain, I enjoy creating brain-related embroideries.




Student Ambassador Colleen Bereda

Colleen Bereda


Major:
Biology
Minor:
Neuroscience, Chemistry
Research Interests:
Biology, Molecular biology, Microbiology, Genetics, DNA recombination, DNA repair, Biocuration
Research Overview:
I conduct my research projects in the Sekelsky lab mapping protein-protein interaction and the Berg lab studying gene-disease validity.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research? I found my passion in research after completing a semester-long research project in high school. I loved how my curiosity was encouraged and that the field created a never-ending cycle of learning. I began seeking a research position at UNC the spring of my freshman year by emailing professors from the Biology department whose research interested me. I was accepted into a summer position at ClinGen, part of the Berg lab, doing a biocuration study on the MYH7 gene. Later, I received a follow-up email from a lab that was originally full, offering a new opening for the fall semester. I was selected for the position within the Sekelsky lab where I am researching my own project mapping the protein-protein interaction of Blm helicase and Top3a.

Research Experiences: I started my research experience as a volunteer in a dry lab before expanding to also conduct a project for course credit within a wet lab. Each of these settings are unique, but present their own perks and challenges for me to conquer. My favorite research opportunity so far has been completing Biology 395/495 with the Sekelsky lab. Being in the lab for <10 hours per week has really helped me dive deeper into my project and take a look into a career in research. I have learned key skills for achieving my goal like conducting experiments, interpreting results, and engaging in scientific communication and teamwork.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society.

Random Fun Fact: I did competitive Irish dancing for 10 years!




Colleen McCann


Major:
Biomedical Engineering
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
Biology, Cardiovascular Disease, Parkinson's Disease, Genetics
Research Overview:
I work in the Schisler Lab in the UNC School of Medicine studying the effects of the chemokine CXCL5 on cardiovascular disease.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I became involved with research in fall of 2020, after finding the open position on the OUR website’s opportunities database. After that, I emailed and interviewed with my current lab manager, and started working in the lab the next week! I wanted to participate in research to experience real world applications of what I am learning in school.

Research Experience: In my college research experience, I have worked on projects that investigate the effect of the chemokine CXCL5 on the development of heart conditions, including forms of cardiovascular disease. In addition, the Schisler lab investigates the ubiquitin ligase CHIP, mutations in the gene that encodes CHIP, and how these play a role in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease. The goal of these studies is to use genomic-biologic data collected from mouse models to better understand human diseases. In my experience, I have gained skills in PCR work, gel electrophoresis, and handling of mice. Research has helped me deepen my understanding of biology and develop my problem-solving skills.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Delight, Alpha Phi Sorority, Blank Canvas Dance Company.

Random Fun Fact: I was a gymnast and can do a back flip!




David Peery


Major:
Computer Science, Statistics
Minor:
Biology
Research Interests:
Neuroscience, Genetics, Computer Science, Statistics
Research Overview:
I work in the Won Lab in the Genetics and Neuroscience Departments using computational approaches to better understand the genetics neurobiological mechanisms of psychiatric disorders.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research: The opportunity to do research was one of the main reasons I came to UNC; I hope to contribute to developing new approaches to solve some the toughest problems we face! When I first got involved in research, I just knew I wanted to do some kind of biological-related research where I would be doing lots of programming. I browsed through the database on the OUR website and found that the Neural Engineering Lab was looking for undergraduates, so I decided to send an email to the P.I. We met up and he gave me a coding assignment to see where my python skills were, and then I started doing research in his lab!

Research Experience: I worked in the Neural Engineering Lab for the summer of 2020. While there, I helped develop and troubleshoot some of the code they were using to analyze videos of mouse behavior. After that summer, I switched to working in the Won lab because I wanted to do research in genetics. I got in contact with Dr. Won through a graduate student I had met in my the Neural Engineering Lab. In Dr. Won’s lab, I’m working with publicly available datasets to better understand the genetics and neurobiological mechanisms of psychiatric disorders. In the summer of 2021, I’ll be doing an REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) at South Dakota State University, where I’ll be working on the annotation of the genome of a native perennial grass.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Carolina Analytics and Data Science, Club Ultimate Frisbee (B-team).
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Random Fun Fact: I lived in Ecuador from 2018-2020!




Divya Narayanan


Major:
Neuroscience, Music
Minor:
Statistics
Research Interests:
Neuroscience, Electrophysiology and Systems Neuroscience
Research Overview:
I work in the Kato Lab at UNC School of Medicine studying bypass pathways of auditory processing in the brain and spatial variability of auditory processing areas.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I was introduced to the various examples of neuroscience research and research techniques at UNC through my NSCI 175 class. My professor made sure to incorporate relevant research studies into each unit, one of which sparked my interest in systems neuroscience and sensation. As a Music double major, I intrigued by the neural mechanisms underlying hearing, so I researched faculty at UNC whose research aligned with my interests. I reached out to Dr. Kato via email to learn more about his research, and subsequently joined the lab!

Research Experience: My first research experience was at NYU’s Neuroscience institute, where I studied the characteristics of brain oscillations during sleep of epileptic mice. Later, I joined the Kato Lab, where I currently perform histological analysis of mouse brains to dissect the neural pathways of fast auditory processing. Understanding the detailed neural connectivity of the auditory brain is important to gain a more complete picture of how these mechanisms can fail in hearing disorders. I also conduct research analyzing how the locations of different portions of the auditory processing center can vary based on sex, age, and genotype in mice.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Carolina Scientific Magazine, Creative Futures.

Random Fun Fact: I love taking on challenging baking projects like croissants and layered cakes!




Elina Shirolkar


Major:
Statistics & Analytics, Computer Science
Minor:
Studio Art
Research Interests:
Statistics, Analytics, Computer Science, Epidemiology, Contact Networks, Networks, Graphs, Modeling
Research Overview:
I work in the UNC Department of Statistics and Operations Research studying epidemic modeling on contact networks, multilayer diffusion, and agent-based modeling using R-programming.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research? I discovered my passion for Statistics & Analytics after pursuing an environmental research internship at the NCSU Department of Statistics during high school. I was offered to participate in the Carolina Research Scholars Program at UNC Chapel Hill, where I enrolled in IDST 194, a course that introduced me to the plethora of research opportunities available at UNC. I also combined my love for statistical research with my passion for entrepreneurship by working as a market researcher for a local tech startup. I learned more about the research projects within UNC’s Department of Statistics and was selected for a position under the mentorship of Prof. Shankar Bhamidi, where I am researching epidemic spread within dynamic contact networks.

Research Experience: I am currently conducting research under Professor Shankar Bhamidi in the UNC Statistics and Operations Research Department. I am researching and developing SIR Model simulations for predicting the epidemic spread of viruses (such as COVID-19) through a population. I am also researching methods of network and cluster diffusion, branching processes, and agent-based modeling using EpiModel. Analyzing contagion spread creates a better understanding of the effectiveness of different protocols and precautions taken during the time of an epidemic. Exploring the connections between various layers of connected networks, including social, epidemic, and information networks, allows individuals to make knowledgeable decisions when choosing to make changes to set protocols.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Carolina Analytics and Data Science (CADS)

Random Fun Fact: I am a member of the UNC Club Gymnastics team!




Emily Wang


Major:
Biostatistics
Minor:
N/A
Research Interests:
Computational science, Genetics, Youth
Research Overview:
I work in the X-Lab in the School of Nursing studying the interactions between mental health symptoms.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research? I became involved in research during high school as a way to explore my interests outside of the classroom. Fortunately, I was able to participate in a Research in Computational Science program that greatly expanded upon my knowledge of various scientific techniques. I was excited to continue my research journey in college and took IDST 184 my first fall which introduced me to a diverse range of fields in which research is practiced. I was extremely lucky to have a great peer research mentor who sent me a listing for a position that perfectly matched my interests, and I ended up applying for it. It has been an incredible experience that has affirmed my decision to pursue a career involving research!

Research Experiences: As a research assistant, I am currently working on a project analyzing the interactions between common mental health symptoms using computational tools for possible earlier disorder identification. I love applying the skills I have learned from my coursework to meaningful topics, and have gained first-hand experience in multiple stages of the research process. It has been an eye-opening journey learning about different techniques from my lab mates and thinking about the clinical implications of research. I have not only learned so much about the field and developed much stronger analytical skills but have also gained greater confidence in sharing my work with a wide range of audiences.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Student Government Environmental Affairs Committee

Random Fun Fact: I brew my own kombucha!




Gargi Dixit


Major:
Biostatistics
Minor:
Computer Science
Research Interests:
Bioinformatics, oncology, computational biology, clinical research
Research Overview:
I work in the Pecot Lab at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center studying the effects of miRNA on lung tumor growth. I worked at the Duke Clinical Research Institute studying neonatal hypertension over the summer of 2019.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I initially became involved in clinical research in high school through a summer program. During that experience, I learned a lot about the basics of clinical research and scientific writing. Through the program, I was introduced to the role of statistics in clinical research, and wanted to explore the connection between medical research and data analysis further. Once I joined UNC as an undergraduate, I attended several OUR workshops, one of which was a panel discussion where my current lab mentor was a panelist. Upon learning more about the lab at that panel event, I expressed my interest in joining and was fortunate to be given a project focused on my interests in bioinformatics at the lab!

Research Experience: During high school, I participated in a summer program called Summer Training in Academic Research (STAR) at Duke Clinical Research Institute. I completed a research project on medication management for neonatal hypertension, and worked with a team to co-write a manuscript on the topic. The program was highly beneficial for me as it exposed me to clinical research methods, gave me access to valuable mentorship, and inspired an interest in scientific research. Upon joining UNC, I worked for a semester at the Berg Lab, conducting literature annotation about the VWF gene. Currently, I’m involved with the Pecot Lab, where I use bioinformatics tools to explore the connection between miRNAs and lung tumor growth. I’ve learned a lot about cancer biology from my fellow lab mates, and continue to grow as a student researcher through this experience!

Student Organizations/Clubs: Narratives in Medicine, Carolina Cancer Association, APPLES, AMWHO, ACM at Carolina.

Random Fun Fact: I can speak in five languages!




Glorimel Rodriguez


Major:
Psychology
Minor:
Statistics & Analytics Research
Research Interests:
Psychology, Adolescence, Ethnic Identity, Prosocial, Health Risk, Susceptibility, Social Anxiety, Active Learning, Behavior Change
Research Overview:

Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, First-generation students, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Workstudy

How/Why Research? Since I took my first psychology course in high school, I knew I wanted to study psychology as a future career. I wanted to learn more about topics related to neuroscience and social psychology, so I joined Dr. Telzer’s Developmental Social Neuroscience Lab. I saw the opportunity in a psychology listserv and I applied through their website. While working as a research assistant I was interested in conducting my own independent project based on my research interests so I talked with the lab staff and I applied to the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. With the help of my mentor, I successfully completed the fellowship. I then joined Dr. Steven Buzinski’s lab to conduct research through an independent research course.

Research Experience: I have experience researching topics related to ethnic identity, peer group norms, risk behaviors, and prosocial behaviors. Benefits of my research may inform youth risk prevention programs to integrate culturally appropriate strategies and improve techniques to increase prosocial behaviors in adolescents.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Psychology Club, Minority Advising Peer Program, and Honors Ambassador Program.

Random Fun Fact: I love to paint and draw.




Hans Oh


Major:
Biochemistry, Biology
Minor:
Neuroscience
Research Interests:
Biochemistry, Biology, Nanomedicine, Chemical Biology
Research Overview:
I work in the Kabanov lab in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy studying the use of nanoparticles and CAR-T macrophages for drug delivery and immunotherapy.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, First-generation students, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I decided to be involved in research after a high school research experience in organic chemistry. I got involved in research at UNC by reaching out to the professors and PIs whose research I was interested in. Whether it be sending emails or attending seminars, I made an effort to reach out and learn more about their research. I was also able to get help from the professors of my courses so I could search for a specific area of research that I was interested in.

Research Experience: My research experience at UNC began in my freshman year at the Kabanov Lab. The Kabanov lab researches the use of nanomedicine to address major needs in the medical field, such as the specific targeting of cancers and diseases. In my sophomore year, I also collaborated on a research project in the Pharmacology Department of the UNC School of Medicine. This research concentrated on gathering the biochemical information of a scaffold family called 1,2,3-dithiazoles to develop a concise review of its medical application.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Carolina Cancer Association, Spread Love Foundation.

Random Fun Fact: I took organic chemistry twice.




Student Ambassador Harshi Matada

Harshi Matada


Major:
Biology, Neuroscience
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
Cancer Biology, Neuroscience
Research Overview:
I work in the Flick Lab in the School of Medicine studying the role the fibrinolytic system has in the development and progression of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research?Curiosity was the main reason that drove me to find my passion for research. I found multiple opportunities on the OUR website which offered a lot of different research opportunities. I was able to find positions that aligned with my research interests and contacted the research labs through email. After interviewing I learned more about the research lab and their expectations of me and found the lab that worked best for me. Research has not only given me a better knowledge of the skills necessary in lab but has also allowed me to learn new and interesting things about the research I do.

Research Experiences: My first research experience was with the Frohlich Lab, where I worked with ferrets to understand the causal role of brain oscillation in cognition and psychiatric illnesses. My role in the lab involved training the ferrets to do certain tasks and then help perform surgeries to study the interaction between brain stimulation and neural dynamics. Later, I joined the Social Neuroscience and Health Lab, where I helped conduct the CogIn study which looks at the bi-directional links between social stress and inflammation. I assist with the collection and processing of biodata and serve as an experimenter during the Trier Social Stress Task portion of our study. Additionally, I work in the Flick Lab studying the role the fibrinolytic system has in the development of pancreatic cancer. Being a part of research has become a huge part of my identity at college and I hope to continue doing research throughout my future career.

Student Organizations/Clubs: UNC Samaa, Student Government, UNC Institute of Politics.

Random Fun Fact: I can speak four languages.




Janani Ramadurai


Major:
Linguistics, Neuroscience
Minor:
Computer Science
Research Interests:
Linguistics, Computer Science, Cognitive Science, Qualitative Research, Eye-tracking Experiments, Observational Data
Research Overview:
I work in the Bergelson Lab at Duke University studying how the early linguistic environment of a child affects their early word learning.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research? I’ve always been interested in understanding the process of language acquisition, so I knew that I wanted to get involved with research in college ASAP. I approached my linguistics professor (I was taking LING 203) and asked her if she knew of any research opportunities/people to talk to about getting involved in research in the area. After asking me what my research interests were, she referred me to her friend, Dr. Bergelson at Duke University. I then emailed Dr. Bergelson asking to meet with her just to discuss her work and research experience. I went in prepared to ask questions about her research and how she became involved. At the end of that meeting, she recommended I send in my resume and CV, and I’ve been in the BLAB since then!

Research Experience: I collect eye-tracking data as well as naturalistic audio and video data to better understand how a child’s language input influences their word comprehension. This research is important for us to understand how we learn new words through our interactions with the world and each other as infants.

Student Organizations/Clubs: UnderLing, Order of the Bell Tower, Sigma Alpha Iota.

Random Fun Fact: I co-host a podcast — The Penn Pod!




Jessica Chlebowski


Major:
Exercise and Sport Science
Minor:

Research Interests:
biology, respiratory system, cell culture, work-study
Research Overview:
I work in the Alexis lab in the School of Medicine's Center for Environmental Medicine and Lung Biology studying the effects of air pollutants and other toxins on the respiratory system.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest, Transfer students, Workstudy

How/Why Research? I found research to be one of the more daunting aspects of the medical school application process and initially felt that it was not going to be for me. By directly contacting people about positions instead of relying on applications alone, I was hired in my lab through a position that also satisfies my work-study. I have been lucky to have found my path into research to be surprisingly fulfilling. Getting to learn about the various responses of the respiratory system as well as the role this plays in our bodies as an entire system has excited me and has helped to solidify my choice to go to medical school.

Research Experience: The work that I do in the lab involves nasal and other respiratory cells and the effects that different contaminants and pollutants have on the respiratory system, through simple techniques as well as more advanced techniques such as sterile cell culture. When I first began at the lab, I was not confident in my abilities, nor did I think that I was very interested in doing lab work, but the experiments I have gotten to observe and participate in, as well as the knowledge I have gained, have inspired a passion for research and science in me that I truly did not think I had.

Student Organizations/Clubs: C-STEP, Carolina Covenant.

Random Fun Fact: I am a former professional ballet dancer and I make kombucha in my kitchen!




Jessie Ma


Major:
Health Policy and Management
Minor:
Medical Anthropology
Research Interests:
Mental Health, Women's Health, PTSD, Anxiety
Research Overview:
I work in the UNC Institute for Trauma Recovery studying the transdiagnostic risk factors associated with PTSD development and anxiety-related disorders following sexual assault.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? Research has always been highly prevalent in my life. I first got involved in research through taking initiative and participating in as many research/ science competitions as I can. I always sought after the help and expertise of my high school teachers in order to guide me to reaching my goals. Similarly, in college, I seeked after the many opportunities that UNC offers in research, and reached out to various research labs and professors for further opportunities and advice! Through this, I realized how UNC is an institute with a wealth of opportunities.

Research Experience: Research experience include: 1) Participation in the creation of a lymphoma mutation database and development of an artificial intelligence system for precision diagnosis of lymphoma subtypes, which allowed me to win the 2017 Siemens Science Competition Award; 2) Investigation of harmful effects of bathroom hand dryers on environmental and public health, which allowed me to win the 2018 Regeneron Science Talent Search Scholar; I was able to publish a paper this summer on this topic in the Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health named “Blowing in the wind: Bacteria and fungi are spreading from public restroom hand dryers”; 3) Right now I am in a research lab focusing on studying the transdiagnostic risk factors associated with PTSD development and anxiety-related disorders following sexual assault.

These experiences helped me learn various research skills and become familiar with the research process, shaped me as a critical thinker and problem solver, and enabled me to work collaboratively with others in an effective way.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Globemed, Kappa Phi Lambda, NCPIRG, Musical Empowerment.

Random Fun Fact: I lived in New Orleans for six years!




Jordan Kirby


Major:
Exercise & Sport Science
Minor:
Spanish for the Professions
Research Interests:
Exercise & Sport Science, Psychology, Mental Health, Human Research
Research Overview:
I worked on interdisciplinary collaboration between the Psychology and Exercise & Sport Science departments to examine the effects of conducting a community-based walking group on the physical and mental health outcomes of individuals living with schizophrenia.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, First-generation students, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I got involved with research because I wanted to better understand and contribute to the creation of knowledge that is foundational to modern society. I was fortunate to meet an Exercise Science professor who was looking for undergraduate assistance on the first trials of his research collaboration with the Psychology department. I expressed interest in becoming an assistant and was able to shadow graduate students in many aspects of the research from the target intervention with human subjects to the data collection and reporting process.

Research Experience: I worked as an undergraduate research assistant for the PACE-Life study in the Penn Lab under Dr. Claudio Battaglini and Dr. David Penn. This project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Psychology and Exercise & Sport Science departments to examine the effects of conducting a community-based walking group on the physical and mental health outcomes of individuals living with schizophrenia. This position was my introduction to research, and I was lucky to involve myself in multiple facets of the project. The variety of tasks included observing and conducting in-person interaction with study participants and various levels of data entry. I was also a member of one of 2020’s Undergraduate Research Consultant Teams and through this grant my team of 5 undergraduate students travelled to Brazil with Dr. Battaglini to inaugurate a research collaboration between UNC and the Catholic University of Brasilia (UCB). As undergraduates, each of us had the privilege to conduct a presentation of our experiences with research and academics at UNC to faculty and students at the university and were able to witness the process of developing research from across vastly differing cultures.

Student Organizations/Clubs: CUAB Entertainment Committee, FIMRC Hispanic Community Committee

Random Fun Fact: I used to play the trombone.




Julie Lee


Major:
Human Development and Family Studies
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
Neuroscience, Addiction, Behavioral Studies, Pre-clinical studies
Research Overview:
I work in the Hodge Lab in the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies to observe neuropathological effects of alcohol drinking considering different human diseases and conditions.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest, Transfer students

How/Why Research? To be honest, I initially got involved in research out of the need to check off the “pre-health checklist”. I got involved in my lab after searching up certain research topics I was interested in, then cold-emailing my PI.

Research Experience: Learning how to do all sorts of experiments and reading scientific literature pertaining to my lab was hard at first. However, my research mentors really poured into me and encouraged me to take on different projects and get involved in different opportunities, which really helped bolster up not just skill/experience, but also genuine interest in what I do. I now realize how much I actually enjoy the process, and plan to get involved in clinical research post-graduation! I think anyone can enjoy it too, as long as they find the right type and topic that interests them.

Student Organizations/Clubs: NOBCChE, Narratives in Medicine, Christian Ministries on Campus.

Random Fun Fact: I once raised chicks in my garage without my mom finding out until a month later.




Kaathya Kashyap


Major:
Neuroscience
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
Psychology, Anxiety, PTSD, Women's Health
Research Overview:
I work in the Short Trauma and Anxiety Research (STAR) Lab in the UNC Institute for Trauma Recovery studying the transdiagnostic risk factors associated with the development of PTSD and anxiety-related disorders after sexual assault.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? It’s always been such an intense passion of mine to become a doctor but I knew very little about research. Upon entering university, I knew I wanted to pursue research and these additional aspects of scientific exploration but I had no idea how. I wanted to assist in research that was relevant to my major, so I contacted and emailed many PIs in the Psychology and Neuroscience department, including the departments in the UNC School of Medicine. I made sure to attach my resume and outline my interests so the PIs could get to know a little about me. Dr. Nicole Short agreed to meet with me and following an interview, offered me a research assistant position in her lab!

Research Experience: Since August 2020, I have been volunteering at the UNC Institute for Trauma Recovery. I identify issues that arise while testing our technology-based therapeutic intervention, code data for literature reviews, and track participants in our RISE Pilot Study. I’ve gained many valuable skills while working in the STAR Lab and also benefitted from attentive and beneficial mentorship from my PI! Under her guidance, I learned how to write my own research proposal, which was accepted for a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship award for Summer 2021. Through SURF, I will be running statistical analyses to characterize rates of reported pain following sexual assault and analyze the associations between pain and physical injury. I’m super excited to take on this new role and explore various facets of psychological research!

Student Organizations/Clubs: Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Society.

Random Fun Fact: I’m captain of the dance team Bhangra Elite here at UNC! Bhangra is a style of dance from Northern India.




Nivi Ramasamy


Major:
Nutrition, Neuroscience
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
Neuroscience, Nutrition, Public Health, Cancer, Obesity, Cell Biology, Electrophysiology, Pre-Clinical Research
Research Overview:
I work in the Frohlich Lab at the School of Medicine studying attention and electrophysiological processes in ferrets. I also work in the Hursting Lab at the Gillings School of Global Public Health researching the effects of different cytokines and adipokines on colon cancer.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? After a high school research experience studying how Fetal Alcohol Syndrome affects rat brains at ECU, I knew I wanted to get involved with research as much as possible in college. I found the Frohlich Lab at a Psych & Neuro Fest the fall of my freshman year and sent the PI an email detailing my interest in his lab. He contacted me for an interview and then offered me a position. After entering the Nutrition B.S.P.H. program at Gillings, I was set up for an interview with the Hursting Lab by the department since research is a requirement for this major. While this was a less traditional way of getting into a lab, I still sent them an email detailing my interests along with my resume and had an interview before being offered a position.

Research Experiences: At the Frohlich Lab, I’ve worked on a project testing sustained attention using the 5 Choice Serial Reaction Time Task (5CSRTT) and another project testing the ability of Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS) to shift the ferrets’ endogenous frequencies. Currently, I run 5CSRTT experimental sessions with the ferrets, perform weekly post-surgery monitoring procedures, and process video data using EthoVision XT software. I’ve also had the opportunity to complete research for credit here. In the Hursting Lab, I do cell culture work where I test the changes in proliferation of colon cancer cells when grown with different cytokines or adipokines. I’ve learnt a lot about our research topics, the scientific process, and how to push myself out of my comfort zone from my experiences in these labs and with my mentors for which I am very thankful.

Random Fun Fact: I once got a concussion from falling on my butt.




Our Ambassador Peng Xu

Peng Xu


Major:
Computer Science, Neuroscience
Minor:
Astronomy
Research Interests:
Cognitive Neuroscience, Computational Neuroscience, Systems Neuroscience, Pharmacology, Pain, Adult Neurogenesis, Alcohol Use Disorder
Research Overview:
I work in Song Lab researching on how different neuropeptides and neurotransmitters regulate the adult neurogenesis in endogenous neural stem cells. I work in Wang Lab studying the somatosensory cortical signature of facial nociception and vibrotactile touch-induced analgesia. I work in CAB lab studying on the correlation between impulsivity and future alcohol use on college students.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule

How/Why Research? Ever since I was in the high school, I have suffered from the lack of research resources/information. In my tenth grade, I first learned the word “psychology” (not to mention “neuroscience”) while my high school only had one psychology teacher who knew nothing about psychology research at all. After I came to UNC, I was determined to join in a psychology lab to discover more about different researches in psychology, but I got rejected for around 20 times to finally get a job as I didn’t know the right way to reach out and show the passion. The reason I would like to become an Ambassador is that I don’t want more students like me to struggle to seek for any kinds of information about interested researches.

Research Experiences: In order to further figure out my potential interests in psychology/neuroscience, I have been working in 4 different labs in social psychology, clinical psychology, cognitive neuroscience and system neuroscience respectively. I first worked with Dr. Yun Chen to look into the treatment of depression for Chinese international students, and then learned video coding of the positive emotions invoked by couples’ interactions from Dr. Barbara Fredrickson and Jieni Zhou. Right now, I am assisting Dr. Amanda Elton with her college student neuroimaging study of the relationship between impulsivity and alcohol use disorder, taking MRI scans for the participants on my own and writing a review paper together. Last summer, I joined Wang Lab in Duke to help with their pain research on rodents and have been learning  how to observe and train these cute little creatures and use the computational methods to analyze the components and structure of neural circuits since then. These experiences all mean a lot to me and help shape my understanding of the research.

Random Fun Fact: I work on a Chinese Sexuality Education Research Team that is producing the first Human Sexuality online course in China.




Student Ambassador Phoebe Pak

Phoebe Pak


Major:
Health Policy and Management, Neuroscience
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
Neuroscience, Public Health, CpG Methylation, Epidemiology, Brain, Neurodevelopment, ASD, Autism, Neurodevelopmental Disorders, Neurological
Research Overview:
I work in the Fry lab in the Gillings School of Public Health studying the adverse health/neurodevelopmental outcomes in ELGAN cohort.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research? Curiosity. I have always wondered why some populations are more susceptible to neurological disorders and have much more barriers to access/use of healthcare – and why our society hasn’t resolved these root causes. I got involved in research to ask these questions and understand the biological basis and potential environmental and societal factors as causes of various neurodevelopment disorders at UNC School of Medicine and Dr. Fry’s lab at the Gillings. I have been thrilled to research and discover the importance of preventative measures through healthcare management and public health policy-making processes to best serve underserved communities.

Research Experiences:My current research at Dr. Fry’s lab involves cerebral white matter injuries in the ELGAN cohort based on Ultrasound and Placenta-brain axis. The benefits of my research are to contribute to the knowledge on signaling pathways and genes that have high risks with neurodevelopmental disorders for future clinical and research application.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Student Government Executive Branch, RHA, CSS, Carolina Neuroscience Club.

Random Fun Fact: Lived in 3 states, 2 continents.




Prisca Lim


Major:
Environmental Science, Chemistry
Minor:
Marine Science
Research Interests:
Marine Ecology, Phytoplankton, Nutrient Cycles
Research Overview:
I will be investigating how different artificial reef materials affect the abundance of Gambierdiscus, a genus of toxic marine dinoflagellates which result in ciguatera fish poisoning, at the Institute of Marine Sciences in collaboration with researchers at NOAA.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research? My research interests lie in marine ecology and conservation. I am fascinated by the marine environment and desire to understand the factors that drive various ecological patterns. I spent my first semester emailing a number of professors in the Marine Science department and meeting with them to discuss their research. I was fortunate enough to land a position in the Marchetti Lab in my second semester. I also approached my organic chemistry professor in my sophomore year and spent a semester in the Hill Lab learning about organic chemistry synthesis techniques.

Research Experience: I worked in the Marchetti Lab from Spring 2020 to Spring 2021, and received a SURF award for my project. My focus was performing data analysis and DNA sequencing to determine potential correlations between environmental conditions and phytoplankton composition in the Galapagos Islands. This helps us predict how climate change could affect marine ecology and aid conservation efforts in the Galapagos Islands. In Fall 2020, I joined the Hill Lab to explore my interest in organic chemistry. There, I worked on a project trying to synthesis bisketenes which may allow for the development of a novel dimerization technique. I will be attending the Morehead City Field Site program in Fall 2021, where I hope to develop a project studying how the presence of shipwrecks affect the marine microbial population.

Student Organizations/Clubs: UNC Scuba Club, UNC Aikido.

Random Fun Fact: I love scuba diving.




Rachael Fisher


Major:
Neuroscience
Minor:
Chemistry & French
Research Interests:
Neuroscience, neurodegenerative, alcohol, quantitative, adolescence
Research Overview:
I work in the Vetreno lab in the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies examining how adolescent binge drinking could lead to higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest, Transfer students, Workstudy

How/Why Research? I got involved in research my sophomore year in a Virology lab at UNC School of Medicine through a work study position. Then, after deciding to take a gap year due to coronavirus and reading a very interesting paper Dr. Vetreno wrote, I reached out and was fortunate to be given a full time laboratory technician job studying alcohol use and neurodegenerative diseases.

Research Experience: My freshman year summer internship was at a pharmaceutical pharmacology lab, which opened my eyes to the world of research outside of academia. At UNC, I worked in a virology lab my sophomore year and spent the last year as a laboratory technician. I am excited to return to school this fall and conduct an honors thesis as a continuation of my gap year research.

Student Organizations/Clubs: American Red Cross, Club Field Hockey, Neuroscience Club.

Random Fun Fact: I learned to ski at 3 years old!




Rajee Ganesan


Major:
Quantitative Biology
Minor:
Computer Science, Statistics and Analytics
Research Interests:
Bioinformatics, Quantitative Biology, Computational Biology
Research Overview:
I work in the Furey Lab in the School of Medicine studying allelic imbalance and gene expression in Crohn's Disease.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, First-generation students, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Transfer students

How/Why Research? I got involved in research because studying and exploring open-ended questions (especially in the biomedical sciences) has always been something of interest to me. I got involved my first year in a wet-lab environment, performing experiments, and then through another internship, got involved in computational research. When I transferred here, Dr. Furey was the first professor I reached out to, and he gave me an opportunity to work in his lab, where I have learned a variety of research and technical skills that I’ll use throughout the rest of my research career.

Research Experience: I currently work in Dr. Furey’s lab, performing data analysis on sequencing data to find genomic sites of allelic imbalance in patients with Crohn’s Disease. The results of these studies could potentially be used in gene therapies and further studies in the field. I’ve also had experience studying the biomechanics of neutrophils (cells in the immune response), as well as proteomics of serum samples from patients with a rare autoimmune disease (juvenile dermatomyositis). This year, I will be working on a nine-month project in Dr. Jason Watts’ lab at the NIEHS in Durham, studying transcription pausing, with research implications for developing future gene therapies.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Daily Tar Heel, Beta Beta Beta (Biological Honors Society), ResNet for Carolina Housing.

Random Fun Fact: I love to hike (and am trying to hike at all the state parks before graduating!)`




Regan Curtis


Major:
Hispanic Literatures and Cultures
Minor:
Chemistry & Biology
Research Interests:
Humanities, Spanish, Romance Studies, Reproductive Health, Healthcare, Latin America, Gender Equality, LGBTQ+
Research Overview:
I study attitudes towards reproductive health in Antigua, Guatemala within the Romance Studies department. I also have done a smaller research project focusing on the power of language in Spanish literature.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research?: I was always fascinated by the idea of a college student doing real-life research, but I was not particularly drawn to the science lab setting. Doing research within the humanities has taught me skills like critical thinking, collaboration, and concise writing. I have great flexibility to explore topics I choose, and I love when the research findings align with curriculum from my classes.

Research Experience: My main research experience is a two year project studying attitudes towards reproductive health and sexual education in Antigua, Guatemala. I ended up creating this project with a friend during our sophomore year after traveling to Antigua and working with a nonprofit called De Casas a Hogares (“From Houses to Homes”), which provides sustainable housing, healthcare, and education to local families. We received IRB approval, SURF funding, and a faculty mentor within the Romance Studies department.

I also am working on a smaller project on the side, also within Romance Studies, on the role of language in Trifonia Melibea Obono’s book, La Bastarda. The project came about from a final project for my SPAN 301 class and focuses on how the language can both oppress and liberate the LGBTQ+ community.

Student Organizations/Clubs: From Houses to Homes-UNC, AED Pre-Health Fraternity, Club Softball, Partners in Health.

Random Fun Fact: I ride my bike every day!




Reva Kodre


Major:
Neuroscience (pre-nutrition track)
Minor:
Spanish for the Health Professions
Research Interests:
cancer, immunotherapy, T-cell, vaccines, epigenetics, flow cytometry, PCR, plasmids
Research Overview:
I work in the Milner lab at the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center investigating the efficacy of T-cell immunotherapies against cancer.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, First-generation students, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I was inspired to conduct research in the area of immunology due to my brother’s severe allergic reactions and history of cancer in my family. Thus, I applied to a magnet STEM high school (Academy of Science) and conducted a two-year project focused on brain cancer research and was introduced to cancer immunotherapies at an NIH summer internship program in the Pediatric Oncology lab.

Research Experience: My 2-year research project at the Academy of Science focused on testing natural compounds on a rat gliosarcoma cancer cell line and blood brain barrier organoid model. Using natural therapies would benefit patients with brain cancer as it could shrink tumor size for easy removal during surgery. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to work at the Pediatric Oncology lab at the National Institutes of Health, where the research was focused on using CAR T-cell cancer immunotherapy, genetically engineered immune cells, to attack acute lymphocytic leukemia. As a part of the Milner Lab, we are using plasmid DNA and PCR technology to enhance T-cell immunotherapies against cancers such as breast cancer. This type of therapy would be beneficial because it is specific to each kind of patient as it involves using their own immune cells and re-engineering them to increase efficiency in attacking cancers.

Student Organizations/Clubs: GlobeMed, CPALS, Tar Heel Raas dance team, Sangam.

Random Fun Fact: I can do a pretty good British/Australian accent.




Sarah Tian


Major:
Nutrition, Biology
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
Biology, Cancer, Proteins, Genes
Research Overview:
I work in the Yeh lab at the Lineberger Cancer Center studying the effects of cingulin and SPTBN1 proteins on pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell polarity and subtype. In high school, I conducted research studying the effects of the MESH1 protein on cancer cell death.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I got involved in research because I wanted to be able to understand the research process and apply my learning to real-world problems. I first got involved in research in high school. I really enjoyed the experience, so I decided to continue in college. I got involved in my current lab by researching labs on UNC webpages and emailing the primary investigator (PI).

Research Experience: I currently work in the Yeh lab at the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center studying the effects of knocking out cingulin and SPTBN1 proteins on pancreatic cancer cell polarity, subtype and growth. I also worked on programming a robot to plate growth assays of 3d tumor models. I mainly do bench-work – using techniques such as tissue culture of 2d and 3d tumor cell models, immunofluorescence staining and imaging, primer design, creating CRISPR oligos, Cell-Titer Glo growth and drug dose-response assays, site-directed mutagenesis, gateway cloning, bacterial transformations, maxi and minipreps, PCR, restriction enzyme digests, gel electrophoresis and a few others. I have been in the lab since sophomore year and have taken research for course credit as well as for the SURF and Honors Taylor Research Fellowships. I also conducted research at Duke University in high school. In that lab, I was able to successfully validate a predicted binding site of a new MESH1 protein to NADPH and was listed as a coauthor on a paper published in Nature Metabolism.

Student Organizations/Clubs: SHAC Mandarin translating, Birth Beginnings Volunteer Doula Services, CPALS, AASA, CUSA.

Random Fun Fact: I am from Chapel Hill.




Sarah Torzone


Major:
Biology, Medical Anthropology
Minor:
Chemistry
Research Interests:
Metabolism, Cell Signaling Pathways, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Lipid Homeostasis
Research Overview:
I am a member of the R. Dowen Lab in the Department of Biology studying lipid homeostasis and the metabolic tradeoffs between growth, reproduction, and longevity.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule

How/Why Research: During my first year at Carolina I came to realize the importance of research, and seeing many of my friends find their niche in research sparked my interest to find my own. I wanted to learn the cellular and molecular controls that can affect human health, especially related to Type 2 Diabetes, so I reached out to a few PIs whose research matched my interests and was able to visit a few labs to learn more about their work. I had no prior experience in research but I quickly learned that you don’t have to be extremely knowledgeable about science before talking to a PI – just curious. My advice is to prepare a list of questions about a lab’s work/methods before talking to a PI, always remain open-minded, and step outside your comfort zone!

Research Experience: I started in the Dowen Lab in the spring of my first year at Carolina. We use the microscopic nematode, C. elegans, to study metabolic cell signaling pathways involved in lipid homeostasis due to their genetic similarity to humans. During my first semester in the lab, I worked alongside other undergraduates to learn laboratory techniques such as picking worms under a microscope, PCR, gel electrophoresis, and genetic crossing. Over the course of my second year at Carolina, I took two semesters of BIOL395 which allowed me to develop my own project in the lab. This not only taught me how to write and present scientific work, but it taught me how to step outside my comfort zone and think deeper about the applications of my research. It was an incredibly rewarding experience – and I am excited to continue my work in the Dowen Lab.

Student Organizations/Clubs: UNC Campus EMS, Interfaith Council for Social Services, South Orange Rescue Squad, Buckley Public Service Scholars.

Random Fun Fact: I am one of the stereotypical Marylanders who puts Old Bay seasoning on everything.




Student Ambassador Sneha Makhijani

Sneha Makhijani


Major:
Biology
Minor:
Neuroscience
Research Interests:
Biology, Neuroscience, Medicine, Brain, Quantitative Research, Qualitative Research
Research Overview:
I am a Research Assistant at the Anton Lab at UNC studying developmental mechanisms that guide the emergence of cerebral cortical organization and connectivity.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, First-generation students, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest, Transfer students, Workstudy

How/Why Research?I am passionate about research because I enjoy the application of science in analytical and hands-on settings! I first became involved with research when I participated in Amity University’s Biotechnology program. At UNC, I was fortunate to obtain my current research position by emailing the lab manager of my lab. After being called in to interview, I have been a Research Assistant for the Anton Lab since August! Being able to blend fields like neuroscience, biology, and mathematics and apply learnings to real life problems in labs is a rewarding expenditure of knowledge. Whether it’s to do with a mathematical or quantitative piece, or taking objective observations and precise steps in a wet lab setting, I enjoy working to solve complex problems with facts and evidence. I love being able to understand the research process and contribute to a team; advancing the knowledge base of a particular subset of research is an exciting opportunity.

Research Experiences: My research experience consists of a diverse blend of topics relevant to my interests. Currently, I am a Research Assistant at the Anton Lab at UNC which studies developmental mechanisms that guide the emergence of cerebral cortical organization and connectivity. Specifically, we evaluate the effects of RTTN gene mutations on the development of neurological disorders like microcephaly, polymicrogyria, and pachygyria using a BioID methodology to identify interactor proteins. Last summer, I worked as a Research Intern in the PEARLS Lab, where I worked on creating a novel intervention for infants at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, called the Adapted Responsive Teaching (ART) intervention, to improve cognitive abilities, sensory regulation functions, and adaptive behaviors in infants. My high school propelled me into research by providing laboratory and analytical skills. During this time, I spent a year researching road aggression identifying psychological and personality characteristics, attitudes, and beliefs which cause aggressive driving and road rage. The research study yielded a published paper in the Indian Journal of Health & Wellbeing.

Student Organizations/Clubs: UNC Hospitals, Carolina Center for Public Service, UNC Carolina Health Samaritan Society, Biology program at UNC, Camp Kesem,

Random Fun Fact: The first in-vivo surgery I assisted with was when I was nine years old and helped my mom successfully remove a tumor from my pet goldfish, Goldilocks.




Student Ambassador Sriya Kongala

Sriya Kongala


Major:
Biology
Minor:
Spanish for Medical Professions, Medical Anthropology
Research Interests:
Cardiology, Pharmacology
Research Overview:
I work in the Schisler Lab studying the effects of a chemokine called CXCL5 on the development of atherosclerosis.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I originally became involved in research when I participated in the Summer Research Science Program funded by CREST at NCCU. In my college career, however, I came to my current research position after sending an email to my current lab manager through the biology listserv. I was called in for an interview, and have been volunteering there as an intern since October!

Research Experiences: My high school research provided me with the background lab skills I needed to do well in conducting research as a college student. I conducted a preliminary project using the nematode C. elegans as an environmental model to test the water quality of nearby bodies of water, as the organisms are extremely adept as biological indicators. As a college research intern, I have worked on a clinical research project that aims to determine genetic factors that cause cardiovascular disease, and am also working with mice models to help see the effects that the chemokine CXCL5 have on the onset of coronary artery disease. I’ve learned to do PCR, running gels, dissecting mouse models and even working to prepare mice aortas for study. Research has not only helped me apply and expand my science knowledge and problem-solving skills.

Student Organizations/Clubs: CPALS.

Random Fun Fact: I once ate a chocolate covered cricket in 3rd grade. It tasted like a crunchy potato chip.




Tarun Prakash


Major:
Chemistry, Mathematics
Minor:

Research Interests:
Cell biology, EMC, Simulations, Data Analysis, Heart
Research Overview:
I work in the Freeman lab studying how the composition of the ECM affects cell behavior. Additionally, I work in the Griffith Lab studying heart cell activity via computer simulations.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I became interested in research because I viewed it as a way to exercise what I learnt in class in an impactful, meaningful way. Additionally, I saw research as a creative outlet where I could take charge of my own learning process and push myself towards my intellectual limits. I got involved in research my freshman year by reaching out to a grad student in the Gilling’s School after I found her post on the Undergraduate Research Database. I worked mainly as a laboratory assistant dealing with bacteria taken from infected samples. This experience was extremely rewarding for me because it was my first dive into research and solidified my interest in the field.

Research Experience: Currently, I am working on analyzing heart cells and how their interactions are affected by fibrosis using computational simulations. This research could prove to be useful in further understanding how scar tissue affects the heart.
Additionally, I am studying how altering the ECM of a population of cells can affect the cells’ behavior. This research could have several future applications (regenerative medicine, immunology, etc.) and could also lead to a greater understanding of how our body’s cells interact and function.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Emergency Medical Education for the Layperson, Campus EMS, Red Cross.

Random Fun Fact: I like soggy cereal.




Tina Samodal


Major:
Environmental Health Sciences, Biology
Minor:
Information Systems
Research Interests:
Public Health, Environmental Health, Water Quality, Parasitology
Research Overview:
I work in the Brown Water Lab at the Gillings School of Public Health preparing and screening stool and soil samples for the presence of parasitic ova.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Transfer students, Workstudy

How/Why Research? I was always interested in water systems and how they can affect human health. After taking several biology and environmental health classes, I was looking for an opportunity to apply class knowledge to real situations and be able to help other people. I read about faculty within my department to see which labs were conducting research I was interested in. One of those labs happened to post about an opening on the OUR website, and I sent in my resume and interviewed for the position. Fortunately, it was a good fit, and I have been working there since.

Research Experience: I work in the Brown Water Lab in the Gillings Environmental Health department with Dr. Joe Brown and Dr. Drew Capone. Our current project involves collecting child stool samples from the rural Black Belt area of Alabama. We prepare samples using density flotation devices. We screen for different types of parasitic worm ova but can find lots of debris and artifacts as well. From this experience I’m learning a lot about parasitic worms and their paths of transmission through soil and fecal matter. Our work is also impactful in that we help diagnose children with possible infections and can connect them with the necessary health care.

Student Organizations/Clubs: UNC Kasama, Tar Heel Transfers, Transfer United.

Random Fun Fact: I’ve faked being hypnotized during a magic show.




Yinuo Hu


Major:
Computer Science, Sociology
Minor:
Statistics
Research Interests:
Science Education, Automated Feedback, Qualitative Research, Computer Science, Education, Discourse Analysis
Research Overview:
I work in the Ryoo Lab in the School of Education studying how automated feedback can help middle school students during modeling practices.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research? As a double major in computer science and sociology, I’m always interested in using technology to help with social-oriented problems. After browsing through undergraduate research opportunities on OUR website, I found an opportunity to join Dr.Ryoo’s lab in the School of Education in Fall 2019 and learned necessary qualitative video analysis skills. By taking several research-intensive courses with Dr.Ryoo, I started my independent research project on how can automated feedback engage middle students in modeling practices. Such experiences provided me with exposure to the entire research process and promoted my interest in future research.

Research Experience: As an undergraduate research assistant at Dr.Ryoo’s lab since Fall 2019, I engaged in an NSF-funded project by transcribing video data of middle school students in modeling practices, assisting in qualitatively coding video transcripts, and conducting a literature review. I received the Summer Award for Research-Intensive Cours (SARIC) in Summer 2020 and conducted an independent research project under Dr.Ryoo. By qualitatively analyzing video data of middle school students, I studied the effects of automated feedback on student’s productive collaborative discourse during modeling activities. I extended the project by co-authoring a conference paper as the first author with Dr. Ryoo and another undergraduate student for the European Association for Research on Learning and Instructions to demonstrate my findings of automated feedback as an effective approach to support linguistically diverse students’ modeling practices. I also received Summer Undergraduate Research Fund for Summer 2021, and I will explore linguistically diverse students’ development of vocabulary during science learning using semantic network.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Yackety Yack Yearbook Club, HackReality Club, UNC Learning Center Peer Tutoring.

Random Fun Fact: I love photography and fountain pens.




Yolanda Simpson


Major:
Biochemistry, Neuroscience
Minor:

Research Interests:
Neuroscience, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Toxicology, Fear Conditioning, Metabolomics, Mice
Research Overview:
I worked in the Kash Lab in the School of Medicine studying the fear response in various parts of the brain post fear conditioning. I worked in the Bumpus Lab at JHU studying how metabolomic profiles can be used to predict the presence of COVID-19. I worked in the Copple Lab at Michigan State University screening drug compounds that transformed liver fibrosis-causing macrophages into fibrosis-reversing macrophages.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research? I became involved in research because I wanted a chance to apply what I was learning in the classroom. I enjoyed the classes I was taking, but still needed to opportunity to put it into practice. I became involved in research by identifying first where my interests lied, and second by reaching out to labs I felt would help cultivate this curiosity. I allowed myself flexibility within my research by working concretely in one lab throughout the semester, then searching for summer research opportunities in another field to completely explore my interests. I reached out to multiple labs and highlighted what I had to offer as a researcher, but also emphasized my passion to learn and grow within their lab.

Research Experience: In the Kash Lab at UNC, our main goal has been to understand how fear is mediated in the brain, and it’s relation to alcohol addiction. Through experiments rooted in fear conditioning techniques, I have gained skills in immunohistochemistry, perfusion, behavioral scoring, brain slicing, and brain imaging. In the Bumpus Lab at Johns Hopkins University, our goal was to explore how metabolomic profiles could be used to predict disease in human patients, specifically focusing on COVID-19. Through this research experience, I gained skills in literature searches, statistical analysis, and data presentation.

Student Organizations/Clubs: UNC Cadence, FEMMES, Chemistry Peer Mentors, Eve Carson Scholars.

Random Fun Fact: I hold the school record for Women’s Discus at my high school!




Zeke Meltsner


Major:
Sociology, Psychology
Minor:
Health and Society
Research Interests:
Qualitative Coding, Sociology, School of Education, Adolescence
Research Overview:
I work in the Espalage RAVE lab. We do research assessing violence in education.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking

How/Why Research?: I knew I wanted to get involved in research right away when I got to campus. I attended multiple information sessions through my major that showed us steps to get involved. I got my research position by scouring the OUR’s oasis of research opportunities. I cold-emailed every opportunity I saw on the website that I was interested in and did this for about three weeks before I found my position. I had a few places I reached out to that got back to me and as I was looking I found the Espalage lab put up their advertisement for the need for undergraduate research assistants. I later went in for an interview and got the position. Attending info sessions helped me get the confidence to reach out to these professors and research assistants.

Research Experience: My experience with research in the RAVE lab has been amazing. I have learned valuable skills concerning how to conduct effective literature reviews, how to engage in qualitative coding, and how to come up with meaningful research questions that are operational. Everything from data collection to eventually writing sections of papers that have been published have provided me skills I would not have gained otherwise. The research we do is very relevant in terms of outlining what types of violence high school aged kids are engaging in at school and how. The research has many implications for policy to intervene on these behaviors such as how to implement an effective tip-line for reporting violence in a school.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Chabad on campus, Greek Life, Student hip-hop org.

Random Fun Fact: The Charlotte Hornets once posted a picture of me on their Instagram.




Student Ambassador Zijian Li

Zijian Li


Major:
Nutrition and Biochemistry
Minor:
German
Research Interests:
Biochemistry, Structural Biology, Nutrition, Diabetes
Research Overview:
I work in the Campbell Lab in the School of Medicine studying the pH-dependent properties of Gαi protein.
Happy to talk about:
Emailing/talking to professors, Finding research opportunities, Fitting research into a busy schedule, Networking, Pre-health career interest

How/Why Research? I love to figure out how things work and I have a passion for the improvement of human health, so I know biomedical research is for me. I first got involved in research during high school by participating in the Research Attachment Program with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore. However, it can be overwhelming to look for research opportunities while adjusting to college life. I started by making connections with people with research experience and asking for their advice. I got my current lab position by emailing PIs and getting interviewed and have been working there since my freshman year.

Research Experiences:I joined Campbell Lab (UNC SoM) as a research assistant in the spring of 2019. We study the pH sensing property of Ga protein as part of the GPCR signaling pathway. My main tasks include managing bacterial cell culture, performing PCR mutagenesis, extracting plasmids and purifying Ga proteins. I have also assisted in performing Circular Dichroism experiments, FRET assays and 2-D NMR, which helped in characterizing the amino acid residues responsible for the pH sensing properties of Ga protein. In the summer of 2020, I completed my SURF project remotely to study the stability of Ga proteins using molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. In the fall semester, I started an additional lab position with Dr. Eric Klett in the Department of Nutrition in the School of Public Health to study the role of dietary fatty acid metabolism in insulin secretion, which will shed light on the molecular basis of type 2 diabetes.

Student Organizations/Clubs: Αlpha Epsilon Delta, Nutrition Coalition, Student Health Action Coalition.

Random Fun Fact: I can play 5 instruments.