The Visiting Future Faculty Program (VITAL) is an exciting and rewarding four-day program that brings outstanding doctoral scholars from all disciplines to the University at Buffalo.
VITAL seeks to contribute to the growth of faculty from traditionally underrepresented populations in the United States, particularly from Indigenous, African American/Black, and Hispanic/Latinx backgrounds. VITAL scholars have the opportunity to present their work, engage with UB faculty and students, meet other scholars in the program, and experience the region’s many offerings.
UB’s second Visiting Future Faculty Week will take place from October 16-21, 2022. Eligible students are ABD candidates in doctoral programs in any field who intend to pursue academic careers and who are available to visit UB during Visiting Future Faculty Week.
Abiodun Adefola Adeosun, chemical, physical and structural biology, Baylor College of Medicine.
Abiodun Adefola began her undergraduate training at Howard University and ultimately received her BS at the University of Maryland, where she was the recipient of a Howard Hughes undergraduate research fellowship. She went on to complete her MS at Johns Hopkins University, where she co-authored two papers identifying Galectin-3 as an important player in IgE-dependent activation of basophils. Abi is currently a PhD student in the chemical, physical, and structural biology program at Baylor College of Medicine, where she is focused on elucidating signaling pathways of the G protein coupled receptor MRGPRX2. This protein is expressed on tissue-resident mast cells and is involved in drug hypersensitivity reactions to a number of drugs, including fluoroquinolone antibiotics and neuromuscular blocking drugs. Abi also co-authored a recent article about synaptic localization of mGluR6. She is a member of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development training program and a leader in the Black Scientist Collective, which has built a community of Black students and supports outreach activities encouraging underserved high school students to pursue post-secondary STEM education.
Dahlia Al-Haleem, rural health sciences, Mercer University School of Medicine.
Dahlia Al-Haleem is a PhD candidate in the rural health sciences program at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, GA. Prior to matriculating at Mercer, she earned a BA in sociology from the University of Florida and a MA in aquatic environmental science and oceanography from Florida State University. Her research interests include environmental health, mental health, and public health in rural and underserved populations, with a focus on posttraumatic growth (PTG), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use in rural Veterans.
Elizabeth Barahona, U.S. history, Northwestern University.
Elizabeth Barahona is a 5th year doctoral student specializing in Latinx, African American, and United States history at Northwestern University. Her dissertation will chronicle how Black and Latinx communities created grassroots organizations and coalitions to fight white supremacy in the Deep South, specifically Durham, North Carolina. Elizabeth is first-generation, from Orlando, FL and her family is Mexican and Colombian. Elizabeth graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Duke University studying borderlands, Latinx history, and human rights. Elizabeth wrote the first history of Latino students at Duke University which was converted into an exhibit at the Duke University Library. Elizabeth led the protests to change Duke University’s policy to accept undocumented students, provide them full need-blind financial aid, create a Latinx center, and hire Latinx program staff. While in graduate school, Elizabeth co-founded a monthly wellness workshop for graduate women of color. She was the president of the History Graduate Student Organization, served on the executive board of the Latinx Graduate Student Association, and is a member of the Graduate Workers Union.
Elizabeth Blackman, epidemiology and environmental health, Temple University Health Sciences Center.
Born and raised to immigrant parents in New York City, Elizabeth Blackman’s research focuses on heath disparities across the African Diaspora. Her current work focuses on colorectal cancer screening disparities where she takes a mixed methods approach to assess barriers to colorectal cancer screening within the heterogeneous Black population. By elucidating the nuanced barriers that exist within ethnic sub-groups of the U.S. Black population, Blackman hopes to improve colorectal cancer screening in this population via targeted interventions informed by her research.
Daniel Chavarria, biomedical engineering, University of Texas at Austin.
Daniel Chavarria is a 6th year biomedical engineering PhD student graduating in Spring of 2023 from the University of Texas at Austin. Daniel will be the first person in their family to earn a PhD. Chavarria grew up in El Paso, TX and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, aptly nicknamed the sister cities due to their proximity and similar Mexican - American culture. Daniel intends to return to El Paso, TX as a professor for the University of Texas at El Paso to give back to the community that raised him. Daniel's research interest primarily consists of cellular biomechanics and tissue engineering. Daniel is interested in modeling healthy and diseased tissue/organ systems for basic science studies and drug discovery. Daniel's thesis work has primarily consisted of designing and optimizing a novel high-throughput blood brain barrier in vitro model that incorporates shear stress. The model has revealed that shear incorporating assays were able to identify inhibitors of pathways known to alter blood brain barrier function in vivo that previous static models missed.
Joy Chepkorir, nursing, John Hopkins University.
Joyline "Joy" Chepkorir's research interests center around breast and cervical cancer prevention. She holds a BSW in nursing from Michigan State University. She is also the president and founder of Mwangaza Cancer Initiative, a non-profit organization in Kenya that focuses on education and screening of breast and cervical cancer among uninsured, low-income women. Her long-term goals include planning and implementation of global health policies to improve cancer outcomes.
Joshua Cloudy, media and communications, Texas Tech University.
Joshua Cloudy is a doctoral student at Texas Tech University in the College of Media & Communication. He received his MS and BA from the University of Louisville. Broadly, his research area is political communication with a focus on public opinion, partisanship, and social identity. More specifically, he is interested in how partisanship influences the way individuals perceive news and how their perceptions may (or may not) contribute to hostility, polarization, and other, potentially, antisocial feelings or behaviors. Additionally, he is interested in how social identity and participation in online political networks can influence political mobilization, particularly political mobilization that is extreme in nature.
Naniette H. Coleman, sociology, University of California, Berkeley.
Naniette H. Coleman is a PhD candidate in sociology at the University of California Berkeley, a Maverick-in-Residence at the Santa Fe Institute, and a multi-year UC-National Laboratory Graduate Fellow (Los Alamos). She was the first and is the only social scientist selected for this University of California-wide distinction in the history of the program. Naniette is also an affiliate of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues at Berkeley and two centers at Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for the Internet and Society (2019-present) and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (2019-2021). Naniette’s research sits at the intersection of the sociology of culture and organizations and focuses on cybersecurity, surveillance, and privacy in the US context. Specifically, Naniette’s research examines how organizations assess risk, make decisions, and respond to data breaches and organizational compliance with state, federal, and international privacy laws. Naniette holds a MPA with a specialization in Democracy, Politics, and Institutions from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and both an MA in Economics and a BA in Communication from the University at Buffalo. A non-traditional student, Naniette’s prior professional experience includes local, state, and federal service, as well as work for two international organizations, and two universities.
Kinyata Cooper, rehabilitation sciences, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Kinyata J. Cooper is a PhD Candidate in the rehabilitation science concentration in movement science and disorders program at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. After graduating from Howard University with her BS in chemistry, Kinyata transitioned to rehabilitation science with research interests in rehabilitation efficacy and diagnostics to improve human performance and clinical outcomes. As a former Division I 400m hurdler, her current work emphasizes improving functional performance testing to determine return-to-sport after anterior cruciate ligament injury and reconstruction.
Veronika Espinoza, psychology and behavioral neuroscience, University of Texas at El Paso.
Veronika Espinoza is a PhD candidate in psychology and behavioral neuroscience at The University of Texas at El Paso under the mentorship of Dr. Laura O’Dell. Veronika’s research focuses on determining neuropharmacological age and sex differences in the brain during nicotine withdrawal. She is a first author of two papers in press and has delivered a total of 19 presentations (oral or poster) at regional and national conferences. Among several other honors, she received the National Award of Excellence in Research by a Student at The National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse (NHSN) annual meeting. Veronika has served as a teaching assistant in psychology, behavioral neuroscience, lab methods, and statistical methods courses since 2019, which has provided a first-rate foundation for her scientific training in neuroscience. Veronika shows tremendous potential as a researcher in the neuroscience of substance use disorders, which affect females disproportionately and with greater severity.
Mariela Faykoo-Martinez, behavioral neuroscience, University of Toronto.
Mariela Faykoo-Martinez is a PhD candidate in cell and systems biology at the University of Toronto. Her work bridges behavioral neuroendocrinology with comparative genomics under the co-supervision of Dr. Melissa Holmes and Dr. Michael Wilson. The focus of the work is on how social environment mediates the most extreme form of mammalian pubertal suppression as seen in the naked mole-rat. Through the use of genomic and epigenetic techniques, Mariela is developing an understanding of how molecular pathways are linked across brain regions essential to both sociality and reproduction. Mariela is a Massey College Junior Fellow who enjoys learning history and cooking new recipes in her free time.
Akil Fletcher, anthropology, University of California, Irvine.
Akil Fletcher is currently a 5th year PhD candidate studying sociocultural anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. Where in his dissertation, “Gaming Blackness: An Exploration of Black Gaming Communities and Practices,” he explains how online Black communities use digital platforms to form selfhood and relationships. Based on two years of research funded by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP), a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (NSF DDRIG), and UCI’s President’s Dissertation Year Fellowship. Fletcher explores the lived realities and tactics of navigation taken on by Black players in gaming sites. Beginning from the question “How does it feel to be a problem online?”, he expands on W.E.B Du Bois’s pivotal question “How does it feel to be a problem?” to explain the unique position of Black online gamers who find community and belonging in gaming spaces that are often read as sites of anti-Blackness. Specifically, by researching Black communities within the video games Final Fantasy XIV, League of Legends, and communication sites like Discord and Twitter, his work explores a digital Black double consciousness in which Black individuals recreate Black identities under the affordances of online gaming.
Israel Garcia-Carachure, behavioral neuroscience, University of Texas at El Paso.
Israel Garcia-Carachure is currently completing a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience at The University of Texas at El Paso. Israel has been mentored by outstanding scientists (Drs. Sanders McDougall, Cynthia Crawford, Mary Kay Lobo, and Sergio Iñiguez), all of whom have strong neurobiology research programs and are champions of equity and inclusion at their respective institutions. Israel Garcia-Carachure has a robust publication record (10) for a doctoral student, has had 6 oral presentations at regional and national conferences, 12 first author abstracts at national meetings, and is currently a Society for Neuroscience Scholar Program Fellow (through 2023). Israel is an outstanding scholar and shows tremendous potential as a researcher in the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders, which affect people of color disproportionately and with greater severity, due to stigma and lack of care seeking, among other reasons.
Daniela Goya-Tocchetto, management and organizations, Duke University.
Daniela Goya-Tocchetto is a PhD candidate in management & organizations at the Fuqua School of Business – Duke University. She holds a BA and a MS in Economics from UFRGS (Brazil), a MS in philosophy & public policy from the London School of Economics, and a PhD in philosophy from UFRGS (Brazil). Daniela previously worked as an adjunct professor at the College of Charleston, teaching courses in economics and political philosophy. She researches political biases and the psychology of socioeconomic inequality. Her main goal is to help provide a better understanding of the cognitive and motivated processes underlying the general acceptance of rising inequalities. Daniela’s work has been published in peer-reviewed academic journals such as Political Behavior, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Journal of Consumer Psychology; and in popular press outlets such as Behavioral Scientist and Politico.
Juan Hernandez, clinical psychology, Arizona State University.
Juan Hernandez is a 5th year doctoral student studying clinical psychology at Arizona State University. As part of Dr. Marisol Perez’ Body Image Research and Health Disparities (BIRHD) Lab, Juan is interested in learning more about the interplay between culture, eating, and mental health among Mexican American youth. Juan's clinical interests include eating disorder treatment and medical weight-affirming care that celebrates body diversity.
Nielson Sophann Hul, linguistics, Cornell University.
Nielson Sophann Hul was born in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge period and escaped to the United States of America when he was very young. After high achool, he joined the U.S. Army and deployed during OIF/OEF as a Combat Medic. During his breaks in service, Nielson graduated from UCLA with a BA in english literature and the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa with an MA in linguistics. Nielson initially taught TESOL and English Composition at community colleges in California where he noticed that native Khmer-speaking students living in Long Beach, CA were taking both foreign language classes like French or Spanish in addition to struggling with English. As an additional obstacle, many could not read or write their native language, Khmer. With support from the Dean of Language Arts at Long Beach City College, Nielson designed and launched a Khmer language course intended to teach reading and writing the Khmer language to heritage learners in order to facilitate transfer to 4-year institutions for Khmer in the diaspora — a severely underrepresented group in higher education. Since Nielson began teaching heritage Khmer in 2014, he has moved on to teaching all levels of students at California State University, Long Beach; University of Wisconsin at Madison; and other institutions. He is currently working toward his PhD in linguistics at Cornell with a focus on the acoustic phonetics of laryngeal sounds in Khmer.
Adedoyin Inaolaji, electrical engineering, Florida International University.
A clean energy enthusiast, Adedoyin Inaolaji is passionate about proffering solutions to the challenges associated with the integration of renewable energy technologies into the electric power grid. Adedoyin was born in Nigeria, where she received a BEng in electrical engineering from Covenant University. She is currently working toward a PhD degree in electrical engineering with a research focus on developing optimization and control algorithms for voltage regulation of the distribution grid.
Brittany Jones, curriculum, learning and teacher education, Michigan State University.
Brittany Jones is a doctoral candidate in the curriculum, instruction, and teacher education department at Michigan State University. Her current research interests include anti-racist social studies education, critical Black histories with an emphasis on Black emotionalities and emotions in social studies education, and examining how the intersections of race, power, and oppression inform the creation of social studies standards and curriculum materials. Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Brittany was a high school social studies teacher in Richmond, Virginia. She holds a MA in african american history and a MT in secondary social studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, and a BA from Longwood University.
Babatunde Keshinro, industrial and systems engineering, North Carolina A&T State University.
Babatunde Keshinro is a 4th year PhD student in industrial and systems engineering at North Carolina A&T State University. Babatunde received his BS and MS degrees in industrial and production engineering from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria in 2015 and 2018 respectively. His research interests are in human-robot interaction, human-robot teaming, and machine learning. He is also interested in applying machine learning and deep learning methods to recognize human activity and actions and communicate these intents to robots for smooth task collaboration. Babatunde is a data analytics enthusiast and currently has a post-baccalaureate certificate in data analytics from North Carolina A&T State University. He also loves to travel and play soccer.
Yemimah King, early childhood education, Purdue University.
Yemimah King is a postdoctoral research associate in the department of psychology at Spelman College, where she works on an NSF-funded study that investigates factors related to the academic success of Black children. Her research focuses on children’s language and math development and the learning contexts that are important for promoting these skills. She was awarded a Head Start Dissertation Grant and received her doctoral degree in Human Development and Family Studies at Purdue University.
Brittany Leslie Marshall, learning and instruction, Rutgers University.
Brittany L. Marshall is a 4th PhD candidate in mathematics education at Rutgers University's Graduate School of Education. Her work focuses on K-12 mathematics teaching and learning and math identity development, particularly among Black girls. Before Rutgers, Brittany taught middle and high school mathematics in Chicago for almost a decade. Prior to education, she practiced architecture in both Chicago and DC. Brittany holds MArch from North Carolina State University and BArch from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Adam McNeil, history, Rutgers University.
Adam McNeil is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Rutgers University focusing on Black women’s lives during the Revolutionary and Founding eras in the Chesapeake Bay. Adam's scholarship focuses on how enslaved women were key contributors to the Chesapeake’s culture of rebelliousness during the Age of Revolutions, which, by implication, centers the region as a critical site of slave insurrection and revolutionary activity during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Secondarily, Adam's focus on histories of Appalachian mountain slavery and labor histories in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Adam's research has been supported by fellowships from the University of Michigan’s Clements Library, the David Center for the American Revolution at the American Philosophical Society, the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture (OI). Of note, in 2021, Adam became the Omohundro’s inaugural OI Audio Fellow, a new fellowship meant to present “fresh histories of the American Revolution” via the narrative podcast medium. In addition to academic writing, Adam regularly contributes to academic blogs Black Perspectives and The Junto, along with interviewing scholars on the New Books in African American Studies podcast, where Adam has interviewed nearly one hundred scholars about their works in African American studies and African American history. Follow him on Twitter @CulturedModesty.
Kristina Medero, communications, Ohio State University.
Experiences as a former health worker and educator in the US and in South Africa shaped Kristina Medero’s understanding of health disparities as it influences and is influenced by different social identities and social systems. Now a doctoral candidate at the Ohio State University, Kristina's research examines how the use of messages, predominantly entertainment narratives, may attenuate health disparities among stigmatized social groups (e.g., racial minorities, individuals with mental illness, etc). Stories about stigmatized groups have been observed to improve the attitudes of the general public toward those stigmatized groups as well as encourage people to vote for policies that will support stigmatized groups. Similarly, these stories may embolden members of stigmatized groups to seek out health services, share their personal stories, and feel more confident in advocating for social support. As such, Kristina’s work aims to amplify marginalized voices through narratives to enhance access to health services that may be encumbered by a) negative attitudes held by the general public toward stigmatized groups and b) a lack of efficacy among stigmatized groups to access health services. As a pragmatic thinker, her work utilizes quantitative and qualitative methods to identify key factors in changing stigmatizing attitudes, behaviors, and social systems. Implications for her work include the potential to close the gaps in health disparities and promote health equity.
Daniel Morales-Armstrong, history/africana and american studies, University of Pennsylvania.
Daniel Morales-Armstrong is a joint PhD candidate in Africana studies and history at Penn, where he studies emancipation and memory in nineteenth-century Puerto Rico, placed more broadly within Caribbean and Atlantic contexts. His research focuses on newly freedpersons' responses to the systems of forced labor that followed abolition, centering those stories which have been marginalized in the (mis)constructions of the emancipation narrative within and beyond the colony's shores. Beyond his work as a historian, he is an educator and has coordinated study abroad programming through which Black Latinx high school students in his native New York City have studied Black Latin American history in Cuba, Peru, and Puerto Rico.
Udodiri R. Okwandu, history, Harvard University.
Udodiri R. Okwandu is a doctoral candidate in the history of science department and Presidential Scholar at Harvard University. Broadly, her research explores the intersection of race, gender, and medicine and social and cultural constructions of health and disease. Her dissertation traces how medical understandings of maternal mental illnesses – such as postpartum depression and psychosis – have been used to rationalize the “transgressive” behavior of childbearing women from the late nineteenth to mid twentieth century. In doing so, she demonstrates how these rationalizations served to either excuse or pathologize women in ways that mapped onto existing racial and class hierarchies. She illuminates the consequences of these discourses by examining various sites, including the courts, asylum, family planning clinic, psychoanalytic research “lab,” and sterilization laws.
Termara Parker, neuroscience, Yale University.
Termara Parker is a sixth-year PhD Candidate in the interdepartmental neuroscience program at Yale University. She studies neural mechanisms of social interaction in autistic individuals using functional near-infrared spectroscopy and eye-tracking. Termara has presented her research at several conferences such as Society for fNIRS, Society for Neuroscience, ABRCMS, SACNAS, and Black in Neuro. She was an invited speaker for NYU’s CoNNeXINS Symposium and received an honorarium. Termara has authored nine publications, which includes five first-author publications. She has won two prestigious awards (NSF GRFP and Neuroscience Scholar Program Fellowship) during her time at Yale. In addition to her passion for science, Termara’s commitment to outreach strengthen her desire to teach and mentor future black neuroscientists. In 2020, Termara was named the graduate director of the Yale BBS Diversity and Inclusion Collective (YBDIC). As the graduate director, Termara has been instrumental in the creation of resources and opportunities for underrepresented minorities to build community through the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS). Specifically, Termara has worked closely with other YBDIC leaders to develop events that empower, advance, and engage underrepresented students in BBS. In addition to leading YBDIC, Termara was also the Deputy Editor of the Medical Education Issue for the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. This opportunity allowed her to work on her goal to inform the public about important scientific issues. Termara also won the Annie Le Fellowship Award and was named one of NIH's 2022 Outstanding Neuroscience Scholars.
Minerva Rodriguez, psychology, University of Texas at El Paso.
Minerva Rodriguez is currently working towards a PhD in psychology at The University of Texas at El Paso under the mentorship of Dr. Sergio Iñiguez. Minerva’s research has consisted of examining the long-term effects of fluoxetine treatment in vulnerable populations (i.e., adolescents). In addition, Minerva’s current dissertation project will be to assess the impact of the vicarious defeat stress (VDS) animal model in underrepresented populations (i.e., adolescents and females). Minerva has contributed to five papers and has had nine presentations at regional and national conferences. Minerva has served as a teaching assistant in a psychology lab course, which is excellent training for the future. Minerva shows great potential as a researcher in the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders, which affect people of color disproportionately and with greater severity, due to stigma and lack of care seeking, among other reasons. Minerva’s long-term professional goal is to obtain a tenure-track faculty position at a research-intensive university that has a commitment to support diversity where she will be able to help minorities seeking STEM careers.
Aya Shhub, special education, University of California, Riverside.
Aya Shhub is a 4th year doctoral student in special education. She holds a dual credential in mild/mod and mod/severe special education. Her area of research is reading fluency instruction with a focus on reading prosody development. Prior to her doctoral studies. Aya worked in the inland empire public school setting as a special education teacher and IEP specialist. Aya has also sat on the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing and worked as an applied behavioral interventionalist. Aya currently serves as an associate in at the University of California, Riverside. She has previously served as a research assistant in a reading lab focused on the development of reading components such as vocabulary, reading comprehension, and reading fluency for students with autism. Aya was awarded the Harry Singer Endowed Fellowship and Hammill Institute on Disabilities doctoral fellowship to further investigate the relationship between word reading, fluency, and reading prosody. Aya has presented research findings at conferences including Pacific Coast Research Conference and Center for Research on Special Education, Disabilities, and Developmental Risk. Her dissertation is focused on understanding the reading profiles of different students. Specifically, investigating reading prosody differences between typically developing students and students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in upper elementary (grades 4-8). Identifying this critical information will allow practitioners and researchers to better understand and develop instructional strategies to enhance students' reading abilities.
Martez Smith, nursing and health science, University of Rochester School of Nursing.
Martez Smith is a Licensed Master Social Worker, and a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. His research interests include addressing racial, sexual and gender minority health disparities through community-driven, asset-based interventions. Currently, Martez is a member of the University of Rochester School of Nursing Interdisciplinary Sexual Health and HIV Research (INSHHR) Group, where he collaborates with researchers on a variety of scientific studies. In addition to conducting research, Martez works alongside a nationwide cadre of activists, organizing for social justice with the Keeping Ballroom Community Alive Network (KBCAN), which he co-founded in 2015.
Clifton E. Sorrell III, history, University of Texas at Austin.
Clifton E. Sorrell III is a history PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin, studying slavery and the African diaspora in the Atlantic world with an emphasis on the early modern Caribbean under Professor Diana Ramey Berry. He earned a double major BA in African American studies and history at the University of California, Davis. His dissertation project addresses the making of Black freedom practice and community in Spanish Jamaica and explores its relationship with the development of the Caribbean’s geopolitical configuration between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Working between English and Spanish archives, this project examines the island’s free and enslaved communities and their transition into Maroon societies to trace how they forged and (re)elaborated meanings of freedom, community, and sovereignty. It also considers how these developments shaped and were shaped by the region’s political economy, the contexts of Afro-European cross-cultural encounters, and the ways these different groups understood these complicated landscapes in staking competing and overlapping claims in the early modern Caribbean.
Anapaula Themann, psychology, University of Texas at El Paso
Anapaula Themann is currently working toward a PhD in psychology (behavioral neuroscience) at the University of Texas at El Paso under the mentorship of Dr. Sergio Iñiguez. Anapaula has received several accolades in recent years, including being the 2022 recipient of the enhanced Interdisciplinary Research Training Institute on Hispanic Substance Abuse (eIRTI) Fellowship from USC and the Outstanding Thesis Award from UTEP. In 2021, among other awards, Anapaula received the National Award of Excellence for Best Poster by a New Investigator in Basic Sciences at the National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse Conference. Anapaula has seven publications to her credit, and seventeen abstracts at regional and national conferences. Additionally, Anapaula has extensive teaching experience as an assistant instructor in statistics and psychology since 2020. Anapaula shows great potential as a researcher in the neurobiology of psychiatric disorders, which affect people of color disproportionately and with greater severity, due to stigma, lack of care seeking, and unaffordable mental health care.
Alberto Valido, psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Alberto Valido obtained a BS in psychology from the University of Florida and is a fourth-year PhD student in applied developmental science at the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Alberto’s research is focused on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ youth of color, and protective factors that can buffer against the adverse effects of discrimination and bias-based victimization. His research examines the role of societal-level factors such as systemic inequality, racism, heterosexism and cissexism, and ways to combine individual, state- and policy-level data using integrative data analysis. To date, he has published 53 peer-reviewed articles, 13 book chapters and 31 conference presentations.
Deidra Ward, chemical engineering, University of Texas at Austin.
Deidra Ward is a PhD candidate in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. Her doctoral research is focused on the development of polymeric nanoparticles for the delivery of RNA-interference molecules to treat neurological malignancies. Prior to UT Austin, Deidra received her BS in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Clemson University.
Waylon Wilson, performing and media arts, Cornell University.
Waylon Wilson is a citizen of the Skarù:rę (Tuscarora) Nation, Deer clan. As a media maker and theorist, his fusions of video game development, filmmaking, animation and interactive media consider the role of digital and analog technology to facilitate knowledge practices. He strategizes these platforms to examine critical Indigenous topics and human relationships to place. His work evokes theories of game design like critical play to influence his own critical game development and create experiences that construct virtual simulations and environments as our extended realities. Waylon’s work intermixes film studies with video game technologies, global Indigenous topics, and design to be in dialogue with Indigenous methodologies, representation in media, mapping, interactive data visualization, and the digital divide. His recent work includes hybrids of 3D video games and digital filmmaking, transformations of traditional Indigenous practices to digital settings, and interventions on existing media theories such as reconstructing our understanding of the western film genre.
Sarah Alamdari, chemical and biological engineering, University of Washington.
Sarah Alamdari is a data scientist for the Biomedical Machine Learning Group at Microsoft Research New England. Her research interests lie broadly at the intersection of biology, machine learning and molecular level design. She was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and an NSF Data Science National Research Trainee. Among her numerous awards are an MIT Rising Star, and a Husky 100. She is passionate about increasing diversity in the computational molecular research space through mentorship and outreach, and she is a co-organizer of the COMSEF Scholars REU program.
Rafael Alfena Zago, economics, University of Oklahoma.
With a background in international relations and economics, Rafael Alfena Zago conducts research in applied microeconomics, mainly focused on topics in the fields of development and labor economics. He combines unusual data with quasi-experimental methods to study a range of issues of great public policy interest, such as the impact of improved public infrastructure on urban crime, the impact of international migration on local labor markets, and the impact of ride-sharing services on traffic deaths. At present, much of his work focuses on his native country of Brazil, an emerging market economy that is home to approximately 3% of the world’s population and offers a huge amount of relatively unexplored, high-quality data.
Isabel Anadon, sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Isabel Anadon is an American Bar Foundation/National Science Foundation Doctoral Fellow in Law and Inequality. Her research examines the intersection of punishment and migration with a focus on race and ethnicity, and the sociology of law. She earned an MS in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an MPP from the University of Chicago, and a dual BA in anthropology and psychology from the University of Notre Dame.
Bi'Anncha T. Andrews, urban and regional planning, University of Maryland-College Park.
Over the years, there has been a renewed interest in investing in historically distressed neighborhoods in the inner city. This economic escalation has contributed to increasing rates of displacement following redevelopment in forms commonly known as gentrification. As gentrification and displacement rapidly reshape neighborhoods across the U.S., low-income, Black, single mothers are forced to grapple with the rising cost of housing, the physical transformation of their communities, and the intentional displacement of their own families to make way for more affluent households.
While low-income, Black women are arguably the most vulnerable to the social and economic pressures that accompany gentrification, single, Black mothers are understudies in gentrification scholarship; hence knowledge about their vulnerability, and outcomes during and post displacement, are unclear.
In addition, few studies have considered the barriers that Black mothers face in accessing social services and informal social supports post-displacement.
Bi'Anncha Andrews' dissertation research aims to fill an established evidence gap on gentrification and displacement, including the impact that it has on single-family households and where families go post-displacement, and provide an in-depth outlook of the consequences associated with displacement and the residual trauma experienced by Black women during the displacement process.
Andrews says the purpose of her research is to generate a body of evidence that will enable improvement in social services, provide early intervention points that limit the number of vulnerable families forcefully displaced from their homes, and enable development of urban planning policies and practices that fosters sustainability among individuals and households that are at risk when new development occurs.
Waheed Awotoye, oral biology, University of Iowa.
A trained dentist, Waheed Awotoye's research focuses on understanding the contributions of genetic factors to the risk of craniofacial birth defects. His study of nonsyndromic cleft lip with or without cleft palate (nsCL/P), Aggressive Periodontitis and Hereditary gingival fibromatosis in the African population has resulted in novel discoveries that he hopes will translate into therapeutic advancements to alleviate the burden of these defects on public health.
Erica Banks, sociology, Northwestern University.
Erica Banks’ work focuses broadly on women and their experiences within the criminal legal system. Her research centers on formerly incarcerated Black women and how they experience economic, familial and mental reverberations of incarceration over their life course after being released from prison.
She approaches her work from a Black feminist and intersectional perspective. In particular, Banks treats Black women as the ultimate experts of their experiences, highlights the importance of intra-racial and intra-ethnic comparisons, and roots the basis and the implications for her work in advocating on behalf of Black women and other marginalized people, as well as reshaping the way scholars frame the reentry process.
Zachariah Berry, organization and human resources, Cornell University.
Zachariah Berry studies organizational behavior at the New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell. His research focuses on morality at work, with a particular emphasis on passion and loyalty.
Richard Burgess, organization and human resources, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Richard Burgess’ research centers around leadership, team dynamics and diversity. He earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and both an MBA and MS in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University.
Samuel Byiringiro, nursing, Johns Hopkins University.
Samuel Byiringiro‘s research interests include cardiovascular health outcomes, health systems strengthening through quality improvement, and community engagement in research. He earned a BS in nursing from the University of Rwanda and an MS in global health delivery from the University of Global Health Equity in Rwanda.
Gladys Camacho-Rios, linguistics, University of Texas at Austin.
An L1 speaker of the South Bolivian variety of the Quechua language, Gladys Camacho-Rios is a community-based language researcher and a published author in Quechua. Her fieldwork involves documenting monolingual Quechua as it is spoken by elderly people in rural towns in Bolivia. Her research interests in linguistics include Quechua phonology, the grammar and semantics of the verbal morphology, and morphosyntax.
Beyond that, she is a language activist, leading the Linguistics Summer School Bolivia since 2016. The aim of her community service initiative is to foster a pioneering new group of native speakers documenting and describing their native languages in their communities of origin.
Casidy Campbell, global gender and sexuality studies, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Casidy Campbell’s research focuses on the fullness of Black girls’ personhood and seeks to understand how Black girls use the same digital technologies that often efface them to assert their quotidian perspectives.
She is currently a DISCO (Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Collaboration, and Optimism) Network Graduate Scholar, a member of the Digital Inequality Lab, and a former 2021 Community of Scholars Fellow at the Institute of Research on Women and Gender.
Lynnora Grant, materials design and innovation, Rice University.
Lynnora Grant's research focuses on the mechanics of sintering 3D-printed ceramics. Prior to her PhD, Lynnora obtained a BS in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University. Grant is a recipient of the NSF-GRFP (2017) and Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship (2019).
Ashley Gripper, urban and regional planning, Harvard University.
Ashley Gripper's research is transdisciplinary and uses mixed methods to investigate the associations between urban agriculture, mental health, spirituality and collective agency within Black communities. She designed and is the principal investigator on a grant-funded, IRB-approved study that employs spatial, qualitative, epidemiologic and psychometric methods to understand these impacts.
Her work highlights the historical and sociopolitical factors, such as structural and environmental racism, that have impacted and influenced Black agriculture in the United States. The first aim is a descriptive epidemiologic study assessing the association of neighborhood demographics with the number of community gardens at the block group level. This study shows that both Black and low-income neighborhoods have a greater concentration of community gardens compared to non-Black and higher income areas. This work serves as an introduction to the landscape of agriculture in Philadelphia and begins to lay the groundwork to understand how collective agency and community resistance might occur in the city’s Black and immigrant communities.
The goal of her current research is to show City Council officials and the Mayor’s Office how urban agriculture benefits the health of residents.
Margaret Ikape, physics, University of Toronto.
Margaret Ikape is a PhD candidate in the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, David A Dunlap Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Toronto. She was born in Nigeria, where she received an undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy. She completed a master's degree at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, AIMS, Cameroon, before beginning graduate studies in Toronto.
Her interest in astronomy started at a very young age and that interest has been sustained by the numerous unknowns in the universe. Her current work tries to understand the nature of the first stars using simulated data.
Debrielle Jacques, psychology, University of Rochester.
Debrielle Jacques' broad research interests combine adult psychopathology, parenting and family processes, and child psychopathology. Specifically, she is interested in how mental illness, addiction and traumatic experiences among parents affect caregiving, parent-child interactions and child well-being.
She also is interested in studying how children cope with and navigate potentially traumatic environments and the effects these strategies have on children’s long-term psychological development.
Prior to matriculating at Rochester, she received an MA in psychology from Rutgers University and a BS in psychology from Penn State.
Justin Lund, anthropology, University of Oklahoma.
Justin Lund (Navajo) focuses his work at the intersection of genomics, anthropology and Indigeneity. Lund uses academics and research to elevate Native American and other Indigenous voices.
Josh Manitowabi, Indigenous studies, Brock University.
Josh Manitowabi is Potawatomi of the Black Bear clan. He completed his honors BA at McMaster University with a major in history and a minor in Indigenous studies. He was a recipient of the Harvey Longboat Major Graduate Scholarship at McMaster in 2016. He was also a Joseph Bombardier Doctoral Scholar from 2018 to 2021 at Brock University. He completed his MA in cultural anthropology at McMaster University, where he was also a teacher assistant in the Indigenous Studies program.
His current research includes integrating Indigenous knowledge and oral history within contemporary education systems. He will be critiquing Great Lakes Anishinabek history within contemporary historiography.
Oluwafunke Brinda Ogunya, English, Florida State University.
Oluwafunke Brinda Ogunya specializes in African American literature and cultural studies. Her research interest focuses on Black women’s fiction, African/Africana folklore and Motherhood.
Bruno Saconi, nursing, University of Pennsylvania.
Bruno Saconi is a predoctoral student at Penn Nursing, and a dual master’s degree student in statistics at Wharton. He holds an MS degree from The Pennsylvania State University and a BSN from Universidade de Brasília (Brazil).
His research interests include sleep and chronic pain symptom management, with a focus on the use of behavioral treatments among veterans with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) comorbid with chronic pain.
Ligia Schmitd, oral biology, University of Michigan.
A PhD candidate at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry, Ligia Schmitd is an internationally trained dentist specializing in oral medicine who has held teaching positions in her home country.
She is a clinician-scientist developing translational research in the field of oral cancer. More specifically, her research focuses on molecular mechanisms of cancer and tumor microenvironment interactions, and on how this knowledge can be used to advance patient care.
Payton Small, psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Payton Small is a social psychologist whose research program broadly focuses on pushback against diversity initiatives and the downstream consequences of such pushback on minoritized group members.
He also studies multiracial individuals’ experiences with identity denial and the impact of such experiences on racial identification processes.
In the fall, he will join the faculty of the Psychological Sciences Department at Vassar College.
Rashad Williams, urban and regional planning, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Rashad Williams' research and teaching leverage oppositional social theory, particularly within the variegated areas of Black political thought, to satisfy three questions confronting the field of urban planning in particular, and perhaps the fields of urban affairs more generally.
The first concerns the extent to which a serious confrontation with the intellectual contributions of the Black radical tradition requires a fundamental reordering of the concepts through which we narrate urban histories and processes in the United States. Williams argues that the concepts of racial planning, the racial state and racial capitalism might, in certain cases, better reveal connections between race, class and urban planning than the standard, and somewhat obfuscatory, rational planning/equity planning or efficiency/equity model.
The second question concerns what can and should be done within urban contexts once we recognize the causal significance of white supremacy as a sociopolitical system and its enduring consequences for our primary areas of concern (urban inequalities in housing, environmental quality, transportation, wealth, policing, among others). In what is the first article on the subject of reparations within the field of urban planning, Williams has proposed that we begin to intellectually develop a tradition of reparative planning.
The third question concerns the evaluation of reparative planning as an unfolding movement across American municipalities and regions.
Applications for the fall 2022 VITAL program are now closed.
The deadline for the 2022 VITAL program has now passed.